Three sizzling hot days in July was the time assigned to journo Tony Cummings and photographer Liz Whitehouse to go and report on the Christian youth phenomenon of the '90s, SOUL SURVIVOR. This is what they brought back.
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The heat is blistering. Over in tent city a group of teenagers engage in water pistol fights and throwing buckets o£ water over each other. All bald, middle aged journalists can do is keep the protective baseball hat clamped firmly on frazzled head and try and keep in the shade.
I sit on some steps talking to a new band from Chichester called Fruit. They give me a copy of their hot-off-the-press CD which (I later discover) is an engagingly eclectic rock-funk synthesis. Despite their youth they show considerable maturity.
The worship flows like a river out of the hall. To the side of the stage and even on the tarmac outside the hall several girls and one young man are dancing, three with flags. The packed crowd within can't see them. God can.
Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump! Jump!" Cameron Dante and Andy Hawthorne have told the throng to worship the Lord with their bodies and that is what they're doing. Me too! Risking cardiac arrest or heat exhaustion in the blastingly hot, wet atmosphere I jump until my lungs feel they're bursting. The Tribe are on form tonight and gospel diva Doronda D Lewis, a huge woman with a voice to match, is a big, big hit with the baying, jumping, steaming crowd. Doronda's gutsy voice brings new soul power to classics like "(I'm On My Way To) Zion". She asks in her chittlin circuit accent, "Ain't you guys in England ever heard of air conditioning?" Clearly we haven't.
One good way of sensing whether an event is run on Kingdom principles is its non-competitiveness and generosity of spirit. Soul Survivor is clearly passing the test. From the platform in the main hall Mike Pilavachi is interviewing the organiser of Ireland's Summer Madness festival. On the previous nights he's interviewed Andy Thornton from Greenbelt and Chris Cole from Cross Rhythms. This heartening reminder that the Lord wants his followers to build bridges not empires is a dazzling riposte to those who still criticise the charismatic church for insularity and unbridled ambition. Soul Survivor is rooted in Kingdom of God principles.
It's time to leave. I'm a day late, but an utterly impromptu seminar for musicians was an appointment from God I couldn't ignore. Over the last four days, I've never smiled so much, or cried so much, at any Christian event I've attended. There is indeed an open heaven over Soul Survivor.
As I bundle my bags into Dave and Tina Cross's car to begin the nine mile journey to Frome (the nearest rail station to Shepton Mallet), I ponder just why Soul Survivor has such a monumental, potentially life-changing event. I have no clear insight. All 1 know, as our car trundles down picturesque Somerset roads, is that I feel I've been privileged to glimpse a bit of history.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.
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