‘Pop-Up Church’ Was a Highlight of Pharrell’s Big Music Festival

something in the water

The Something in the Water (SITW) music festival in Virginia Beach, Virginia, featured many popular artists, as well as something a little different: a pop-up church service. The “revival style” service was held Sunday, April 28, and began at 12 p.m., lasting well into the evening.

“The church service shows they are thinking about everyone—not just the people who like rap,” Brenetta Waters, one of the service’s attendees, told The Virginian-Pilot.

About SITW

Something in the Water took place over Virginia Beach’s college beach weekend. Rapper and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams, widely known for his hit “Happy,” is from Virginia Beach and created the festival as a way of benefiting the city and helping to keep people out of trouble. The Virginian-Pilot reports that some businesses close their doors during the college beach weekend, preferring not to deal with crowds of students, and that last year, four people were shot. One SITW attendee told WAVY News 10, “Historically, this weekend has a bad reputation. It’s all changing today.”

SITW sold out at 35,000 tickets and was generally a resounding success, despite an inauspicious beginning when Friday night’s performances were cancelled due to severe weather. Artists such as the Dave Matthews Band, Janelle Monae and the Migos were unable to perform as a result. Artists who did perform included SZA, Mac DeMarco, Travis Scott and Williams himself. During Williams’ set Saturday evening, billed as “Pharrell and Friends,” he brought out quite a few big names in the rap world, including Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Missy Elliott and Diddy.

In an interview with WAVY News 10, Williams said that the idea behind the festival was not just to find a good way to entertain out-of-town guests but also to benefit businesses and bring business into the city. He expressed his gratitude for the love and positivity that was demonstrated by the Virginia Beach community and also said how thankful he was for the support shown by the city’s leaders and even by leaders from surrounding communities like Norfolk and Chesapeake.

The Pop-Up Church

Bishop Ezekiel Williams, who is Pharrell Williams’ uncle and pastors Faith World Ministries in Norfolk, organized the pop-up church event. In a video promoting the pop-up church, he invited pastors, congregations and “anyone who would like to be uplifted” to worship together on Sunday.

Bishop Williams said, “One of the things that makes this festival so different from the others is the introduction of pop-up church on the beach. Pop-up church is a venue comprised of area pastors sharing the gospel, offering prayers for our communities, along with local church choirs, groups, praise and worship leaders, liturgical dancers, and spoken word artists.”

While the pop-up church service featured big names in gospel music such as Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, many local church groups, as well as area pastors, also took part in the event.

something in the water

something in the water

About 2,500 made it into the venue for the service and hundreds more enjoyed it while standing outside the gates. A number of people came just for the pop-up church, which was free, and not because they were attending the rest of the festival. One attendee told The Virginian-Pilot that the service was the “Woodstock of gospel music.”

A woman at the pop-up church service said, “I don’t think that you can do something on this grand of a scale and this much of a blessing without having God’s blessing over it,” while the opinion of a man who attended was that the service was a great way to “reach out to the lost” and bring people together. A pastor invited to speak at the service said that he hoped the pop-up church would “inspire our youth and young people to understand that they are important and valuable to our region.”

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Jessica Mouser
Jessica Mouser is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. She especially enjoys evaluating how various beliefs play out within culture. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.