Faithful Flock To O.c. Festival

Jesus At The Beach, A 3-day Event, Draws Hundreds To Sing, Worship And More

July 26, 2009|By Matthew Hay Brown | Matthew Hay Brown,matthew.brown@baltsun.com

The first thing about Jesus at the Beach: When hundreds of Christians converge on Ocean City to sing, preach, witness and worship, anything can happen.

"Yeah, it's great, especially the way it's run; there's really no specific agenda of main speakers or whatever," says Ralph Grauso, who figures this year's edition of the annual ministry festival will be the sixth or seventh he has attended. "It's just kind of open to how it flows. You never can tell what's going to happen."

The second thing about Jesus at the Beach: The three-day event, which takes place Monday through Wednesday at the Ocean City Convention Center and the North Division Street beach, is really no different from the work that the Son'spot Christian Fellowship Center does all year long: preaching, praying, handing out Bibles to passers-by on the boardwalk. It's only more so.

"It's like a summer family reunion, where people that have helped us over this year and past years come together and all come for their vacation and also to do music and preaching on the beach," says Dick Sands, who organized the first Jesus at the Beach festival with partner Gary Steger 15 years ago. "All we're doing different is putting up a stage and some lights so more people can come and help us. We have people coming from all over."

The third thing about Jesus at the Beach: Sand sculptures. Randy Hofman's works depicting Moses with the Ten Commandments, Jesus and the Disciples at the Last Supper and other biblical scenes draw crowds.

"People on the boardwalk stop, of course," Sands says. "They're watching Randy carve the sand sculpture. They're listening to the music and listening to the speaking. ... Some will stay for five minutes, some will stay for three hours."

The fourth thing about Jesus at the Beach: baptism at the beach. After the morning meeting on Wednesday, the crowd makes its way to 40th Street, where those who are interested can be baptized in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Some people come in that have been baptized already and want to rededicate their lives to the Lord or just were baptized and it didn't really mean anything," Sands says. "That's really a nice time."

Other things about Jesus at the Beach: The festivities run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day at the convention center, on Coastal Highway at 40th Street, and from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the beach at North Division Street. On the agenda: worship, dance, drama, testimony, prayer, one-on-one counseling. All events are free, but donations are accepted.

The last thing about Jesus at the Beach: Grauso is bringing his guitar.

"There's a lot of musicians that are going to be there," he says. "We may have over 10, 12 violins, so it should be interesting.... There are people that say, 'Wow, your band, you guys really practiced a lot.' I say, 'I don't even know their first names. We never played together before now.' "

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