On a Quest for New Location for GOHOP

We are guests.

And have always been.

For the entire life of GOHOP, over 13 years, we have been the grateful recipients of the hospitality of others.

First it was the Crossroads Centre in Burlington, where for seven years they gave us free prayer and office space, complete with 24/7 access and security.


And then Youth Unlimited, up in Waterdown, invited us to come and pray at a little house that would eventually be torn down and replaced with their exciting new Centre for Youth Excellence.


And a local church, Flamborough Christian Fellowship, donated a room at their facility for us to set up an office.

When we responded to God’s call to bring the House of Prayer to downtown Hamilton, Hughson Street Baptist and True City offered us prayer and collaborative office space.

And then Philpott Church generously gave us access to the Vine, a block from Jackson Square, where we have been praying for the last few years. Rent free. In fact, it cost them to have us there, in terms of utility expenses.


For the entire life of our little urban monastery, the generosity of others has made it possible for us to devote ourselves to prayer, urban mission, and developing leaders in the city.

Hughson and Philpott are now in exciting seasons of renovation and expansion, but it means for us that the time has come to find another place for our office and prayer room, hopefully by the end of September/mid October.

When it was time for us to move to Hamilton, The Lord gave us a word, to speak to our friends and enter the city. I wrote about it some time ago here.

So as we are discerning next steps, it made good sense to us to speak to our friends about the upcoming move and to see what doors God might open through those conversations.

Please pray for us as we transition, and drop me an email if you want to chat about it, and pray and dream together! God has been faithful to date, and we look forward eagerly to see what He has next for us. All of us. Together.

Review of The Sacred Year, by Michael Yankoski

In my quest to make more space for God in my life, I’ve read books on spiritual disciplines.

Lots of them.

Lots and lots, actually.

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, Thomas Merton, Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, and Charles Ringma have all shaped my theology and practice.

So when my new friend Michael asked me to review and advanced copy of his new book, The Sacred Year, I was honoured to have been asked, eager to see what he would add to what is already a rich conversation.


Working as I do with emergent leaders in our city, most of whom are in their 20’s and early 30’s, I am always on the lookout for resources that can fuel their heart for the Person and the mission of Jesus.  This is one such resource, and I plan to use it for our New Monastic Internships and as a key equipping tool for local churches.

Michael is a lyrical writer.  With his wit and candour, he draws you into his journey to explore the deeper life.  He is a thoughtful practitioner, not a mere theorist, and many of his practices (some of them a little zany, truth be told) took him and will take his readers out of their comfort zones and into new spiritual territory.  He is honest.  He is courageous.  He is contagious.

This book is the spiritual journey of everyman.  It is easy for us to elevate the “professional pray-ers” or the “vocational mystics”, our modern day Desert Fathers and Mothers, and disqualify ourselves from a deeper life of devotion and obedience to Christ.  But Michael is just a regular guy, like the rest of us.  If Michael can do it, I can do it.  You can do it.

In our context here in Hamilton we are seeing lifestyles of prayer, mission and justice becoming more prevalent – normal Christian living, if you will.  Michael lives that lifestyle and calls others to join him in a way that is compelling and infectious.  


The book isn’t out yet, but you don’t have to wait long!  You can pre-order here or read more about it at www.thesacredyear.com.





Cottage Fathers and Mothers – Re-Creating instead of Vacate-ing

in the third century, devout believers fled the cities and set up camp in the desert.  There they pursued lifestyles of extravagant devotion, characterized by prayer, solitude, silence, and fasting.  Pilgrims would come and visit, seeking the Lord alongside these holy men and women we now call the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

After the vigours of prayer truck, we also fled the city and spent two weeks at Kirks’ sister’s cottage north of Huntsville.  When doing urban ministry, especially front line work, it’s important from time to get away from concrete and into the bush.

In early years, I found much to my dismay, that I didn’t do a lot of praying on my vacation.  I realized that somehow I had begun to associate prayer with my job.  An embarrassing revelation, to say the least.  The last thing I want to be is a “professional pray-er!”

