Preston's youth shine brighter
Churches bring the city to life through PR: Festival
The weekend of 22-24th July 2011 was the sort of weekend a city could change. Young people were challenged and called up to service to show and tell the people of Preston about the good news- and they did. Avenham Park hosted a huge free fun day with 2,000 visitors, followed by a Saturday night gig that saw three hundreds of young people flocking there to party with a completely different vibe!
At this massive thumping gig, with bands including Twelve24, Make Jesus Known (MJK), Audacious, Population Four, and Chip K, saw more the youth arrive – many from the local schools - and 35 teenagers responded to the Gospel message, indicating they wanted to know more about Jesus. In the weeks leading up to it, Twelve24 had toured many High Schools, sharing the gospel, and promoting the events to 3,000 pupils. Lives were changed that night including that of a young man, watching the events from a distance, who asked for prayer in front of his mates saying he wanted forgiveness. After prayer right there and then, he said he felt clean. This awesome night was just one part of the PR: Festival, a whole weekend of activities organised and led by local Christian young people.
A massive fun day in the park was held during Saturday afternoon including inflatables, skatepark, arts, craft, sports and food.
There was also a festival feel in the Flag Market with busking bands, art walls, beading, a Luv Preston bus, Healing on the Streets and a football cage.
In addition to all the willing volunteers used for those activities, 30 young people completely renovated the Foxton Centre, which is used as a local soup kitchen serving the homeless, by painting, gardening and cleaning. 20 more helped change the landscape at Avenham Park and 20 others went round the city picking up litter. There was also a healing on the streets prayer team and a special ‘connect’ team who walked the streets engaging with people, letting them know what was happening and inviting them to events.
130 young people, out of the 200 volunteers, demonstrated their commitment to sharing life with the community by signing up to be the core group of ‘city changers’. City changers stayed the whole weekend, between time spent on the projects, to take time to worship together, get to know each other and receive teaching based on unity passages such as John 17. Their vision was to impact the city, serve the city with a festival, and ask God to reveal himself to people through their words and actions.
Andy Barnett, speaking on behalf of the Core team, said: “Through PR: Festival we wanted to challenge the young people to sacrifice their time, their money and effort to serve the city and do something no-one is doing to reach people no-one is reaching. To do something radical, to share the Gospel, see God do miracles and represent Christ in the way we all dream about. – God blessed it!.
"Youth groups from eleven churches, nine community organisations and twelve schools across the city got behind the event and together we wanted to shine stronger and brighter and I believe we did. It was an amazing opportunity to work together, as Jesus asks us, and impact Preston. Young people are not eh next generation, they are the now generation - the young people lead the way.”
On the Sunday a big Churches Together celebration saw 500 people pitch up at the park and continue the festival feel. Different pastors from different denominations prayed for the city and the younger generation shared testimonies of what God had done. Roy Crowne, Director of HOPE, delivered a stirring message and told us of what happened afterwards: “One of those who responded was a young man caught in gang culture, drugs and crime. Eager to turn his life around, he asked for prayer and we helped him connect with the Church. It was such a privilege and a joy to see God change his heart and I know that he was just one of many who were impacted through this festival. It was the Church being united and visible – just as it should be.”
The Healing team saw God do some miracles through their prayers. One lady with arthritis in her shoulder was too scared to move it but not long later she was doing windmills with her arms. A young man with a sore leg, limping over to the team, asked for prayer. He got up from the chair and walked off normally.
The PR: Festival was principally organised by Youth City, a collection of Christian youth groups and organisations who decided to work together. Local community groups have been impressed that young people were behind the venture.
Andy added: “The exciting thing is that some of these people will have never stepped foot into a church and never had any contact with Church until now. The Church went to them. Jesus said, we are the light of the world, the question is – are we a bright light, or dim light? The church shines brightest outside its walls. The church is much stronger together, and it shines much brighter together. Unity for mission is powerful. We hope to see more denominations and more people of all ages get involved in future.”
When asked whether PR: festival would happen again the reply was unequivocal. “Are there still too many people that don’t know Jesus? See you in 2012.”