Over the weekend, a secular music festival took a sacred turn.
Pop star Pharrell Williams’ uncle, Ezekiel Williams, pastor of Faith World Ministries in Norfolk, Virginia, hosted about 2,500 people during the Something in the Water music festival in Virginia Beach for a pop-up church service.
One attendee, Karen Thomas, spoke to The Virginian-Pilot about the faith-based service, describing it as the “Woodstock of gospel music.”
In addition to Pharrell’s uncle, the event also featured performances from Christian artists like Israel Houghton and Mary Mary as well as a whole host of local church groups.
Ezekiel Williams said Pharrell specifically asked him to put together a worship-type service for the final day of the festival because he felt a day of praise would “release some positive energy into the community.”
“This is history in the making,” he added. “We are here to bring the community together.”
Keith Duncan, a retired Air Force officer who often attends music festivals with his wife, told The Virginian-Pilot he enjoyed the festival because it offered “something for everybody.”
“I love gospel music,” Duncan’s wife said.
They weren’t the only ones pleased to learn the secular festival would have a sacred offering. Attendee Brenetta Waters, who came to the event with her mother, Brenda, said the pop-up church service showed Pharrell and other festival planners were “thinking about everyone.”
“When Pharrell first announced the festival, I never had a negative feeling,” she said. “I always thought something positive was going to come out if it.”
The pop-up church service at the Virginia-based festival came just after rapper Kanye West hosted his own “Sunday Service” at Coachella in California.
Pharrell even wore a “Holy Spirit” sweater from West’s event during his performance at the Something in the Water festival:
Over the years, Pharrell has been open about his faith, but it has often seemed more spiritual than actually devoutly religious. The “Happy” singer said in 2016 he has “experienced and seen” the “power” of God.
And in 2014, he told Stylist, “I believe in God, but I also believe in the universe … and I believe in that innate ability to make decisions and to exercise our feelings as human beings.”