Church music festival attracts variety of visitors
By John W. Kennedy (10/10/04)
For the past decade, members of Faith Assembly of God in Webster, Mass., have sponsored Webstock, a Christianized version of the famed Woodstock music festival held 35 years ago in New York.
The three-day August festival attracts visitors from as far away as Providence, R.I.; Hartford, Conn.; and Boston to Webster, a city of 16,200 people south of Worcester.
This year, Webstock coincided with the weekend Hurricane Charley hit Florida. Weather forecasters predicted fallout from the storm would deluge the Webster area. But that didn’t happen.
“People on the prayer chain started praying and fasting, so that we could still meet outside,” Pastor Richard Amendola says. “Sure enough, we had three beautiful days.”
On Friday night, for 3 1/2 hours on the city’s village green, 300 people gathered for Christian music. The last act featured Christian rappers, whose beat attracted 15 kids from the streets.
“The youth group ministered to them and prayed for them,” says Amendola, who has been pastor at Faith A/G for 11 years. “Before the night was over, 10 of them accepted Christ as Lord.”
The most ambitious outreach occurred on Saturday at Memorial Beach on Lake Chargoggagogg-manchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. The city waived the $25 beach entry fee for the seven-hour event and 1,200 visitors showed up.
The outreach included the church’s worship team, drama groups, human video teams, a basketball tournament, face painting, bicycle giveaways and food — all of it free.
Amendola baptized 19 people in the lake. Some had made a profession of faith earlier, while others felt convicted on the spot that they should be obedient to Jesus’ command to be baptized.
That Sunday, the Faith A/G church service attracted 235 people, 55 more than usual. Amendola preached a five-point sermon on Psalm 145:4 on why succeeding generations praise God, with each point illustrated with a song or drama. Afterwards, 170 people stayed for a picnic on the church grounds.
Forty church members are involved in the $6,000 festival, from distributing brochures around the community to collecting garbage afterwards.
Peter Blinn organized the serving of 1,800 hamburgers and hot dogs on Saturday. “Over the years a lot of people have been amazed that it’s free,” Blinn says. “It opens up a way we can share the reason we’re doing this.”
Sue Padovano rededicated her life to Christ at Webstock six years ago. “A neighbor invited me to the beach, which was a safe place for a sinner to go,” Padovano says. “I went forward at the altar call. People showed they are Christians; they didn’t just say it.”