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Rearranging the times of the fest so that it now started at Friday teatime clearly was a success. There was a goodly number in the Showcase tent to see the kick off act, the West Country's V-12. Two things struck me. The band were hugely improved from last year (when they performed as Blade) with their funky pop rock getting early festival goers bopping; and Wigwam were clearly pulling out all the stops with the sound, which in both the Showcase and the Powerhouse (the Big Top venue) was nothing short of sensational; every bass slap, guitar line and kick drum punching out a biting blend of the rock musician's art. Only the rain threatened to spoil the party.
As I headed for the Powerhouse to catch the opening series of music and ministry with Heat and Edna Els, the noise of squelching feet was difficult to ignore. I tried to put at the back of my mind the financial implications of the rain - the weather would kill the bulk of the day ticket sales and turn an already expected financial loss into a much larger one - and tried instead to stay Jesus focused. It wasn't hard. Waylaid by friends I was soon praying, then rejoicing as the event began to transform itself in a series of conversations, each tender and God-breathed, interspersed with bouts of music and moments of ministry, snatched meals, even more snatched moments with my wife and son, and a blur of laughter, tears and the relentless, tangible sense of the presence of God. Throwing away my carefully planned schedule of intended acts and seminars to attend - instead I allowed myself the heady exhilaration of being seemingly blown along through a series of divine encounters. I caught plenty of great, great music - the Psalm Drummers breaking open the Holy of Holies in the Art Of Living tent (which this year was a particularly spectacular feast to the eyes); steve, whose breathtakingly, tight, pop rock was a welcome alternative to the multi-media Welcome Party at the Powerhouse; while my public interview with Normal Generation? was truly enjoyable as I heard their story of their assault on the German pop charts and their determination to impact youth with the Gospel. It was fun too with me donning a silly rasta hat. Later, I caught a late night session at the perpetual praise and intercession tent 24:3. I was blessed. By the time I crawled to my caravan in the small hours I felt I'd had a feast.
When God wakes you up you're wide awake. Dawn had only just broken when I made my second visit to 24:3. If the sense of God's presence was tangible throughout the site, in there the very air seemed fragrant with his presence. Seldom have four hours passed so quickly or sweetly. The day rolled on. I caught a bit of Caroline Oates to discover it was the lady herself who plays the didgeridoo on her records; heard a bit of the breathtaking testimony of the courageous James Mawdsley and his one man battle for justice in Burma; at the open air Jazz Stage I MC'd MIC (if you know what I mean) when abandoning their planned dance workshop because of the rain, they did instead a delightful acoustic act full of fulsome harmonies for a crowd happy to sit in the drizzle. A friend came and told me Cathy Burton fulfilled her reputation as one of Britain's best singer/songwriters while the set of hip hop from London's Set Free was streetwise. Afterwards I even managed to join the mosh for the last ear splitting song from those Welsh clubland musicianaries Kosher, whose rapcore theatrics held the crowd in rapturous abandon. Wherever I went people told me of musical treats I'd missed - "Jessy Dixon is still one of THE great voices," enthused one friend; "Superhero are one of the best rock bands I've ever seen," enthused another. The Father's House ministry tent was crowded. The Battle For Britain live TV programme in the Powerhouse with Wendy Alec and Chris Cole boldly declared a vision of the nation's culture desperately needing fresh input from cutting edge Christian media. And 24:3 pumped to sanctified dance worship. A spiritual and artistic feast, my spirit wanted this to never end.
Sunday began awesomely. Led again to 24:3 in the small hours, I saw God heal and anoint two young people and prepare them for ministry. Later, after breakfast (why does a bacon buttie taste so good in the open air?) I was disappointed my seminar on marriage was on at the same time as soulful singer/songwriter McCarthy - I heard he was excellent - but elated that the sun was out and streaming down.
Once again, wherever one went on this field of dreams there were delights. Fire Fly played one of the greatest rock sets I'd ever encountered. They served communion during one song while their closing song "Stolen Glimpse" was as passionate a declaration to do spiritual battle as I've heard. It visibly touched the transfixed audience. Elsewhere, people were being touched too: RiverDeep, so long faithful servants to the Cross Rhythms ministry, are now one of the tightest, most anointed worship ministries in the World Church and they led a throng in exultant worship while A Cry For The Nation with Obii Pax-Harry in the Father's House was a passionate articulation of everything Cross Rhythms hungers and thirsts for for this battered and diseased nation of ours. By the time I made my way to the Powerhouse to join my wife, who had toiled long and hard through the weekend on the Cross Rhythms Central information desk, for the final session, I was replete with blessing. But the What's Your Story, Give Him The Glory session there will live forever in my memory. The music and ministry from Australia's David Evans and Tony Fitzgerald was nothing short of anointed. And then the testimonies began. A young lass who'd been delivered from a cult, filled with the Spirit and been given a worship ministry. A young lad telling of his determination to return to his school and make a difference for Christ. A man delivered from years of alcoholism. A young lad freed from chronic shyness. A grandmother telling how the evidence of God's hand on the young people at Cross Rhythms had profoundly touched her. And last in the queue in an arrangement which could only have been God, a sister singing in the voice of an angel a prophetic song, "Did you see the sunset tonight?" It was my goodnight kiss to you." Many wept tears of adoration when they heard that song. I'm weeping as I write this.
Report by Tony Cummings
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