A phenomenal surge of youthful acts are now making a serious challenge to the Britneys and Westlifes of popdom. A decidedly old Tony Cummings reports on the young gospel popsters.

Continued from page 3

Their debut 'Where I Wanna Be' album with its artful blend of Britney-bright pop, Abba nostalgia and out-on-the-floor dance rhythms has created waves in the US. Following on from the success of their "All The Way To Heaven: The Enhanced Maxi Single" things are happening for V*ENNA

Lucy Britten is the English half of V*enna and brings to the duo experience from Psalmistry and Soul Survivor dance pop outfit Storm. Sharnessa Shelton is an American who graduated last year from Kensington Temple's School Of Creative Ministries. The pair were brought together by former WWMT member Mark Pennells (now Shine's manager and songwriter) and V*enna were born.

"It's a two-part vision - evangelism and disciple-ship, because we see two different cultures," Lucy explains. "In England, it's seen as 'un-cool' for a teenager to be a Christian, so there's a chance for evangelism. We're spending up to six months of the year in America, where more people profess to be Christians, but they're not actually living the faith-filled life. So there it's much more discipleship, encouragement from the stage and hopefully our lives will come across to them."

"We really want to see kids accept the challenge and not waste their teen years," Sharnessa comments. "Especially in the States, kids live from party to party, from mall to mall, from weekend to weekend, and that's their focus. Everything's a fashion show. Everything is about boyfriends and girlfriends and that is such a waste of a valuable season of life. The teen years can be such an incredible time of growth."

Lucy, remembering her own school experiences, also wants to encourage the kids they encounter to be more proactive. "I wasn't actually aware when I was making decisions. We want to show kids that if they are following the crowd, they're making decisions they may regret later. We want to make them aware that they are at an age where they can make their own decisions. We just can't wait to have stories to tell people about kids coming to know Jesus, whether it's through something we've said, or just to hear stories that we've helped to plant seeds," Lucy says, excitement building in her voice. "More than anything, we want to be a bit of love in their lives."

"Another thing that's on our hearts is to encourage kids to save sex for marriage," Sharnessa says, "because things get more and more watered down and acceptable to society. 'Do You Wanna Know' is about letting them know that sex is amazing, it's beautiful, but God created it to happen within the context of marriage between two people who are committed to each other."

Sharnessa is equally adamant about backing up words with the right visual image, particularly in dance routines with their one female and two male dancers: "None of us have ever put in a move that was supposed to be saucy, but sometimes it can look a little provocative, so we've been very careful to keep that out. We want parents to want their kids to listen to us and we get compliments from them. In America we had parents who looked rather conservative saying, 'I'm going to take your stuff home to my kids,' encouraging them to listen."

Home base for V*enna is Manchester - convenient for Lucy who marries the World Wide Message Tribe's newest member Lindz West next May, and newlywed Sharnessa has settled there with her Swedish husband. Practising keeps the girls busy when they're not touring and Lucy is only too aware of the challenge before them: "We'd love to be able to match the quality that's found in the mainstream, to take back what is God's - music was created by our Father. The main thing is to be as professional as we can, so we do hour upon hour of rehearsal. God calls us to lives of excellence, whatever we're doing. So whether we go 'secular' or not, we're just trying to live out a bit of that, to offer a healthy alternative."

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.