It became important for me to find out what the difference between “vacating” and “re-creating” was.  It’s easy to vacate, to zone out.  Eat too much, bombard our senses with entertainment and media.  I would glut on fiction books – lying around and reading 800 pages a day of fluff and nothing.  And then wonder why I didn’t feel restored.

What would it look like for me to identify some activities that were truly re-creational?  That enliven my heart and spirit, and awaken my heart to my Creator rather than sending myself into a stupor.

I also don’t do well with lots of unstructured time.  I start feeling depressed and sluggish.  They say in AA, failing to plan is planning to fail, so now I go into my vacation time with a plan.




I took one of my favourite books on Spiritual Formation, Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton, and started my day reading and doing some of the excellent spiritual exercises at the end of each chapter.  The exercises are probing and cause me to dig deep into God and into my own psyche.  Cottage time is good time to do some of the deeper inner work required for spiritual health, and Barton is a trustworthy guide into the realm of the Spirit and my own soul.

And I journal.  Three pages every day.  I call them the morning pages, and it’s a practice I picked up from Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way.  I can write about anything, even about not wanting to write!  But it helps me process life, talk to God in a focused way, and write down what I hear Him saying in response.

In response to a challenge by Barton, I started a daily Examen, where with the Holy Spirit, I examine each day for signs of His presence and work around me, and assess how I’ve come alongside Him or been at cross purposes with Him.  It’s an ancient Ignatian form of prayer, and I’m finding it very helpful in my quest to be more alive to His presence in and around me.

I do read as well.  Fiction even!  But I’m fussy about what I read.  I want stuff that is gentle, that feeds my spirit and is full of life.  It’s tricky to find good fiction that doesn’t have defiling bits in it, but with the help of friends I’m compiling a list.  I also read non fiction in my field, and this year at the cottage read three books by new friends that I made at the New Monastic Consultation last month in BC.   Slow Church by Chris Smith, and The Sacred Year and Under the Overpass by Michael Yankoski.  Michael has asked me to write a review of The Sacred Year prior to it’s release and sent me a pre-release copy.  I loved it and you all need to read it, and I will devote a whole blog to it shortly.

Cottage is time for puttering as well.  Cooking, getting wood for the wood stove.  Quiet work with my hands.  Very soul filling for me.  I even did some more felting!

Tree by streams of living water!
Tree by streams of living water!

Kirk and I began doing a daily Lectio Divina each day together and we are slowly prayer-reading and meditating our way through the gospel of Mark.  He’s not much of a reader, so some evenings I would just read him the highlighted bits of books I was reading, and share my learning.

We did also watch some movies, and we also have a family tradition of watching episodes of Home Improvement at the cottage as well.  But I felt that it was in good balance with our other activities.

All said, it turned into a lovely 2 week long spiritual retreat for me individually and for Kirk and I as a couple.  We had some good conversations about life, ministry, and the way forward together.

And we also had the opportunity to offer hospitality to pilgrims!  Some friends came up, and it was good to spend time together in prayer and then send them off in a canoe to hang out with Jesus.

Silence.  Solitude.  Wilderness places.  Loving pilgrims who came our way.

I could totally live like this – maybe Kirk and I inspire a movement of cottage mothers and fathers!

Family Circus Night at the Prayer Truck

Prayer Truck is for families too!


Here’s a report from Nick and Rachel King who brought the whole family out to play/pray!

What happens when you forget it is your shift at the Prayer Truck? You can’t find a baby sitter and you drag your three little kids down town at bed time to hang in a back alley and chill with the “local colour”. Norrie defaced the prayer wall with her art, Abigail adopted a “baby rock” she found in the alley that she insisted on repeatedly licking and Molly barfed on my last clean shirt. They didn’t want to leave to go home to bed and it was SUPER cute watching them eagerly handing water out to some of the roughest looking characters I have ever seen. It turned into the Family Circus Night at the prayer truck, but it will go down as one of my favorite memories with them. Thanks for loving Hamilton with the Prayer Truck GOHOP!


