By a Correspondent
"Whether you believe Ireland is one or two countries, I want you to pray this evening for an Ireland that is united in Christ and free in the Holy Spirit. In Jesus there is no north or south, east or west, Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, Irishman or Englishman," said Fr Jerome McCarthy, introducing the great prayer of intercession for the nation, the central part of each "If My People • .." preservation, in the Passionist church of Mount Argus, in Dublin, last week.
The theme of Jimmy and Carol Owens' musical is taken from 2 Chronicles 7:14 — "If My People which are called by my name shall humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
"If My People . . ." is not a show or an entertainment, but an act of worship, which Jimmy Owens describes as part of a much wider plan to mobilise and unite Christians of all denominations to pray for their nation by intercession and fasting, at this crucial time when inflation, injustice, un employment, fear and violence are sweeping across the land.
"If My People ..." desires to work with and through the churches, neither usurping their role nor undermining their authority and the message calls for a response from every Christian. The Message of that response will he the measure by which God will heal the land.
Jimmy Owens, who conies from Los Angeles, hopcs that church leaders of all denominations will call a national day of fasting and prayer for the nation. He suggests the first Friday and 'Saturday of each month, with a special service of prayer for the nation in churches throughout the country on Friday evening, possibly starting at 7.14 to remind people of God's promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Between February 1 and March 9, a concentrated trailblazing tour with Jimmy Owens conducting took place throughout the British Isles and Ireland. During the six week tour there were 27 presentations ,of "If My People ..." in places
as far apart as Truro Cathedral and the Tent Hall, Glasgow.
So many people wanted tickets for the three presentations in the Royal Albert Hall that two more London presentations took place in Westminster Central Hall. _
The touring party, a total ot' about 60, comprising singers, musicians and technical operators, made up of Christians of all denominations and ages, travelled over 4,000 miles and over 60,000 people attended the 27 presentations.
This number was all the more remarkable as there was very little publicity and no financial backing as such for the tour. All expenses have been met from proceeds of offerings taken and gifts sent direct to Christian Development Service, a charitable company formed last year to administer the "If My People . . ." tour, the cost of which was in the region of 130,000.
After attending a presentation in Birmingham Cathedral, Mrs Mary Whitehouse said: "It was a marvellous experience — absolutely wonderful to see everybody really participating and enjoying a deep and very rich spiritual experience. I think it is going to mean a great deal to the country and it has given me great hope."
In Portsmouth, Fr Gerry Marsden, SJ — Vicar for Religious in the Diocese, said before he gave the blessing at the end of the presentation: "My joy this evening is to he in the presence of people who love and you have not been able to hide your love. It has come out in so many ways. It came out in the way you sang. It came out in the way hands were raised in praise. You cannot hide your love of Jesus,
"I know that when you return to your families and when you return to your places of work, that love will still not be hidden. We in Portsmouth are indebted to the group who have brought us nearer to God, nearer to Jesus."
The last three presentations of the tour were in Ireland. Two in the Presbyterian Assembly Hall, situated in the heart of war-torn Belfast and the other in Dublin,