On 17th May thousands of Christians young and old took part in Global March For Jesus' Operation A to Z and prayer walked around their neighbourhoods. It was the latest in a long line of initiatives linked to Britain's praise and worship maestro GRAHAM KENDRICK. Ian Boughton met the worship.
Your vision may not be all it seems to be", says Graham Kendrick. By the time 'God has knocked you about a bit', your musical direction might be completely different from what you expected... and that means your music may end up doing a very precise job that you didn't see from the beginning.
"By the time the Marches for Jesus had got up to 55,000 people, in the second year, it was clear that the whole thing had begun to run away a bit, and now it's global... but I still doubt if we'll get a millennium grant for one!"
Graham Kendrick, looking weary after a day of meetings at Holy Trinity Brompton, sinks into a chair, yawns, and grins broadly at the idea of a devoted walker for Jesus being unwilling to make it across the room to the coffee jar.
The most successful contemporary hymn writer is surprisingly slight of stature, watchful but affable, logical in reasoning and ready to laugh even about himself... but there is a very clear sign of something strong inside. You don't get vast numbers of the human race walking for Jesus without some kind of determination, and it's clear that in any intellectual argument, this is a guy you'd want on your side.
After all, Jesus might have said in '90s language, disciples aren't wimps. So, what is the job to be done by a strong songwriting disciple in the '90s?
"I can sum it up in a kind of mission statement - it's 'worship in every place, prayer for all people'. That, I believe, is God's intention for the world; I believe every Christian, worship leader or not, is caught up in God's mega-purpose to fill the world with worship.
"This actually resonates with me! And when it comes to walks, this means in shopping centres, in housing estates, in Istanbul... and locally."
It is the local walk that makes up the intriguing development of the March For Jesus initiative. Prayer walking is an intriguing concept. The general idea is that instead of moving blindly from one place to another, you spend your walking looking at what the world is actually doing around you. As you observe more closely, you see things, people and even areas to be prayed for, and pray for them as you walk.
The development in recent years has been to do it in groups; some groups even devise route plans to cover entire towns with prayer over a given period.
Graham is co-author of a book on it, which mixes fascinating stories of prayer walking around the world with some neatly-phrased understanding for those who wonder if they can do it: 'while understanding that spiritual powers are real,' says the writer at one point, 'some readers may feel they have enough stress in the course of daily living, without picking street fights with demons...'!
Graham Kendrick laughs, and quite spontaneously glances seriously at his feet. "The whole idea of prayer walking sprang up alongside the better known March For Jesus concept, and started with that crazy idea of walking from John O'Groats to Land's End, and the next year doing west-to-east, to get the shape of the cross... and it really set a ball rolling."
Fine. But what does marching and prayer walking do for a cause, apart from getting you a lot of healthy exercise and a few blisters? And what's it got to do with Christian songwriting? "What does it achieve? For myself, having been involved in the new wave of praise and worship in the '70s and '80s, it was an answer to a question that I had to ask myself: "even if we were having a great time in our churches, how was anything we were doing having any impact on the outside world? It was all confined within walls..." so we took the walls off the church!"
The same as on his latest album title, 'No More Walls'? "Right, it's the same walls, and we're still taking them off. Back then, the idea seemed crazy... I mean, there was no apparent demand for anyone to take this kind of thing on to the streets, but it was a conviction I couldn't get away from.
"I felt constrained to create a framework of songs... a script, if you like, for the streets. We did an instruction booklet on it and sold it for a pound - I was astonished by the take-up, and all of a sudden, it looked like people were actually going to do it! I was really worried - I thought people are really going to do this, and it's not tried. If you'll excuse the pun, the idea wasn't road tested at all. I was saying with apparent confidence to churches, 'why don't you do this, it'll be great!', while not knowing whether the whole thing was going to fall apart; it was.... an interesting situation!"