EAST LIVERPOOL - Eight years ago, Bill Vassar of East Liverpool said that he felt an urgent need to help bring disparate groups of Christian believers together for the sole purpose of praise and worship. "I guess it was a vision I had," he said. On Saturday, that vision had its seventh-annual expression with the "Praise in the Park" event held at the Thompson Park Amphitheater in East Liverpool.
Vassar said he perceived an endemic lack of unity amongst churches in the area and felt compelled to do something about it. To that end, he said the free, day-long event is devoted solely to praise and worship and is not to promote any one denomination, church or other organization.
Mike Wood from Christian Life Tabernacle in East Liverpool, who served as emcee of this year's event, echoes the inclusive sentiment. "All that matters is, if you want to worship God, come here and worship together," he said. Wood says that he has been involved with "Praise in the Park" for four years, with the event strengthening each time. "Every year, it has gotten bigger and better," he said. According to Wood, attendance has ballooned from 60 to an estimated 500 on Saturday.
The New Life Worship Team brought their songs of praise to an appreciative crowd at Thompson Park Amphitheater during the seventh annual “Praise in the Park” event Saturday. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
Numbers aren't the most important factor to Vassar, however. "I could care less if we draw a thousand people in here," he said. If only one person is touched and compelled to accept, God, he says the effort is worth it. "Even if we don't reach that, maybe we've planted a seed, and maybe it will grow into something later on," he said.
Vassar admits that his experience in the musical field is limited to running the mixing board at his church, House of Prayer in Calcutta. However, he said that he's been blessed with people in his life who have made it possible, such as Dave Byers, owner of DC Music Store in Calcutta and leader of the Christian blues/rock 3:16 Band. "Everything I've ever needed, God's put in my way," Vassar said.
In order to attract a wide array of attendees, Vassar ensures that Christian musicians from a variety genres, including country rock and hip-hop, are present to get the message out. "We try to have something to everybody's taste," he said. According to Wood, the approach has worked out so well that he and Vassar are considering extending the event to a full weekend.
In addition to the performances on stage, which began at 10:05 a.m. and run through 9:30 p.m., there were also children's activities and games, food vendors, bingo, crafts and a balloon launch.