So I have a few minutes to spare before coffee-and-scones-time in the College… Maybe now is the time to reflect on my Autumn Soul experience! Warning – long post!
The first question people keep asking is, ‘was it weird to not be on stage?’. And the honest answer is, “Yes!” – could it be anything else? Kathryn and I were in the Autumn Soul Band from Year 1, setting up on two stage blocks in Wesley Centenary’s Epworth Hall with 173 people present. We were there when in year 2 on the Friday afternoon last-minute bookings meant we had to move everything into the main church building. We were on stage in Bangor Leisure Centre for Sunday morning worships over several years, and then in the choir pit of Hamilton Road Presbyterian. Over the past five years our band became known as ‘Soul Purpose’ as the membership became more established, forming a twelve-piece group with drums, bass, keys, guitars, flute/whistles, violin, sax, trumpet and vocalists. We saw God do great things in worship over the ten years, not because we were good but because He is.
So was it weird to not be on stage? Yes.
But was it bad to not be on stage? No!
For one thing, the Autumn Soul Band is now every bit as good musically as we are, they are humble, they pray hard and they long to see people going deeper in worship. They’re great! For another, I had the joy of free worship last weekend – I could lift my hands, I could sing harmonies, I could sit with the young people from our circuit. Here’s another reason – Autumn Soul is an event that places emphasis on young people participating in worship, whether it’s drama, dance, art, testimony, prayers – or music. At 20 I led a worship band where everyone else was still in their teens: it was time for that to happen again.
So that’s the stage thing out of the way.
What about the actual weekend, I hear you ask? I was a member of the prayer ministry team. To some people reading this you’ll be going, “ah yes, the prayer ministry team”. Others might be going, “the prayer what?”. So I’ll tell you what we did…
Friday afternoon – arrive early (4pm) for a prayer walk: we walked to all the churches in Bangor being used for accommodation and seminars, praying over them and the people that would be using them.
Before celebrations (there were meetings on the evenings and mornings of the weekend) – we gathered up to 90 minutes before the meeting, to pray for the people that would be coming into the building to worship and in particular for the people who would be onstage: band, speaker, dramatists, dancers, the techies etc. If those people were in the room we would lay hands on them and pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint them with power and inspiration for their task.
During seminars – we were available to pray with the speakers before the session and with anyone who had been affected by the topic afterwards: I missed this bit because I was involved in a seminar at the same time.
During celebrations – we sat throughout the church building, praying that God would clear barriers from people’s minds as they worshipped and listened, that he would quench distractions and meet with the young people and their leaders in a powerful way. That the people would allow Him to do a deep work in their lives, transforming them through the renewing of their minds.
At the end of meetings – as Andy (this year’s speaker – see HERE) invited people to respond, we were available to pray with people about specific things and, on Saturday night, to anoint them with oil (making a sign of the cross on the forehead while praying for them to be filled with the Spirit’s power to serve God as He leads). These were special times. In one instance, as I was praying for a person I became overwhelmed with God’s love for that person – I was speechless as I tried to communicate just how much God loves them.
A question that I’m pondering at the moment:
HOW MANY OF OUR CHURCHES ARE MISSING OUT on the affirmation, encouragement and strength that comes from the vulnerable act of Christians asking for, and offering, prayer? How many Christians persevere in their faith using their own strength, forgetting that God’s people are a people, and that we’re not meant to attempt anything without Holy Spirit’s whispered guidance, loving comfort and enabling power?