How it all began…
In the spring of 2010, a group of Coventry church leaders were meeting weekly to pray. They sensed God was calling for an extended, unified 24/7 prayer marathon over Pentecost, but needed a venue. Anne Findley shared the idea with the Cathedral’s Ladies Prayer group and we began to pray for the right venue. Margaret Lloyd, a member of this group, suggested the Lychgate Cottages on Priory Row. They had been unused and unoccupied for some time and, being on ancient monastic ground, the Benedictine Priory, site of Coventry’s first Cathedral, seemed the perfect venue. The city Council kindly granted a month rent free to run a 24/7 style month of continuous prayer for the city.
This is what Catherine, Anne Findley’s daughter, wrote following the month of prayer:
“As forty churches gathered to pray in Coventry in the summer of 2010 for revival and transformation, responding to the move of the Holy Spirit across the nation, we felt God’s heartbeat for healing and restoring our city.
Built on ancient monastic foundations, Coventry is one of the UK’s oldest cities and thrived around her praying, missionary communities, swiftly becoming known as a place of pilgrimage at the heart of the nation. But Coventry’s heart was ripped out under King Henry VIII, who tore down the monasteries and dispersed the praying presence so intrinsic to her identity. Today such expressions as ‘Sent to Coventry’ speak of the nation’s indifference to the city; inside, high rates of crime, disorder and social issues seem to cloud God’s glorious destiny for our home.
Into these conditions God gave us a promise and called us to pray:
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah [my delight is in her], and your land Beulah [married];
for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”
(Isaiah 62.4, NIV)
God had gone before us: city authorities gave us three adjoining medieval cottages on some of the old monastic ground in the city centre, free of charge for a month.
Our vision was to restore a unified praying presence in Coventry, interceding for breakthrough and unity.
Many people came to pray – long-standing intercessors, Celtic style prayer groups, Black Pentecostal churches, cell groups, young people, old people, students… The outpouring of creativity was incredible, with pictures, poems, prophecies, scriptures and all kinds of artwork and activities to partake of. There was a real sense of hope, unity and expectation as we met and prayed with others from all across the city, and an awareness that this was just the start of God’s plan.”
Many churches and individuals were involved, as both hosts and pray-ers. It was a unifying event which awoke or stirred a greater interest in prayer across the city.
We had to keep on praying: we sensed the Lord was going to make a way for prayer to continue and so Anne Findley approached the council again about a more permanent home. By autumn the Council had granted us a two-year lease, and the Coventry Prayer House was born! Many people came to join us to experience a place of true rest and peace amid life’s busy-ness in the heart of our city.
The Prayer House had occupied numbers 3 and 4 for five years, and then the council insisted we take on number 5 also, which we opened in October 2015 as our Retreat Centre, (although we weren’t allowed to offer over-night accommodation under the terms of the lease). At the end of 2016, following difficulties with the lease, we felt we had to vacate the cottages, but all was resolved and instead we consolidated into number 5 and the first floor of number 4, with the Venerable Bead Lady using the ground floor for a workshop and hospitality venue. Later, local artist Laura Nyahuye joined us, and number 3 became storage for all her art materials, with a temporary gallery above. Other city ministries such as Healing on the Streets and Street Pastors, also used number 4 for meetings, prayer and training.
2015 was also the year we became aware of the interest of Coventry Historic Trust in acquiring the Lychgate Cottages to use as holiday lets to fund the restoration of other properties in the city. We understood that our building would probably be transferred at some point, but we trusted God to find a way for prayer to continue.
The Prayer House volunteer team had become a community of people committed to prayer, and maintaining the House as a place where people could come and pray in the city. We came to love the Lychgate Cottages and frequently did impromptu tours for visitors, as well as offering annual Heritage Open Days. We even tried to buy the cottages ourselves, but it wasn’t to be – God knew what was coming.
In September 2019 we were given notice to leave the premises and began to search for a new home, trusting God to show us the way. Although reluctant to move, we continued to pray and trust.
The Prayer House occupied the Lychgate Cottages from November 2010 until we had to move out in December 2019. This is what our manager, Cath Henzell, wrote at the time:
“Although we are very sad to leave the Lychgate Cottages after being there for nine years, we are excited about the plans God has for us as a community and as a resource to continue to facilitate prayer across the city.
The presence of God was very strong at the old location and we trust that our new home will be equally ‘thin’. We feel that God is about to do something awesome for us, and for Coventry - for His glory and so that the name of Jesus will be lifted high above our city.
Please stand with us in prayer as we try to listen to the Lord and discover what comes next. We are trusting that He knows the way as He leads us on.
So, what happened – well, you may have seen in the news that Coventry Historic Trust received funding to begin the restoration of some of the historic buildings which are set to become luxury visitor accommodation in time for 2021, City of Culture. The Lychgate Cottages at 3-5 Priory Row are a key part of this project as the Trust hopes to generate income to fund the restoration of other property in its portfolio. The Trust’s plans for the cottages can be seen here and the ref. no. to input is: LB/2018/3562.”
So, we gave lots of stuff away, some of it to Bethel Church’s new Prayer Room, some to local charities, and prepared to move. We had a leaving party just before Christmas with many old friends, who came to help us celebrate nine wonderful years of prayer and worship in the House.
At the beginning of 2020, we moved into two rooms on the ground floor of the Old Blue Coat School, just next door, at the kind invitation of Holy Trinity Church (the building is their Church Centre). We reopened in February 2020, ready for a new chapter to begin, but no sooner was the new House open, we had to close due to Covid 19.
During the epidemic we felt that God was leading us to change our name from Coventry Prayer House to Coventry House of Prayer, because we could see that the whole city was becoming ‘one House of Prayer’ - one church, that “in unity increasingly recognises the importance of having our hearts turned towards heaven and extended in love to Jesus" - as our Director, Dave Butler, put it. Also, we wanted to fall in line with other Houses of Prayer in the UK HoP Network, of which we are a part
So, we are now C-HoP, and have changed our email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Facebook pages to reflect this, as well as relaunching our website.
Our mandate remains the same – to be a praying community in the heart of the city; to facilitate and encourage prayer and worship, and to stir others to deepen their prayer-life and worship, that the whole city might come to believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.