Ahoy is full of teens, including all the accompanying costumes, laughter, commentary and flirtation: At first glance, the 47th edition of EO-Jongerendag in Rotterdam could have been a major student concert.
But on this sunny Saturday, fifteen thousand young Christians threw their hands in the air in the dark and sold Ahoy, among others, to Irish Christian band We Are Messengers. Early in the evening, they dance frantically during the rousing performance of hip hopper and Dutch singer Typhoon.
12-year-old Issa from Renin is here for the first time with a group of young people from her church. she left her seat high in the grandstand as it was; As she stands, she sings along with the song “Come Ma May”. “I didn’t know this existed,” she said, surprised and happy. “So many young people and beautiful music, I didn’t expect that.”
Most churches may be empty, but major events for Christians are a pleasure to attend. The Opwekking Christian Festival sold out last weekend with 70,000 visitors. Ahoy has hosted four different Christian events in the past ten days.
The popularity of large religious gatherings, where music is an important bearer of experience, fits with a trend called “festival of religion,” says anthropology professor Miranda Claver of VU University Amsterdam. At the same time, you see, religion is increasingly being practiced in small groups. “What’s in between, the traditional church attendance, is coming under pressure.”
She herself visited several EO Youth Days, which were much larger, with the Amsterdam Arena being the highlight. There is still a need to experience faith together. “The fact that churches are getting smaller gives Christian youth the feeling of being alone. Such a group meeting with like-minded people gives them a tremendous boost.”
Yuas, 16, dressed in white sneakers, gray jeans and a jacket buttoned diagonally across his shoulders, throws his arms open in the air and sings passionately along with the BEAM Worship Band.
On his wrist is Opwekking’s wrist suspension, as he was last weekend. He met the guys he met there today on Ahoy. “I don’t go to church every Sunday. As long as I keep the relationship between me and God, I think I can handle anything. But this here, with so many people of the same faith, is so beautiful to me! It shows that you are never alone.”
The theme of this Youth Day is “Leadership in Yourself”, with a lot of concern for young people who are committed to a better world. Neuroscientist Eric Scherder gives a short talk on the pioneering mind. Other speakers and artists often choose a different angle; They talk a lot about mental problems today. “It’s okay not to be okay,” she sings on “We’re Messengers.” Typhon tells of how he found God in the midst of his depression and asks if there are any young people going through the same mission.
My message is: stop searching. It is already in front of you. Do you know what I like the most? That we can have fun and be with God, all at the same time. Let’s clap for God. Because there is so much love! Fifteen thousand teenagers are listening to him.
“Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Freelance organizer. Avid analyst. Friendly troublemaker. Bacon junkie.”