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After shaky registration, Divine Rhythm packs the house

by Annette Bender

GATLINBURG, Tenn. – For weeks before Divine Rhythm, registration was sluggish. Organizers wondered if attendance would even approach last year's level of 539.

But by the time the Wayne Kerr band opened worship on Jan. 23, it was obvious that few seats were available at the Imax Theatre. By DR's final day on Jan. 25, attendance in the annual spiritual event for young adults numbered 588.

Surveys indicated that the new location, speaker Arnetta Beverly, and worship leader Kerr worked like a charm to entice college-age people and beyond to attend the gathering now in its fourth year, organizers said.

"It was our best year yet," said Eric Glass, design team member. "Everything just seemed to fit together."

Moving a block away from its previous location at Mills Auditorium, Divine Rhythm seemed at home in comfy theater seats, while Kerr and Beverly complemented each other's styles.

Working soul music themes into her messages Jeremiah and "The Thrill is Gone," the prodigal son and "Midnight Train to Georgia" the Rev. Beverly talked to the crowd in her wise, funny, motherly way.

"We were drug addicts when we were children," she said, "because every time the church doors were open, my mother drug us through." Referring to "Not Too Proud to Beg" by the Temptations, Beverly encouraged her listeners to consider what they need when they pray. "Don't call on Jesus and not have a game plan," she said, "because he'll show up on you."

Kerr, returning for his third year by popular request, led the audience to sing and raise their hands to the heavens with contemporary praise standards as well as original music. His originals included the Adam Sandler-esque "Life in First Grade," leading listeners to laugh no matter how many times they've heard it. ("Glue, glue, paste on a stick-y. Not much flavor, but fun to lick-y.")

Brandon Taylor, 20, attended for the first time with his 42-member group from East Tennessee State University's Wesley Foundation. "The worship is awesome. I totally feel God here," he said.

Participants donated 84 pints of blood, up from 54 last year. They gave 108 jars of peanut butter, later delivered to Ecumenical Faith in Action in Abingdon, Va.

An offering collected for scholarships totaled $1,400. This year, 10 individuals attended Divine Rhythm through a $900 offering collected in 2003. ?


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