By Umoh-Obong Kingsley
The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols, an evening of praise, worship, love and unity, apart from being a record-breaking gathering of Carol Singers, has become a major avenue of promoting spiritual growth, peaceful coexistence among ethnic, religious and cultural groups in the State and spiritual tourism that attracts people from around the world.
The event, which made its debut in 2008 as “9999 Carols Night” and later officially christened “Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols”, has since grown in magnitude and repute to become a glittering carnival of songs, dance, worship and fun recognized worldwide and cited in the Guinness Book of Records.
This year’s edition, which is the 9th, tagged: “Let Our King Be Lifted High”, saw the Uyo Township Stadium, filled to its capacity with American singer-songwriter and worship leader, Donald James ‘Don’ Moen, on stage.
Also performing was the PRM Band, The Kayamba Africa Choral Ensemble and the Kenyan Boys Choir as well as Nigerian artists like Sammie Okposo, Buchi, Steve Crown, Elijah Oyelade, Rev. Fr. Patrick Edet, Esther Edoho, Julius Nglass and Perfecta Ekpo.
Rev. Uma Ukpai, took the opening prayer, while AKSG Choir took the theme song “Hossana In The Highest, Let Our King Be Lifted Up”. Julius Nglass performed the Efik version of “Angels from the Realms of Glory” and “Come Together One and All”.
Don Moen took the participants to a moment of grace with Uyo Girls and AKSG Choirs performing “God Will Make A Way,” “Say Yes”. Next on stage were the Kayamba Africa Orchestra; Esther Edoho, who threw the crowd into dancing moments.
Also ministering in songs were Buchi, Steve Crown, Elija Oyelade and Sammie Okposo who got the crowd to their feet with his style of music.
The State Governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel, spiced up the event when he conducted the Congregational Hymn.
While performing the official flag-off the #akcarolsfest2016, the Governor noted that Akwa Ibom is the only state named after God Almighty, saying that no amount of calamity can separate us from the love of God, and that our faith in the Lord remains sacrosanct.
The Governor, in his speech, likened the Akwa Ibom story to the bible portion of 2 Corinthians 8:9 which says that “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” He charged the participants to “tell the world that in spite of what has happened, it is well with us. Let us remind the world that according to 2 Corinthians 4:17 “…our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
One minute silent was observed for the repose of the departed souls of the Reigners Bible Church building which collapsed during a consecration service in honour of the pastor, Apostle Akan Weeks.
Dignitaries at the event included Deputy Governor Moses Ekpo MFR; Speaker of Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Barr Onofiok Luke; and Senate Minority Leader, Chief Godswill Akpabio to mention but a few.
The presiding Archbishop and General Overseer of the charismatic Action Chapel International (ACI) Ministry, Accra, Ghana, Nicholas Duncan-Williams, was the guest minister.
In the 2011 edition, Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols made history when it featured a 9,999-member choir, which was reputed to be the largest choir in the world at that time.
The event made a world record again as the largest gathering of carol singers in the world, an record which was officially certified on Saturday, December 13, 2014 in a concert featuring 25,272 carol singers at the Akwa Ibom International Stadium with Guinness World Records representatives in attendance, against a former record of 15,674 carol singers which was achieved the previous year (December 15, 2013) by a group called CENTI in Bogota, Columbia.
The Akwa Ibom Christmas Carols Festival features local and international artistes and has remained a great worship experience, exuding an ambience of bliss and serenity in and around the venue and leaving a lingering nostalgia long after each edition which routinely gets bigger than the previous.