Ask the Real Questions About Life

I was about to speak to nearly 1,000 young people in Bratislava, Slovakia in the formerly communist Eastern European country when I heard the news. It was nine o’clock in England, and ten o’clock in Bratislava that sunny Sunday morning, August 31st.

Stunned into disbelief, I telephoned my wife Anona in London. “Did you hear about Diana?” I asked. “Is this story true?”

“What story?” she queried. Like most Britons, she was just getting up and hadn’t turned on the radio.

“That Diana, Princess of Wales, has been killed in a car crash in Paris.”

Instinctively she cried, “Oh no! Those poor boys, William and Harry!”

We talked for a while, and then I phoned David Taylor, a member of Pioneer People, the church where I serve in leadership just outside London. David is the Executive Director of a Foundation serving one of the European Royal Families. “Yes, it’s true,” he confirmed in disbelief. “We are just watching it on television.”

Our world was about to change, at least for a while. Voices became softer, lives more reflective, businesses more decent and respectful, crowds more courteous, and the TV less rowdy and gaudy.

Within six days to the hour of my call to Anona and David, the world’s most famous woman was taken out of her home at Kensington Palace on a gun carriage and began the journey to Westmin- ster Abbey and eventually to her family home and burial.

The Westminster Connection

The funeral particularly carried inten- sity and pathos for several thousand Christians in and around London. We had been challenged and blessed by the Toronto Blessing issuing from the Toron- to Airport Christian Fellowship, and the revival at Pensacola, Florida originating at the Brownsville Assemblies of God church. Because of the stirrings of revival taking place in Britain, I had hired a 1,000-seat building, the Emmanuel Cen- tre on Marsham Street, Westminster. It’s situated just a three- or four-minute walk from Westminster Abbey.

Beginning June 1st, we’ve been holding renewal meetings there Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights at 7:30 pm, and weekends at 6:30 pm to worship, pray for revival. We respond to God’s Word, get right with God through repentance, and invest financially into revival.

In June and July more than 20,000 people attended, and 3,000 came forward, many in tears, to get right with God. We filled eight garbage cans with pornography, illegal drugs, weapons, and other items. A small but growing number came to Christ, others were baptised, and a number were so overcome by the Holy Spirit that they had to be dragged out of the water. On most nights we prayed for the Royal family. A member of the Royal household slipped in on several occasions and, I am told, brought friends.

The atmosphere during the weeks prior to Diana’s death was heady. A policeman arrested a criminal, charged him and told him, “You had better get down to the revival meetings on Marsham Street, Westminster, before you go to court.”

A boy, overcome by the Holy Spirit, was carried out of an evening meeting by his parents. Apparently he had been miraculously healed of a sporting injury and has since started “Kids for Revival” in his school.

A whole family, mother, father and two daughters were reconciled where previ- ously the marriage was headed for divorce. The girls were away from Christ and the Church.

One girl, born a heroine addict, drunk and on drugs most nights, was set free through prayer and testified, “I’ve been off drugs and drink for over a month.” She still is.

We took a break in August but returned to the Emmanuel Centre, Marsham Street, Westminster on Wednesday, September 3rd for the evening service. That was the week of Diana’s funeral. On the Friday evening I drove home through Whitehall, the area where the Parliament is located. Thousands of people were already camp- ing out on the pavement for the funeral the following day. After the funeral on Saturday hundreds came into the Emman- uel Centre to sign books of condolence and remembrance. Some simply came in off the streets to our meeting where they hoped we would “remember” the most famous woman in the world.

However, the most famous Man in the world sent His Holy Spirit so that when we are taken on our final journey to our burial, we can already be forgiven, cleansed, saved from hell and reconciled to God. The congregation heard that night that the Holy Spirit, who is at work among us, has brought 3,500 prisoners to Christ in the last two years, has given new life to 20,000 gypsies, has brought a fresh move of God in several police forces, and has brought “the greatest upheaval this century” to the Salvation Army. “Revival is here,” I say at the Westminster meet- ings, “but it’s on it’s way.”

Praying for Royalty

I talked with Prince Charles some months previously at a reception in St. James Palace, the Prince’s home. We spoke of the “centres of spiritual renewal” about which he had written in an architectural magazine. In his article the Prince of Wales discussed people and buildings.

David Taylor and I also met with the Prince of Wales’ private secretary in St. James Palace and spent more than an hour talking about what the Holy Spirit was doing in London and the nation. He explained that Prince Charles was very will informed about some of these initiatives.

In the words of our Queen, “No-one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Mil- lions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her.” Perhaps she will be remembered best for making us ask real questions about life, it’s brevity, and how we should live in the light of God’s offer of salvation and eter- nity.

Here in London we are still a little softer, a little quieter and a little more reflective. We are still stunned into disbe- lief and half expect Diana to pop up at a famous London restaurant with her new- found love, Dodi Al Fayed. But that is a myth and fantasy, as was so much surrounding this remarkable woman.

Pray for us as we continue to gather in Westminster five nights a week, touching the elite and the powerful as well as the homeless and the hungry. Pray that in this reflective season we will not miss the opportunity to make Christ attractive and intelligible to those around us.

ArticlesGerald Coates