When the leaders of Share Jesus International, an ecumenical mission agency, decided to stop running their large scale conferences, they had a word from the Lord that they should be putting on an event that Jesus would want to come to. They had a vision of an event that was outreaching, and showed the depth and breath of the Churchs life and creativity. They began to plan the Pentecost Festival.
new evangelisation needed
CASE (Catholic Agency to Support Evangelisation) has been involved in some of the planning process for that festival, and is actively encouraging the Catholic community to get involved. Pope John Paul II urged a new evangelisation, new in zeal, in methods and means of expression. The Pentecost Festival really fits the bill.
It is the first festival of its kind. Its fairly gentle evangelism, in that its main aim is not proclamation of the Gospel, but celebrating the Gospel, and inviting others to join those celebrations. Taking place over the Pentecost weekend this year (May 9-11th), the festival will be held in central London, and in particular between the northern line stations from Camden to Waterloo. On the Saturday of the festival the streets, coffee shops, pubs, church halls and community theatres will be bustling with church groups bringing church into the public arena. This will range from the creative arts to cultural and scientific debates all of which will be free, and listed in a programme, given away by smiley stewards! There will also be teams serving the local community in the style of the Soul in the City missions. Intercession teams will be walking the streets as well as to cover the event in prayer.
culturally relevant events
In addition, on the Friday and Saturday nights there will be 10 large scale, high quality, culturally relevant events. Christian aid are hosting the Big Heat Swing Dance, with jazz artists and swing dancing, and an intermission discussion about global warming. Salt mine and Open doors will be hosting the grand finale of the Hope Academy, a competition to identify young Christian talent whilst raising the profile of the persecuted Church. At Central Hall in Westminster you will be able to watch an Asian theatre company present an all singing all dancing presentation of the days before Pentecost; or you could hear Tony Campolo at City Temple; or take in some Christian Comedy in Soho.
A potential meeting point between society and the Church
So far so exciting. But whats the evangelistic potential here? In Evangelii Nuntiandi (Evangelisation in the modern world), Pope Paul VI stressed the importance of evangelising from a place of relationship. Sharing the gospel from a place of relationship lends itself to a level of authenticity and credibility that can be difficult to achieve otherwise. We dont have to look very hard to find evidence that the Church and our Culture today, are slightly out of relationship. Theres a frequent clashing of values, disagreement over politics and political correctness, and a seemingly negative view held of one another. Pentecost Festival has the potential to be a meeting point for our society and the Church. It is about showing our capital that the Church is alive and exciting. It is relevant and entertaining, servant hearted and available, gracious rather than judgemental...just as it was one thousand nine hundred and seventy five (ish) years ago.
All Christian Churches can register to take part
There will of course be opportunities for people to take a spiritual step in the midst of the activities. Lots of Churches will have their doors open, and there will be spiritual events offered alongside the entertainment. Sunday will also be advertised in the programme as an opportunity to check out a Church and see how they celebrate the feast of Pentecost. Churches can register to appear in the programme and include a blurb about their community. Then its up to them to be on the alert to visitors (be they from other denominations, other faiths or the unchurched), to welcome them.
At this stage, probably the best way to get involved in the festival is to bring people to it. There will be something for all ages, and the festival will be family-friendly. From face-painting, to skate parks and hip-hop workshops, to classical concerts and recitals. Why not think about who you could invite? Could it be a mini break with a friend? A weekend away with the grandchildren? Or could you bring your confirmation group (costs can be kept low by liaising with the Pentecost office to find a church floor to sleep on!).
Mesh with Global Day of Prayer
Equally therell be the chance for a time of refreshing for yourself. On the Saturday, at the Methodist Central Hall, Pentecost will be explored through art, teaching, Bible study, prayer and worship. This prayer will spill over to the Global day of prayer which is taking place on Pentecost Sunday itself (See Noticeboard), and will include a vast gathering at one of Londons stadiums. Christians will be gathering together to ask for a new Pentecost.
If we cast our minds back to what the Spirit was saying at the Newman Consultation, one of the clear calls was to unity between the Churches. Charismatic Renewal has always been a source of that unity, providing a place of connection and a strong base for ecumenism. This festival is an opportunity to express that unity, and to serve London on the strength of it. What a witness it will be to the residents of Englands capital, and to all the tourists who are going to get swept up in it! Lets keep this in prayer, get involved where possible .and together with our brothers and sisters in Christ, wait expectantly for a new Pentecost.