Crowd-surfing minister: I don’t think I’ll try it again

Rev John Dickinson at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church where the impromptu crowd-surfing incident happened last Sunday
Rev John Dickinson at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church where the impromptu crowd-surfing incident happened last Sunday

A Newtownabbey-based minister who was videoed crowd-surfing at a church service at the weekend believes he is unlikely to do it again.

A recording of Rev John Dickinson, minister at Carnmoney Presbyterian Church, was shared on social media, showing him crowd-surfing above the heads of the congregation last Sunday.

The incident occurred during the last service of the annual Catalyst Conference at the Carnmoney Road church.

Moving to clarify the crowd-surfing episode, Rev Dickinson said: “We have been trying for several years to get Pete Greig to come to the Catalyst Conference and were delighted when he was able to be our speaker this year.

“The final event of the weekend was the 6.30pm service. Just before Pete preached the sermon, he initiated the crowd-surfing incident.

“This was not a planned part of the service, nor did Pete tell me he was going to do it before he did it.

“Pete, who leads a church which he and his wife Sammy planted in Guildford in England, invited anyone who wanted to do so to stand in the centre aisle of the church, which filled up fairly rapidly.

“He then called me forward and got me to stand on a stool and he prayed for me, my wife and my family, in particular for my grand-daughter who has been seriously ill, and asked the Lord to continue to fill me and use me and give me His strength.

“Pete then pushed me on to the crowd who passed me to the rear of the church with much cheering and clapping, and I made it safely to the end of the queue and back on to the ground again.

“After that he preached his final sermon and the weekend concluded in worship and conversation over coffee.”

Over the years the conference has been addressed by Christian leaders from Northern Ireland and from mainland UK, and the conference itself involves a variety of activities, most of which will include an element of worship and teaching and extended times of prayer.

The 2018 Catalyst weekend consisted of five worship services – Friday night and four services on Sunday – and also a period of 24 hours of prayer from 9am on Saturday to 9am on Sunday.

Rev Dickinson hopes that the publicity surrounding the video from Sunday’s church service does not overshadow this year’s Catalyst Conference.

He said: “Pete is an author of several books on prayer including Red Moon Rising, God on Mute and his most recent book, Dirty Glory.

“As a preparation for the conference, over 100 members of Carnmoney had bought and read the new book last autumn and we were looking forward to Pete’s ministry with expectation.

“What Pete and my members did has made headlines here, but would not be that unusual in conferences and Christian events on the mainland like Soul Survivor, for example.

“I have never been crowd-surfed before and am unlikely to experience it again, I would imagine.

“For a church leader in a Presbyterian congregation it felt embarrassing to be called out in that way and to be personally centre stage for a few minutes when the whole purpose of Christian ministry is to bring others into the presence of God.

“However, I was grateful to my friend for his affirmation and his prayers and deeply moved and humbled by the enthusiasm and love of those whom I have been leading for the last 16 years, many of whom came into a living relationship with the Lord Jesus during that time.”

Rev Dickinson added: “The weekend was also a significant one for us in another way in that the new church we are seeking to plant in Belfast which for the last year has been meeting on Wednesday evenings in the MAC, had its first Sunday worship gathering at 4.30pm in the MAC with over 120 adults and children present and Pete was the speaker.

“It would be a big disappointment to me if something which took just five minutes to do was the only thing that made news from a whole weekend of activities in which so many lives were touched by what God had to say through my friend.”