We run until July 23, so there is still time to bring your families out to the truck!  We’re behind 30 Wilson St. (the Living Rock).

On Wednesday July 23 at 7 pm we’re closing it out with a celebration and a free barbecue!



Seasons Changing


Its summer. Finally! My tomatoes are growing, and Kirk is industriously expanding our garden beds. I’ve pruned my roses, just like my mother taught me, and I’m looking forward to the flourishing of new growth.

I (Jill) am in a bit of a change of season as well, as it pertains to my role with GOHOP. Over the last few years, God has assembled a “dream team,” a skilled and passionate cohort of leaders who long to see water levels of prayer rise across the city and justice roll like a mighty river on its streets.

Consequently, I find myself shifting into a more “Executive Director” type role, where the team is carrying much of the responsibility for GOHOP, and I serve them and make sure they have what they need. I get to spend more time developing strategic partnerships and using my “schmooze anointing” (as Kirk calls it), increasing our organizational capacities, leadership development, strategic planning and exploring the “growth edges” of where God is at work in GOHOP and in the city. I’m finding it very stimulating and exciting, and have the sense of “firing on all cylinders” in a way I haven’t experienced at work before. All that, my regular blogging on prayer, mission and justice at http://www.gohopchick.wordpress.com and making sure that I get several hours of prayer daily is keeping me happily occupied.

In addition, I have been increasingly stepping into a role of bringing encouragement and resource to other prayer community leaders. I have found that there is a felt need for someone outside your community, who “gets” what a House of Prayer or Urban Monastery is about and can understand the dynamics. A “soul friend” of sorts to communities and their leaders. Mostly I listen, pray, and sometimes help in discernment processes. Always I feel as enriched by the encounter as the one(s) I’m meeting with.

Also, in September I start school! I’ve been accepted into a part time leadership development program called “The Transforming Community”, and over the next 2 years I will be commuting to Chicago for a series of 9 leadership retreats, and will have distance learning in between.

Master and Commander of Spaghetti
Kirk continues to enjoy chef-ing and hosting our Spaghetti Tuesday nights, serving at the Salvation Army Soup truck, and web developing. He’s counting down the days until Prayer Truck – his favorite time of year! We had fun as a couple going on two ministry trips together – to the Stockbridge Boiler Room in Grand Rapids Michigan, and then up to the Quebec House of Prayer in Sherbrooke, stopping at many Houses of Prayer on the way!

Resourcing the Movement
I (Jill) was trying to think about how we would finance the increased expenses around my going to school and travelling more for work. Should I get a part time job? So I asked the Lord for $400 worth of speaking engagements each month, and so far He has answered! Let me know if you would like me to come teach about prayer, mission, justice, intentional community, spiritual formation, or radical hospitality.

Drafting a Rule of Life

I’m in the process of coming up with a personal Rule of Life.

A Rule, you say? What is that?

A Rule is a set of commitments an practices that monastics have, through the ages, set in place to help shape their individual and communal lives. The most famous of these is the Rule of St. Benedict, which has shaped monasticism for hundreds of years, and presently is being explored by new monastics of all stripes.

The idea of a Rule, as Steven Covey would say, is to “begin with the end in mind”. What is the desired outcome? What do I want to grow towards?

That’s where I pull out my handy dandy mission statement, that I formulated carefully and prayerfully many years ago.

My life will be characterized by the presence, the personality, and the purposes of God.

I love how I put WILL in there, hehe. A bold declaration of faith for something that without the grace of God, I absolutely cannot achieve.

So if that is the end, what are the train tracks that will get me there? Spiritual disciples, says Richard Foster, are a means to grace. It is through these practices that we make space in our life for God to do the things we cannot, in and through us. So I began by actually looking at what practices were already present in my life. Here is what I came up with so far.

