It was a huge privilege to have our Pentecost Sunday service broadcast live on BBC1 on 24th May, and a great opportunity to share our faith with others.
This Pentecost service was a joint gathering of all three of our congregations, along with City Life Church, James Street Church, and City Gate Church (Salisbury), and it was great to celebrate the festival of Pentecost together in one place.
The morning began with coffee and pastries, and Central Hall quickly filled with both people and the buzz of excited anticipation. By 9.30, everything was almost ready - seats were filled with people, the band were in position on stage, camera angles were checked and adjusted. There was just time for a few last instructions and for the singing conductor to ensure we were in fine voice, and it was time for the live broadcast to begin.
Viewers watching the broadcast from home were welcomed and introduced to our church by BBC presenter, Josie d'Arby, before Billy Kennedy officially started the service and introduced the first song, 'One Way Jesus' (originally by Joel Houston & Jonathon Douglass), complete with actions (expertly demonstrated by the children's work team!). The children were then prayed for before they left to go to their groups for their activities.
Our second song ('Build Your Kingdom Here', originally by Rend Collective) was followed by a dramatic reading of the morning's Bible passage (Acts 2:1-12) by Stefan Smart, and then by a third song, 'Holy Spirit' (originally by Bryan & Katie Torwalt), with the fitting words 'Holy Spirit, you are welcome here'.
We explored the meaning of Pentecost, as Billy talked about the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit upon the apostles in the Bible, and the birth of the church as the apostles' lives were transformed. He gave examples from church history of further Pentecost moments - times when people experienced dramatic encounters with God's Holy Spirit, transforming them as individuals, affecting the course of the church's mission, and powerfully impacting the world around them for good.
We considered the birth of our own church forty years ago, at a time when the Holy Spirit was moving again in our nation and city. Josie d'Arby interviewed Phil Orchard and Sue Hutchinson, who were both present at the beginning of what we now know as New Community Church. They were able to share about their experience of the Holy Spirit filling their lives, and to give testimony to God's faithfuness throughout the last forty years. There was also an expectation for the future, with Phil saying that although they believed they had shared something of the Pentecost experience, that 'there's more to come as well!'
After the band had led us in another worship song (this time 'Our Father in Heaven (Let Heaven Come)', originally by Marcus Meier), Billy spoke more about the transforming effect of the Holy Spirit on people's lives.
He gave the example of John Wesley, one of the founders of the the Methodist church, who experienced this when the Holy Spirit came upon him during a church meeting in 1738. As a result of his pentecost moment, tens of thousands of people came to put their faith in Jesus. However, John Wesley's vision was for more than just personal transformation; he had a vision for Holy Spirit-inspired believers to impact their society for good, and over the next 50 years these believers established schools and hospitals, campaigned for abolition of the slave trade and reform of the prison system, started businesses, and changed laws to protect the most vulnerable in society. As Billy explained, when heaven comes to earth, the impact is good news for everyone.
Pete Butt, Debs Fulcher Cornah, and Brin Singh led us in a time of prayer, praying that we would all know this transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives, in our churches and in our nation.
Following this, Theo Amer and Nicky Porter introduced a time of communion together, and we shared bread and wine as we remembered that Pentecost was only possible because Jesus first died and rose again for us. We declared 'Forever He is risen; He is alive', as we sang together 'Forever' (originally by Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Christa Black Gifford, Gabriel Wilson, Joel Taylor & Kari Jobe).
The time of worship continued with another song, 'Spirit Break Out' (originally by Ben Bryant, Luke Hellebronth, Tim Hughes & Myles Dhillon), and its words, 'Spirit break out; Heaven come down', beautifully summed up the message of the service and the prayers that had been prayed.
A closing prayer and blessing by Billy was followed by a final song, 'Lord You Are Good' (originally by Israel Houghton), a fitting testimony to all God has already done through the years by his Holy Spirit, and a declaration of what we believe He will do in the years still to come.
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in the service, whether in front of the cameras or behind the scenes, and to all who generously gave their time to help ensure that the morning ran so smoothly.