Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Friday nights in Charleston have remained largely quiet as traditional summer events like Live on the Levee, Multifest, and the Rod Run and Doo Wop were canceled.
While it’s a far cry from the Friday night entertainment most are accustomed to, organizers of the “Awaken West Virginia” revival say what they’re doing is just as needed as recreation and diversion, probably more.
“There’s just so much hurt, so much hopelessness,” evangelist Emily Ferguson said.
“And fear,” music worship leader Daniel Craigo added. “The pandemic has ignited so much fear.”
“Awaken West Virginia,” scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at the state Capitol, won’t be a giant event.
The music, likely acoustic and simple, is being handled by Craigo and his wife, Emilee, from Maranatha Baptist Church in St. Albans.
Ferguson, who attends Christ Temple Church in Huntington, will preach and speak, but the 32-year-old didn’t know how many people will come to take part.
The group is still relatively new at hosting revivals; Friday night’s event will be its third.
The first, at Haddad Riverfront Park, drew a modest crowd of around 50 people. The second revival, in Huntington, brought in three times as many people, about 150. Craigo said they couldn’t get by with performing worship music unplugged.
“We had to get a sound system,” Craigo explained.
Both events were encouraging, both to the three young evangelicals, and they said, to the people who came out to listen to the word of God.
“I felt hope reignite,” Ferguson said. “I felt like this was exactly what we need.”
Having a revival in the middle of a pandemic isn’t ideal, but having an event outdoors always presents problems.
“The first time we did this, it rained,” Ferguson said. “But we just went for it anyway.”
To keep people safe, the group said they’re observing social distancing and encouraging people to wear masks.
“We wear masks,” Ferguson said. “We respect everyone’s boundaries and hope everyone else will, too.”
The distance between bodies is just for safety. Nobody wants to be responsible for getting somebody else sick. “But there is no distance in spirit,” she said.
Like concerts, shows and sporting events, outdoor faith-based gatherings beyond drive-in church services have been in short supply this summer, but the group has more planned.
At 7:30 p.m. Sunday, they will be at Harris Riverfront Park, in Huntington. Events are also scheduled for Ashland, Kentucky (Sept. 27), and Roane County (Oct. 9).
“This is about kingdom linking. We want God to move into our cities and for people to say, ‘Yes,’” Craigo said.
Pandemic or not, they say people want God and pandemic or not, God still wants his people.
“I feel like the Lord wants a revival,” Ferguson said.