– 2 days off a week, in a row. One of them being a Sabbath, a day of rest, communion with God and my family. I don’t always get 2, but I always take at least one day of rest. And in rest I aim for re-creation, not vacate-ion (more about that in an upcoming blog).

– early morning with the Lord. I’m a morning person, so it makes sense to me to give Him my best time of day. Time varies as to how soon I have to go to work, but it’s usually 1-2 hours.

– daily devotional reading. Listening with my heart, ready to be transformed.

– daily journaling. I always write three pages a day in my journal. Prayers, thoughts, recording things God says to me, looking back over the previous day to see where I saw God at work.

– attending to the song in my spirit when I wake up in the morning, and making it my breathing prayer for the day. For quite some time now, years even, I’ve woken up with the snatch of a song in my heart. If I spend time on it, and linger on it, it becomes a place of communion with Jesus. Today the chorus is “let heaven come”. Not sure exactly what is happening, but my best guess is that the Holy Spirit inside me is always worshipping and interceding, and is inviting me to join Him.

– in my morning times I take 5-30 minutes (depending on how much time is available and on my level of distractibility) in silent Christian meditation. Quietly setting my soul before him, most often meditating on a scripture passage.

– accountability. I meet with my pastor one on one every month, and my spiritual director as well. It’s a great place to confess sin and explore heart dynamics that nurture or quench the life of the Spirit inside me. Also Kirk and I, from the beginning of our marriage, have had a good natured competition to see who can repent first when we wrong each other.

– weekly puttering. As I’ve blogged before, I count puttering as a spiritual discipline. There is something deeply good and soul clarifying about working in solitude and quietly with your hands. Gardening, baking, cooking and cleaning are my favorite puttering choices.

– generosity. Giving freely and sometimes extravagantly, if we are feeling brave.

– gratitude, honesty, and fidelity. I want to be grateful, not grumbling. I want to tell the truth, and I want to keep committments.

Anyways, that’s my first draft. I will continue to work on it, and take it to my pastor and spiritual director to get their feedback as well.

The bottom line is, I want my life to be structured in such a way to put me in the path of oncoming grace. And as a leader of a prayer community, I have a responsibility not only to myself, but also to my community, to allow God to conform me into the image of His Son, and to shape me into a House of Prayer.


Genetic Engineering in the House of Prayer – Welcome to Belle-Hop!

Yesterday Kirk and I paid a visit to Belle Hop, the House of Prayer in Belleville, Ontario. There we were warmly greeted by Wendy Anderson, who made us a lovely lunch and gave us a tour of their exciting storefront facility in downtown Belleville.

The building (as you can see from the video), is quite amazing. Space for hospitality. A worship area for Harp and Bowl, but then multiple other prayer rooms for other kinds of prayer expressions!

Wendy and her team have done some genetic engineering, and have fused the IHOP model of night and day prayer with the 24-7prayer.com model out of the UK.  Her associate director, Jeff Boerger, is an Anglican, and on Monday nights teaches on the spiritual disciplines.  They have a keypad on the backdoor to give 24/7 access, and large whiteboard where people can sign up for an hour towards the goal of praying 24/7.   “One of our community has Down Syndrome,” says Wendy, pointing to some night slot hours.  “He sets his alarm for midnight and prays from home.”

As many of you know, GOHOP has been doing much the same thing over the last 7 years or so, with what to us have been delightful results. But we always felt a bit like the oddball on the Canadian HOP scene. So imagine our delight to find another HOP making the same crazy experiments, fusing the spiritual DNA of two prayer movements! Making room for all kinds of prayer (Ephesians 6:18) makes our prayer space accessible and attractive to a wide variety of prayer enthusiasts, not all whom identify with the charismatic camp. The Spirit of prayer is at work in every denomination! 20140401-072602.jpg 20140401-073002.jpg 20140401-073009.jpg 20140401-073017.jpg   We had a very short time with them, and I can in no way give justice to the scope of their work and the quality of their hearts.  You will just have to go visit them and learn for yourself!  You can find them on facebook here.