THE ROOTS & BRANCHES festival at Dudley explored a new theme of multiracial church this year. MCs Hughie Lawrence and Beresford Dawkins report.

Black And White: Dudley's Roots & Branches festival

The difficult years of birthing the annual Roots & Branches Festival at Dudley Castle bore fruit on July 3rd to 5th this year. The attendance, though still not huge, was a 75 per cent increase on 1997 but even more important was the fact that this year the event has clearly found its heart and focus.

The Church in the Midlands has for too long been divided on racial grounds. Black churches and white churches exist side by side but few events have in the past attempted to bring together all of God's people in a celebration of Christian creativity. But that was Roots & Branches' aim. It was never going to be easy. Grassroots gospel groups like Hutchinson & Gayle and Nu Life might be well known among the Midlands black churches but were unknown to white audiences. The black community for their part have a resistance to attending any open-air event. But a start was made.

Key figures of the black church such as Rev Carver Anderson and Andrew Hislop gave seminars alongside white Bible teachers like Tom Brock and creationist apologist Dr Victor Pearce. White pop and rock bands played cheek-by-jowl with black quartets and small choirs. And international music ambassadors like David Evans from Australia demonstrated that soul has less to do with skin pigmentation than with heart.

It was almost a prophetic statement to see two multi racial duos, Rodd & Marco with their anarchic humour and Carrie & David Grant with their slinky R&B, animated the crowd. And that very special Sunday morning celebration, where the whole crowd danced and sang in a flag waving throng vividly demonstrating we are one in Christ, will be remembered by all who attended. Here's to Cross Rhythms Roots & Branches '99.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.