Past Events

Contents | Huntingdon | Republic of Ireland | Barbados | Northern Ireland |

All Saints Huntingdon
by Shirley Bowers


Cambridgeshire, England 


The story of how Arise Ministries began is told in my book "From History to Hope". It all started in 1986 when God began to bring His love and healing to my own personal history.  As time went on I realised that just as my past had affected me, then the same is true for a family, a church, a town or village and even a nation. Over the years Huntingdon has been described as one of the unhappiest places in England to live. Why? Why is it so hard to pray here?
Huntingdon river bridge
In an attempt to answer these questions, my own experience led me to look into the history of Huntingdon.  It is the birthplace of the English Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell and as I researched this man, known as Huntingdon’s most famous son, I was shocked to read of his invasion of Catholic Ireland in 1649. The significant part for us was that Cromwell states in his campaign letters that he did this “in the name of Christ, led by the Holy Ghost (Spirit)”. This dishonoured God and the Holy Spirit. I could see clearly that his attitude to Catholics and especially Irish Catholics led to bloodshed and deep division. I and team members travelled to Ireland many times and over and over we came across people who cursed Huntingdon for giving birth to Oliver Cromwell. I knew we had to do something to help bring healing to this thinking, both for the Irish people and for Huntingdon. It was clear to us that the blood that had been shed years ago had left a legacy of pain and unforgiveness that still affects people today.

Republic of Ireland  

On September 11th 2002, the anniversary of the day Cromwell took Drogheda, we began a journey
Kilkenny Cathedral
retracing Cromwell’s steps throughout the Republic of Ireland. This journey was to take two and half weeks. We carried with us a letter from Huntingdon Churches Together, signed by eight Church Leaders, saying how sorry they are for the pain Cromwell had caused which we presented to Church and Civic leaders in each place. We waited outside each town to be invited in, as we wanted to do everything in the opposite spirit to that of Cromwell.

Throughout our journey, people remarked on our courage and heartfelt repentance. There are many amazing stories of what God did to make this trip possible and the things He did during the journey which you can read in my book.

Frank, Jeff and Malachy
Marble Plaque presented in 2003
In 2003 Arise Ministries hosted a reception in Huntingdon for Drogheda's Mayor Cllr Malachy Godfrey, and former Mayor, Cllr Frank Godfrey, along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Huntingdon Cllr's Jeff and Claire Dutton and other Civic dignitaries. In his speech Malachy said "My brother and I have come here today to offer the hand of friendship to this your town of Huntingdon".  This was met with great enthusiasm.  Jeff replied "Some things in history we are proud of and some we are not. Today, we are writing tomorrow's history”.  Later that same year Arise Ministries, along with the Mayor of Huntingdon, were invited to a Civic Reception in Drogheda. It was on this visit that this marble plaque was presented with the promise that it would be displayed for all to see.

In June 2011, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made her historic visit to the Republic of Ireland. It was a testimony to the healing God has brought between England and Ireland. We have always kept those in authority, including the Queen, informed of what we have done and you can read part of the letter I wrote to Her Majesty and the reply from Balmoral at the end of the revised edition of the book.

First edition
 Revised edition
From History to Hope was first released in 2006. It tells the story up to 2005, including stories of prayer walks both local and in Ireland, teaching on healing past hurts as well as some amazing stories of what God did in Ireland, and people whose lives He touched, along with our visits to Uganda. A revised edition was published in 2013. See separate heading for more information about the book.


In 2007, I started reading a book by Sean O’Callaghan; To Hell or Barbados which had been given me during the Cromwell’s Steps journey around Ireland in 2002. It was, co-incidentally, the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain that year. I read how Oliver Cromwell used slavery as a way to clear Ireland and Scotland of Royalists and Catholics. Many Whites arrived in the West Indies as indentured servants, but in reality many more arrived as slaves. Unbelievably, over 350 years on, direct descendants of those slaves are still living in Barbados. They are known as “Poor whites” or “Red Legs” because of the sunburn on their legs from wearing kilts. Even though in recent years there has been more integration, these people are still considered outcasts. God broke my heart for these people and at the end of the book, Sean made with a plea for someone to do something for these forgotten people. This touched me deeply.

That same year my book was published and I along with other team members decided that we needed to go back to the Republic of Ireland not only on a book tour but also to share the story of the forgotten people in Barbados. Very few people were aware of this part of their history, but we were encouraged that Father Finn, a Catholic Priest we had met in 2002, had also read To Hell or Barbados, and had a deep desire to do something for these people. Through Father Finn, we made connections with St Patrick’s Cathedral in Bridgetown.

