Tony Cummings quizzed Ashley Cooper, organiser of Stoke's PASSION 07 one-day concert, about the event.
Passion 07 isn't anything to do with the American student youth movement. Rather, it's the name of one of the biggest one-day Christian music events in the UK, to be held on 9th June at Stoke City's Britannia Stadium. Ashley Cooper, who is the pastor at the Galley Church in Stoke-on-Trent as well as the organiser of Passion 07, dropped into the Cross Rhythms office to talk about the exciting initiative.
Tony: For somebody who's yet to hear about the event, what is Passion 07?
Ashley: Passion is a one-day music festival happening here in the city of Stoke-on-Trent. This is the first year it's run and this is a significant year in the city. It's the 200th anniversary of the great revival in the city. 1807 saw the Primitive Methodist Revival, a great out-pouring here in Stoke-on-Trent at a place called Mow Cop, a place where God kind of came and touched down and met with his people and transformed lives. We want something in the open air again in this city that's contemporary, that says, 'Yes, God did something in the city 200 years ago but we want him to do something new here in a contemporary way.' And so we've kind of bought the best facilities in the city, the Britannia Stadium, and we've tried to bring the best in UK Christian music to the city with Delirious? headlining and Yfriday, Cathy Burton, Onehundredhours, Replenish, tbc and LZ7. We've also got some guests from overseas - Salvador will be flying in from the USA to play their first ever UK gig. We've also got a late addition to the bill, CCM star Jaci Velasquez. We want to create an event that is unique, exciting, dynamic and happening right here in Stoke.
Tony: Now one of the questions often asked by Christians is what is this event about? Is it worship, encouragement of Christians or evangelism?
Ashley: The honest answer is it is all of those things. We've titled it Passion because we're passionate about music, we're passionate about Christian music, and we've brought the best of Christian music. We're also passionate about Jesus and passionate about worship and seeing Christians kind of alive in worship and that's what this music's all about. But we're also passionate about people coming to know Jesus too and what better way than through music? Music is a good medium for sharing the Good News of Jesus. So let's bring people who enjoy good music who need to hear the Gospel message and hear it through that day.
Tony: You're a pastor of a fellowship called Galley Church. Tell me a bit about that.
Ashley: I'm a Methodist minister, I work for the Methodist church in evangelism and mission and I'm involved in a church plant in a small town in Stoke called Kidsgrove. We've planted what's called the Galley Church. It got the name through the pub we met in when we started. We took over a disused pub called the Galley. We've moved out of the pub now as it became too small for us and we're meeting in Kidsgrove Town Hall on a Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock. About 120 of us meet, to try and discover what it means to be church in this kind of contemporary age and kind of try and say what is it we need to keep from our heritage but what is it that is new and dynamic that can help us to worship God today.
Tony: I remember talking to a well known Methodist evangelist some years back called Rob Frost and he was saying how the Methodist church needed to rediscover its spiritual zeal and then through that rediscovery begin again to do what it originally did which was to impact an entire nation. Can you see any signs of that beginning to happen?
Ashley: I know Rob very well and I would fundamentally agree with everything he said in that statement. I believe Methodism has a lot to offer if it would rediscover who it was in its kind of wanting to see transformation of community, transformation of society, transformation of hearts. When it was birthed it was called Scriptural Holiness, it was about changing the shape of our nation to a Christian shape. Boy, do we need that right now! Our nation seems to be pulling away from God at the moment at a fast rate and as Methodists we need to rediscover our heritage and that is partly what this event is about too, in that 200 years ago God did a new thing. He brought revival and transformation and we want to say we want to see that again, for our city, for our nation. But not in the way it was done 200 years ago. But let's do it in a new way that is relevant for today and will really impact people today.
Tony: What about people from other churches? What about those who feel they are quite happy in their Anglican church or their Pentecostal church or whatever denomination or non-denomination they find themselves in? Can you see them supporting Passion 07?
Ashley: Absolutely. Why not? It's good Christian music. Delirious? have been around a long time with all kinds of denominations and organisations. It's good Christian music and the aim of this day is to bring those people together to share in a fantastic celebration of faith, celebration of Jesus that hopefully will touch and change lives.
Tony: Tell me a bit more about the original revival you mentioned. A lot of people might not know much about the history of Stoke-on-Trent. You were saying that this coincides with a time 200 years ago when there was really something happening through the Holy Spirit in this city. Is that right?
Ashley: Absolutely. In 1807 there was a great revival. It happened in a place called Mow Cop. It was just a few miles outside the city centre where thousands of people were impacted by the Holy Spirit. Thousands of people had their lives transformed and changed and it birthed what was called then Primitive Methodism, a new movement that swept across the land, bringing transformation and change and bringing thousands to faith in Jesus Christ. It started here in Stoke-on-Trent. People don't know a lot about Stoke but that's where this movement and this revival started. And again we want to kind of say thank you to God for that. There are lots of celebrations happening in the city and across the nation in this year that are linked into that. A lot of those celebrations to me seem a little old fashioned, hence wanting Passion 07 to say thank you to God for what he did but this is about now, it's about contemporary culture, it's about people who are living today and saying, 'God, do something new in this particular way.'
Tony: How do people find out more about Passion 07 and indeed book tickets?
Ashley: The easiest way is to look at our website www.passionevent.org as all the booking information is on there. Or if you are in the city you can pop into the Methodist Book Centre, which is in Gitana Street in Hanley, and you can book tickets over the counter. There's a phone hotline too on 01782-207200 where you can buy your tickets.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.