Dave Brown was at the Guild Hall in Preston in October to report on ENCOUNTER, a pioneering worship event.
Contemporary worship events come in all shapes and sizes but seldom has an event evolved like that in Preston where young people themselves don't simply make up the crowd, they are the participants. At E5 - as the fifth Encounter is know in the trade - over 1,200 people gathered on 26th October 2002 at The Guild Hall in Preston to be led in worship with music, song, dance, drama and art.
The immediate impact of the light boxes - the art team's work - stunned everyone as they entered the hall. DJ Mark Sprakes mixed the tunes supported by silhouetted dancers in the boxes. Then the lights dimmed and a spotlight fell on a lone Spanish guitar player opening up "Jesus Be The Centre". Familiar songs followed as well as a new song written by members of the music team.
Drama and dance have always been a strong feature of Encounter and again both gave brilliant performances, with the drama challenging people to think how serious they are about their faith and would it hold out if things got tough - even to the point of persecution and death.
Most significantly, the event is about young people giving themselves in worship - the standing area at the front of the auditorium soon filled up with people truly entering into uninhibited praise. The 40-strong music team made it clear that they were not there to perform but to lead others into God's presence.
Always looking to include new talent from local churches, the second half opened with words from the Bible to the powerful sound of a didgeridoo played by a real Australian now living in Preston! Des Wadsworth - a local youth pastor - shared his heart for Preston for a few minutes, encouraging people to catch the vision for the newly created city. Hillsongs' "Everyday" has become the Encounter anthem and no evening would be complete without the whole auditorium singing, playing and dancing as one.
Encounter grows from strength to strength and is introducing a new venture called Equip. To further the vision of equipping young people to work in their own churches, Equip brought people together for a full day in February to learn how music, dance, drama and art can be used worship. And the prayer team is taking up the challenge of arranging a 24-7 prayer week leading up to E6 in March 2003.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.