Midland’s Praise Day
I grew up playing piano and guitar. By the age of 14, I had stopped attending anything to do with the ecclesia, and I was off following my other interests. For those four or five years I did not have any real connection with Christadelphian meetings—my parents both went to the ecclesia regularly, but I had always found it so boring!
Then, when I was 18, and still not particularly interested in becoming a follower of Christ, I was invited by a small ecclesia in Handsworth, UK to attend one of their evening services, purely to play some music for them. Intrigued, and flattered, I agreed to go!
I was invited by a small ecclesia to play some music for them. Intrigued, and flattered, I agreed to go.
They gave me, via my parents, some worship songs to learn, which I did. My dad then took me along, armed with my keyboard (they had no musical instruments of their own in the house group), and I spent an hour playing for this group of around 15 or 20 people as they sang to God!
This was all very new to me—I’d grown up with hymns at my home ecclesia only being played on an organ. It had never occurred to me that any other type of worship music even existed, and these new songs were lovely!
My parents, Sue and Wilf Alleyne, then of course encouraged me to learn more of these songs and support this small church from time to time, which I did. To begin, I started to occasionally attend services at the Handsworth Ecclesia. When I was there, I would play for them. The more I attended, the more regularly I played for them and the more songs we all learned together!
Other musicians joined Handsworth when I was in my late teens, and there was a real buzz in the place, not only with music, but with the “realness” of the family and the joy in Bible study, preaching and outreach. Music seemed to be a beautiful act of worship that ran through it all. It ranged from the singing of many of the beautiful green book hymns and anthems to more meditative worship songs, and also more exciting, upbeat music! It was all there alongside everything we did, and it was a draw!
A good number of young people joined Handsworth, attracted by the engaging atmosphere, the passion for God’s word, and the joy and freedom that people found through this Bible-based worship! Many of us began to look forward to our Sundays with the Handsworth Ecclesia as “the best day of the week” and preferred the company of our ecclesial family to that of university, school or work friends.
Many of us began to look forward to our Sundays as “the best day of the week”
I was baptized when I was 21, and the Handsworth Ecclesia became my family. It is where I still belong 21 years later.
Over the years, many brothers and sisters from other ecclesias visited just so that they could sing different songs from those at their home ecclesias. Young people felt the mixture of music (both traditional and more modern) allowed them to better connect with God.
In 2009, a few of us were chatting about our love for praise and worship music and realized there was a gap in the community in the UK. We recognized many people would love the opportunity to come together to sing songs that they would not usually have in their home ecclesias. We decided to create an event where the emphasis would be on praising God through music, singing and prayer—a place where we would be,
We reflected on how the Bible includes many verses about praise and worship and the use of all kinds of instruments. For instance, see the beautiful words of Psalm 150:1-6:
“Praise the LORD Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
Praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
Praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
Praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD!”
In 2010, we decided to host the first Midlands Praise Day. We rented a school, got together a band including a cellist, pianist, drummer, guitarist, xylophonist, trumpeter, bass player, violinist and singers! We planned to have a presider, but not in the traditional sense. Wearing a microphone and not tied to a lectern, he was free to walk around, encouraging audience participation, using humor and involving everyone in the service.
We strove for an atmosphere balanced between being informal and respectful.
Instead of hymnbooks, we used multi-media to show engaging keynote slides with subtle images and videos to support what was said. I have always felt people sing better when looking up rather than down! We strove for an atmosphere balanced between being informal and respectful.
Even though there was a creche for children, they were, of course, welcome to join in with everyone else. We divided the event in two parts. The first part was more traditional, with singing from the green hymnbook (but certainly the more popular hymns). This included reflective songs and moody songs, with some solos. We added a new song that was repeated in the second half of the day.
The first talk was intentionally the more “meaty” or “deep” of the two, based on the theme of the day. We have had themes such as “Hope in a Hopeless World” and “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Hold on— Christ will be here soon,” to name just a few.
Before the second half, we took a break for refreshments and chatting. We then increased the tempo. The songs were large, joyous and fun! Children participated with actions in some of them, along with anyone else who wanted to join. We laughed heartily at the joy they were experiencing! Then we sang the new song again.
The second talk was designed to be lighter, perhaps more fun and more engaging for young people. The end of the second half progressed toward a more “powerful’” finish with those great moving anthems that everyone knows well. The finale raised the roof, with a rousing acapella rendition of “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.” How incredible to hear it sung with over 800 voices!
And so, this is how it went.
450 people attended the first Midlands Praise Day, and over the years, as word got around, more people came. By the eighth Praise Day, we had over 800 participants! It has become the largest regular Christadelphian gathering in the UK with brothers and sisters turning up from all parts of the country.
Other areas have now taken on the model, so in the UK there is now a summertime Northern Praise Day, and an Easter-time Southern Praise Day.
Midlands Praise Day has always been free, but we ask for donations to cover the cost. More importantly, we ask for practical donations that can be given out to the homeless, to women’s shelters, or more recently, to the recent influx of Iranian refugees. Initially, we asked for people to bring items such as sleeping bags, backpacks and Bibles. Lately, toiletries have been preferred, and we have assembled a huge stack of those to distribute where needed.
Over the years, we’ve had a lot of positive feedback about Praise Day. Here are some of the benefits noted:
- Catching up with people from all over the country.
- Enjoying different types of Scripturally accurate music and worship songs.
- A church activity the whole family can enjoy and participate in together.
- Uplifting encouragement and fellowship.
- Bridging the gap between more traditional Christadelphian hymns and modern Christian songs, something for all to enjoy.
- Providing an opportunity for young people to meet others from across the country at a neutral social forum; they might feel comfortable inviting their friends to a predominantly musical event rather than a more traditional fraternal/talk.
- An easy preaching opportunity for all to invite friends, as it appeals to everyone.
People call Praise Day the highlight of the year and encourage us to keep putting it on. They feel that it is so needed by our community. And so that is what we’ve done.
The year 2020 would have seen the 10th Midlands Praise Day, but sadly, due to COVID-19, it is not to be! We are still looking at doing an online Praise Day this year, but we’ll have to see how it goes.
Let’s pray that when we meet together to praise and worship it will not be in the Midlands but in Jerusalem. If you would like to know any more about Praise Days, feel free to contact me. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.