Gospel singer David Ndero welcomes the audience at the Student Commons Sept. 16.

Roughly 600 worshippers gathered Sept. 16 at Algonquin Commons Theatre to celebrate East African gospel at Ottawa’s first EGOfest.

The lucky few who were waiting in the lobby before doors opened received a preview of the vocals of the rehearsing performers.

The event, with music by Apollinaire Habonimana, encouraged the crowd to celebrate God through song and dance. The audience joined guest speakers and performers from all around the world by standing up and praising their culture and shared spirituality.

“I find North American style very conservative, while we are very outgoing. The way we celebrate; we do show it,” said Christian Murengera, a pastor with CrossPointe Church, when asked before the show about the differences between East African and North American expressions of faith.

Murengera, originally from Burundi, East Africa, has been a pastor since 2007 and currently resides over CrossPointe Dominion Centre, which opened in Ottawa earlier this year.

“For us, it’s not that hard to dance, especially when it comes to worship. We understand that worship and dance invite God,” said Murengera.

This was particularly evident as the event began with a performance by gospel singer, David Ndero. A great majority of the crowd was on their feet, dancing and singing along with Ndero as soon as the show began.

The feeling of community surrounded the theatre as audience members greeted one another before and during the show with hugs, smiles, and general merriment.

A portion of the proceeds raised by ticket sales go to Compassion Canada, a child development organization which aims to provide children in developing countries with education, health care, and Christian-teaching opportunities.

With the recent, immense damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and Irma in the Caribbean Islands and parts of the United States, Compassion Canada’s latest efforts are directed towards helping those affected by donations and prayer.

EGOfest’s mandate is to focus spirituality through singing and dancing God’s praise. And for anybody who attended the event, it’s clear that this goal was achieved.

“Some say that North Americans don’t know how to dance,” laughed Murengera, moments before the event began and the exuberant celebration of God commenced.