Perhaps you can remember the good old days, when you visited the seaside and heard the brass band playing;
Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside
I do like to be beside the sea!
I do like to stroll upon the Prom, Prom, Prom!
Where the brass bands play:“Tiddely-om-pom-pom!”
Well, if you strolled along the Clacton prom prom prom yesterday you would have seen something entirely different. The Churches Together in Clacton celebrated their event, “Praise On The Prom”.
Expertly hosted by BBC Radio Essex presenter, Andrew Merchant, the afternoon featured contributions from many of the Clacton Churches. We have been running this event for a few years now and, in my opinion, it improves every year.
Yesterday was a little different to the norm. Instead of “just” an open air worship event with music and drama, around the fringes of the arena you would have found people holding placards saying “I will Listen”, “Free Hugs”, “Free Water”. I was on the water stand and gave out 96 bottles of water to people! The Free Hugs and Listening gave people passing by an opportunity for the church to engage “hands on” with them. Yes, people did stop for a hug or a chat and welcomed the opportunity to be prayed with!
One of the roles that I have is as chair of Churches Together in Clacton and I have seen at first hand just how much effort the organizing team have to put in each year. “Thank you” seems to be such a small thing to say for all your hard work John, Pam, Dan & Hannah but, this event would not happen without you. Tony and the set up team worked from 8am on the Sunday morning, it was a long day for all of them!
The music group from the Church I have the privilege to minister at, put in a long shift yesterday too! I hope none of them are suffering too much today!
So, why do we bother? The Psalmist says;
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! (Psalm 133 vs. 1)
We come together to show that the Church is UNITED. We may be different denominations, have different ways of doing things, have different styles but, in the essentials, we are UNITED. Jesus is Lord, knowing Jesus makes a difference, lives are changed when we live in the relationship we were made to live in – when we know God as our heavenly Father.
We come together to celebrate the freedom we have in this country to worship God. In many countries of the world, Christians live in fear because they are persecuted. We must not take our freedom for granted but, use it wisely.
The Psalmist then goes on to say;
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down upon the collar of his robes. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. (Psalm 133 vs. 2 – 3)
I don’t know if you have ever experienced anointing with oil? I have, I didn’t enjoy it. It’s a messy experience! Sometimes, Christian unity can be a messy experience. During the preparation of this years Praise on the Prom, things did get messy. I saw many of the committee in tears at times with their frustrations. I know many of the organizing group wanted to walk away and give up on it. Some people outside the group just did not grasp the vision and thought the group were doing things wrong!
One of the things that I admired most about the organizing group was the way they worked through the issues. They pulled together, they did not give up, they kept on. When John learnt he could not tow his trailer in the carnival, he pulled it by hand instead!
And the result of all this?
For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133 vs. 3)
And there were blessings, it was a fantastic afternoon. People were spoken to, people who would not normally attend church joined in. Faces were painted. People were prayed with. Water was drunk. One passer-by who took a bottle of water from me asked, “why does the church care?” my reply “because Jesus does”.
So, all in all, I felt really blessed yesterday and I am certain many others did too.