An extraordinary expression of Christian unity took form on the National Mall the weekend of October 6th through the 9th in 2017 as thousands converged for the ‘Awaken the Dawn and Rise Up Gathering’.
The purpose of the event was to bring America together for an “unprecedented worship moment” that would launch “a new Jesus movement” by organizing non-stop prayer and worship gatherings across the National Mall in fifty-seven separate tents that were filled by hundreds of worship groups and believers representing their home states (ATD).
The process for building ‘America’s Tent City’ began six years ago at a church meeting held in Fredericksburg, VA, also, coincidentally, in a tent. It was during a service under this 5,000-person tent when David Bradshaw, and several other organizers of the event, were struck by a word that was given to them by another one of the leaders. The leader shared with Bradshaw and the team that he believed they would be a part of creating ‘tent cities in America.’
What ensued was a string of astounding developments that included several overlapping insights and connections among the Awaken the Dawn coordinators that led to the organization, and finally, last weekend, to the realization of this massive tent city gathering.
“When I first heard about ATD over a year ago, I was blown away by the idea of all 50 states worshipping on the National Mall,” says Lauren Brown, a student at Clemson University who made the eight-hour-long trek to the meeting this past weekend. “I knew I couldn’t miss this historic moment in our day — for The Church and our nation.”
Similarly, a sense of the magnitude and authenticity of Awaken the Dawn is what convinced Greer, South Carolina native Joe Taverna to make the trip up to Washington, DC. “I was and still am convinced that God’s hand was upon the orchestration of the whole event, and I wanted to be a part of what God is doing in America,” says Taverna.
The thousands of participants, coming from all fifty states, rallied behind this idea of being a part of a greater movement towards unity in the Christian church and throughout the nation. The ATD team emphasized the importance of interdenominational and intercultural collaboration throughout the months leading up to the event and encouraged the participation of all people by drafting a prayer guide for a unified expression of prayer.
ATD also partnered with dozens of organizations including National Day of Prayer, Luke 18 Project, International House of Prayer, Heart of David, and Youth With A Mission.
This intentional act of inclusivity among organizations and people during the lead-up to the gathering resulted in an undivided celebration of the worth of Jesus, which Taverna says could be felt and heard all along the National Mall. “Each tent had its own sound,” says Taverna, “but the love and sense of family was always present at each tent, and the unity was always evident when we came together at the main stage every day to pray and worship.”
This sense of family was felt by many attendees including Brown, who adds that “there was so much joy and love in the air — it was like one big family reunion.” ATD was able to serve as a family celebration, Brown reminds us, by being rooted in the love that is the foundation of the Christian faith: “The common bond of unity and love we share in Christ is so beautiful. The world truly will know us by how we love one another.”
The love of Christ was the focal point of the event, and the power of the love of Christ is what ATD organizers and participants alike believe is the source of a ‘new Jesus movement’ that is developing now as a reaction to the Christian unity expressed at the event. The ensuing Jesus movement is the true purpose of Awaken the Dawn – not only the gathering on the National Mall. In fact, the mission statement of Awake the Dawn does not even mention the October gathering, but rather the intention to be “a worship movement, a prayer movement, and a missions movement” (ATD).
As a follow up to the wave created by the gathering, ATD has planned another unparalleled action next year by calling “people in all fifty state capitals and on 500+ college campuses” to come together to “declare that God is holy – that Jesus is worthy of all of our praise,” over the span of four days during Columbus Day weekend 2018.
The continuation of this movement towards unity in America, the Christian church, and the world, will require the dedication of individuals to pray and act on the word of God. Awaken the Dawn represents an encouraging moment for believers seeking the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and as Brown says, the key for all believers who desire unity is to “keep saying ‘yes’ to Jesus every day, knowing you are not alone. We are being invited to play our role in seeing the Church awakened, the lost saved, and the broken made whole – it’s just the beginning.”
To support Awaken the Dawn and for updates on how to be more involved in Tent America 2018, visit http://www.awakenthedawn.org/
Featured Image by David Sobolewski
InText Image by Chris Lawton