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This Festival is Trying to Get 1 Million Christians to the Mall This Weekend

Nick Hall wants to bring one million people onto the National Mall on Saturday. “It’s a big dream, and we would say we have a big God,” he says.

The 34-year-old evangelist from Minnesota has organized Together 2016, a free festival of Christian prayer and worship that will feature more than 40 guest speakers and artists, including Kirk Franklin, Hillsong United, Andy Mineo, Michael W. Smith, Lecrae, Tasha Cobbs, and David Crowder.

Hill says 50,000 churches are promoting the event along with nonprofit groups like the Salvation Army. Pope Francis released a video inviting people to DC.

Together 2016 is “a millennial-led effort to try to unite the nation in a time where there is a lot of division,” Hall says. He encourages everyone to set aside their differences and come together under the banner of faith. “Even though we don’t agree on everything we can come together and celebrate, we can build relationships and work together for the common good.”

With 357,546 registrants, Hall and his team have a ways to go before they reach their goal of one million attendees. If they meet their goal, it will be the largest Christian gathering in American history.

“This is a historic opportunity and historic moment…There is a great need.” Hall continued, “We need some healing right now and I pray that this event can be a catalyst for that.”

One of the service’s speakers, Laurel Bunker, campus pastor at Bethel University, agrees that the nation needs healing. Bethel is in St. Paul, Minnesota, where Philando Castile was shot and killed last week by a police officer during a traffic stop. “We are seeing in almost every corner of the United States of America, whether it is poverty, or violence, or brutality or government challenges people are concerned about where we are headed and who we are becoming,” Bunker says.

The revival is a massive call for prayer and worship similar to past evangelical crusades and tent meetings led by international minister Billy Graham. What makes Together 2016 different is the audience.


The service is geared to young people, which helped influence a variety in speakers and performers, something Bunker said was missing in past revivals.

She says she has never witnessed a religious meeting of this capacity that places world renowned artists like Hillsong United onstage along with small-ministry female pastors like herself. Bunker says this new generation of Christians are to thank for the diversity, “Young people are just looking for unity in Jesus,” she says. “There are a lot of people out there who don’t really know what the differences are… and don’t really care.”

There are also some who are uncomfortable with having different denominations, ethnicities, and genders on stage with one another.

“One of the historical realities in the body of Christ is that some folks based on their theology are challenged with the theology of others,” Bunker says.  She cautions people to not let their personal preferences keep them from honoring Jesus.

“I would hope that my gender would not be such a stumbling block that people could not hear the cry to get on their knees and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.” Bunker says she represents a changing face of the body of Christ, “I am who God has chosen, I am the vessel, I am female, I am African-American.”

Author Jennie Allen and founder of the IF Gathering says unity is powerful and the road to it is humility and love.

“That’s part of the power of the larger body of Christ and why we need to come together more, because we each bring a distinction of reflection of God and of his heart and values.”

Allen, one of the speakers, urges everyone to follow Jesus’ message to “love really well.” She says Saturday will show people that the church does love and pray, rather than condemn. “I really believe the goal is not a show, but that we would actually seek God.”

Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.