Remembering : Wembley Prayer Day
I don't suppose there have been many times in History that sentence could have been written. 29th September 2012 however, was one of those days.
I was working at UCB at the time and had been developing a friendship with Pastor Jonathan Oloyede in London. When we would meet for a lunch or coffee, we would dream - the conversations were always about transformation, about faith in the Nation being re-kindled. It's always good to have people in your life who dream big dreams.
I found out early on, that the event 'was on'. Jonathan had been leading a team taking a stand in football stadiums three times to that point, and had more than 10,000 people at the largest gathering. Wembley however was a different proposition, I knew what lay ahead was a year or negotiating, core group meetings, problem solving and fundraising.
The reality hit home in our very first core group meeting, I was listening to Jonathan share the dream, and others respond. Ideas about a 10,000 strong Choir brought from the four corners. Questions about whether we could get the pitch lifted in order to get more people in. This little rag tag group of people were about to ignite something everyone would stand up and take notice of. Our main focus was to stimulate the Nation to Pray and Worship. I quickly made rough estimates of costs, stadium hire, sound, vision, publicity. The numbers were colossal, approaching £1m to put the day on, and you guessed it - we had no money in the bank to work with. I guess that's when faith is active and has the potential to become a reality.
As people started to hear of the idea, offers of help started to come in. Church Edit offering a free website, UCB offering me to help coordinate the Core Team and for Publicity on Radio and TV. Noel Robinson stood upto the plate to mobillise some of the household names in Worship. Quickly the core group had representatives on it from several denominations, tech, video, radio, web, health and safety etc. Within a few short weeks it seemed like a plan was coming together.
The negotiations with Wembley were going well. We got the stadium hire at an incredible price, but the staffing, and incidentals would take the bill to nearly half the entire budget. The there was the regulation, planning permission needed for individual batches of seating and no sale being forced on seats with limited line of site to the stage. All things you never even thought of before entering into a project like this.
A tour was being conducted around the UK, sharing the vision, inviting Churches to bring folk. Some of the core group an particularly Jonathan could be anywhere in the UK any day of the week and be back in London with the rest of us for the weekly core group meetings.
Of course there were also some challenges. The guys handling the ticketing made huge mistakes causing quite a level of stress on the day. We were seeking out sponsors to help with income, and had approached some very large Christian ministries. We negotiated hard, but several pulled out - I guess the risk of failure was too high. There was background politics to deal with too as we saw in several side meetings where agendas would rise. People wanting stage time, wanting to squeeze a few more seconds into their 'I spoke at Wembley' opportunity. We navigated through most of that OK. Sparks did fly a little on the day however, when the very packed schedule over-ran and we had to chop some of the last speakers from the programme!!
I was running the pre-meeting leaders even in the Bobby Charlton function room, and had struck a deal with Crossing London to promote their new initiative to the 1,200 leaders who attended. It all went off to a great start and then the bowl of the stadium was opened up and ticket holders for the main event started to flood in.
It's an amazing thing to witness the stands of a stadium filling up, the excitement on peoples faces, particularly the 1,000 people we randomly selected to get a ticket for the Royal Box at no extra fee... We even rescued a couple of very high profile Christian Leaders who turned up without a ticket hoping to get in for free !!
The official gate for the day was 32,000 people in attendance, which was incredible. The event was streamed out to a variety if media and we had the biggest Christian music artists the UK had to offer there.
We never managed to get the pitch raised, nor mobillise the 10,000 strong choir. In the aftermath of the event though we had staggering feedback of what God did do among the people who attended. We heard of people so inspired they went back home and planted Churches, people reported getting healed at the event. Others said a number of non-Christians who they had brought to the event got saved. There were over 800 individual testimonies of what God did on the day.
The budget was strained to the max, and on at least two occasions it looked like the whole thing would collapse. I remember one moment when we needed £60,000 within a couple of hours or it was all off. We prayed and phones rang, we paid a bill with minutes to spare and we moved on.
I remember the day six years on with fond memories, even going through the photos below, it raised my faith just looking at them. That one guys vision could inspire and mobilise the dreamers to get together and invite people to come and cry out to God for our Nation, to worship with so many is so inspiring. Was it difficult - Yes, was it worth it - yes. Would I do it again - probably.
When things get tough in your vision, one of the best things you can do is persevere. Anything worth while takes sacrifice, will give you sleepless nights, will require more than you think you can give. That's where the miracle happens, when we persevere through, when we push until the breakthrough, when we keep going until we reach the goal.
Don't give up, keep going, you will make it.