Former homeless and ex-drug addicts lead new Church of England prayer campaign

Emma, who features in the first justpray

Men and women who found faith at a homeless centre in Halifax are to feature in a series of short dramatic films for Lent and Easter launched by the Church of England today.

The five stars of the Psalm 22 project have all recently come to faith through the Saturday Gathering, located in a former Methodist church. Many of the congregation have experienced crime, alcohol, drug addiction, homelessness or violence in their lives.

The project follows on from CofE's Lord's Prayer campaign which was banned from cinemas before Christmas. It promotes the website and is based on the psalm that includes the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" uttered by Jesus on the cross.

It will feature short teaser films over the next five weeks, concluding with the launch of a two-minute film on Easter Sunday which casts the five main characters in their own interpretation of a scene from the Passion.

The first film, launched today, features Emma, 24, who came to faith a year ago and still struggles with questions and doubt. In a podcast interview accompanying today's film she says: "Having faith is really hard. It's not easy to pray when you think no one is listening, it's not easy to wake up knowing you're going to go through the same stuff every single day.

"Without God, I'd still be drinking, taking drugs. I don't even know if I'd be here, because I was a self harmer, I would have probably taken my own life at some point."

Other films set to be released over the coming weeks include one featuring Howard, 40, who after eight months clean of drugs, alcohol and crime, was baptised and immediately used drugs again. His story is a battle between walking in faith and having doubts but he says his faith has kept him alive: "Where would I be without faith? I'd be dead a long time ago I believe. Yeah, I'd be dead. Not just spiritually but probably physically dead in a box somewhere. Faith's everything to me. It keeps me going, it gives me hope."

Another contributor is Rob, 46, who spent years living rough. He says: "When my brother died I got naughty, I got into drugs, I got into fighting, violence, prison. And when I was in prison I wanted to like, just die. I thought God was forsaking me then. Because I was asking for his help and it didn't happen.

"About 10 years later, I've turned into a Christian and I've changed my life around, and God hasn't forsaken me."

Rev Arun Arora, Communications Director for the Church of England said: "Each of the inspirational stories of those who star in the film is a reminder of how faith and prayer can turn life around. They are also a reminder that for many of us faith and doubt co-exist as neighbours and not opposites.

"The Psalms accompany us through life with their raw honesty, joy and despair at life, love and God. Lent is a time of self-examination and struggle. It's part of the Christian journey that comes as a time of testing and honesty about who we are before God. And it ends with the triumph of Easter day, the sure and certain promise of God triumphant even after the darkest night."