With over twenty years behind it, Mission Worship – the annual conference for worship leaders, musicians and worshippers alike – has reached the stage that no branding or clever marketing strategy can ever quite deliver. When the doors open on a cold Friday evening in November at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Complex and the delegates arrive, it will feel like a family reunion.
Mission Worship has always done things a little differently, right from its debut in 1997. Instead of starting small or focusing its efforts on an existing church stream, the first conference was aimed at all denominations and part of a range of initiatives to encourage and equip worship leaders and musicians, including the launch of a magazine and a series of one-day conferences.
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Those first events were known by a different name – Worship Together – but the vision was just as clear as it is today; not to promote one single style of worship, but to offer an experience that would help people of various backgrounds and church streams engage.
This desire to cast the net wide came in large part from John Paculabo, Kingsway Trust Trustee and Head of Kingsway Music. A former musician, A&R manager and label founder, he had a firm desire to see worship flourish, reflect the Church worldwide and make an impact on communities.
This blend of passions infused Mission Worship and helped make it unique. Delegates know that each year’s event will bring together established favourites – like Matt Redman, Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick,
Chris McClarney, Aaron Keyes, Lou Fellingham and Darlene Zschech – as well as introduce new worship leaders that many will not have heard of before. Yet there are no spectators. There is only family.
Mission Worship has faced more than its fair share of other challenges over the years. It has changed its name, not once but twice (the first time when it released the ‘Worship Together’ tag to EMI). It has seen the rise of youth-oriented worship, yet it has remained resolute in its commitment to keep its focus wide. In 2013, it suffered the death of John Pac.
In the years since John Pac’s passing, Mission Worship has continued to build on his legacy, to thrive and stay true to its vision. The event still looks nothing like a managed event. Instead it feels like a gathering of old and new friends, all united in their desire to see the Church resourcing the church.
Mission Worship remains what it has always been; a conference for those at the coal face. Seminars are practical and pragmatic, with subjects ranging from PA techniques and instrument workshops to worship within urban communities and guidance on how to integrate new approaches into old church routines.
Support continues to be high and a wide range of denominations are represented. Mission Worship is as urban as it is rural, and has become an international gathering of people committed to their local church. Last year six people flew in from Thailand for just four days so that they could attend.