In September 2008, I and a team including Father Finn, travelled to Barbados. In the days preceding the trip, Rev Scott Watts, Pastor of Arise Ministries, felt God was saying to us, as He did to Moses, “If anyone asks why you are there, tell them I AM sent you”. I couldn’t sleep that night; these words were going round
Gatwick airport
and round in my head. I got up and read again Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3 v 14) When I got to the verse “I AM WHO I AM” I knew this meant Him, but I said to God, “I am who I am too, and I will do anything as long as I know it’s you”. I felt encouraged. Two days later as we were waiting around Gatwick airport, Vanessa called me to see something that would blow our minds. Across this part of the airport was a banner. It read, “I am who I am because of everyone.” I took this picture as I thought nobody would believe us.  After this we were in no doubt that this was God’s will. This sort of confirmation continued throughout our time in Barbados.

 Father Harcourt Blackett reading the letter
During the 17th century many Catholic Priests lost their lives and their people forbidden to worship as it was considered by the Puritans to be idolatrous. Some Priests dressed as farm workers which made it possible for them to escape and travel on the slave ships. With this knowledge we felt it a great privilege to lead a Reconciliation Service in the Catholic Cathedral in Bridgetown. One of the team, David Shirley from Ireland, is a descendant of one of Cromwell’s men who in the 17th Century was given land. David especially felt the remorse and pain of what his ancestor had done as he repented, asking for their forgiveness. The evening ended with the team washing the feet of the Irish descendants.

  President of  Senate receives the letter
We also met with the President of Senate and other Government ministers to share our desire to bring healing to these forgotten people. We again carried with us a letter of apology from the Huntingdon Churches Together, acknowledging that treating people in this way cannot be justified and is ungodly. The letter expressed how deeply sorry they are for the years of pain many have suffered.

 David Shirley and Louise
We also had the opportunity to meet a Poor White family and apologise to them directly. Our prayer is that as we acknowledge their pain, and say sorry for what they suffered, it will draw a line under their history and give them the opportunity to forgive and know healing and freedom as a result.

Since then, there has been more in the media about these people and their plight is becoming better known.

Northern Ireland

 Ireland's Archbishop Alan Harper
Catholic Bishop  Hegarty 
 Iris Robinson in Stormont 
In 2009 and 2010 we travelled around Northern Ireland where the sectarian divide causes such deep pain and ongoing bloodshed. We had discovered through our research that although Cromwell only went to the South (now Republic), in 1649 after taking Drogheda, he sent 5,000 men north to take land and ports for Parliament. Once again many lives were lost. We felt we needed to address this too. We again took with us a letter which said how deeply sorry we were for the pain and the legacy of division that Cromwell’s invasion had caused, particularly in Northern Ireland. The letter included the scripture Romans 15 v 13. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” On both journeys we met with people from all walks of life, from housewives to the Archbishop, from Catholic and Church of Ireland Bishops to Civic and Government representatives in Stormont and saw God work miracles!

During this time, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to present the then Irish President, Mary McAleese, with a copy of the letter of apology before she finished her term of office, but my attempts to secure a meeting with her failed. However, in January 2011, I was invited to speak at a Prophetic Gathering in Larne, Northern Ireland. I had no idea when I accepted the invitation that the day before the Gathering, the President was to visit Crossfire Trust in Darkley. Ian Bothwell, the director of the Trust, had in mind to present her with a copy of my book and the letter. When he heard that I was to be in Northern Ireland, he invited me to make the presentation myself!

 Irish President Mary McAleese receives the letter 2011
The President’s address was full of praise for the work of Crossfire Trust and she also spoke of her faith and the need to break down barriers and heal wounds. When I spoke, I mentioned how I had tried to do this presentation the previous year and how God had another plan. I spoke about the book, my healing and that I was from Huntingdon, Cromwell’s home town. I shared how I had done this many times over the years, presenting it to Civic leaders, Mayors, and Priests in many towns in Ireland, but always felt there was a piece missing. To present the letter to the President, the highest authority in Ireland, was that piece. She smiled and I know she understood. I spoke too of how this was for the whole of Ireland; North, South, East and West it makes no difference to God, they are all His people. As I made my presentation, I was overcome with emotion.
Warm embrace from President Mary McAleese 2011
The President walked over and embraced me, and it was obvious from what she said to me that she knew exactly why we were doing this. Afterwards her husband, Dr Martin McAleese, shook my hand saying “Thank you, keep going”. Many people were touched and as the Irish Press and TV were there, I pray others will hear about this and be healed. This was five months before Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s historic visit to the Republic.