Tony Cummings ponders the significance of another event on the UK festival calendar.
To the uninitiated, all Christian festivals are the same. Greenbelt or Crossfire, Spring Harvest or Jam, Harry or Kingston, arts fest or teaching celebration, big or small, Christian festivals get lumped together, usually by hack journalists or compilers of General Synod Reports. In fact each Christian festival worthy of the name has its own unique character and purpose. One festival may result from a vision to see a church come to grips with Art, while another may be what could be called Evangelical Utilitarian - give the kids some rock then preach them the Gospel.
The Cross Rhythms Festival is, I believe, unique. Purely on a logistical level there's never been a festival quite like it. 35 bands and soloists (excluding the New Rhythms entrants) representing a dazzling Who's Who of Grassroots British Christian music with no reliance on big American CCM acts or British pop stars. But Cross Rhythms Festival's ethos goes much deeper than the worthy aim to be a showcase for all that is creatively excellent in British Christian music. It goes deeper than a multi-denominational event where house church member and Anglican, Roman Catholic and Baptist can meet to enjoy themselves. It even goes deeper than the desire to work with churches in Devon to put on an event that will make cultural sense to youth while communicating spiritual truth.
I believe the theological heart of the Cross Rhythms Festival is a desire to see God break down cultural and theological barriers many Christians have erected around themselves and to tangibly bridge the Sacred and the Secular divide. The Cross Rhythms Festival is committed to excellence in art and holiness of life, being free enough to enjoy ourselves, yet committed enough to live a life transformed and illuminated by Christ.
The selection of artists we write about in this Cross Rhythms Festival Special play music in a wide range of styles - from the fiery pop-rock of John Perry to the Celtic folk-praise and worship fusion of Sammy Horner. But they will all bring to the Cross Rhythms Festival a passionate desire to make great music while acting as conduits for God's holy love. As Karl Allison, who will be performing at Cross Rhythms both with his band the Eden and with his pioneering rave praise ministry Last Daze, said to me recently, "we Christians must finally stop saying this is 'entertainment' and putting it in one box and this is 'ministry' and putting it in another box. That's an old heresy. We need to be walking close enough to the Lord so that God can minister to us in a supermarket, on a disco dance floor or at a rock concert. If we draw near to him when we're being 'entertained', he'll draw near to us."
I think Karl's words lucidly sum up what the Cross Rhythms Festival
stands for. On 10th, 11th and 12th July Eden Burning, Keith Thompson,
John Perry, Sammy Horner and a few thousand others will gather to
entertain, be entertained and, I believe, experience something of
God's Holy Fire.