Capital Gains: He moves in mysterious ways in Hackney

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's a glorious afternoon in Hackney. A man is perched on a flatbed lorry. He is wearing a brightly coloured waistcoat. He is a man with a mission. His name is Ravi Holy. Crammed into the lorry with him are a drummer, guitarist, bassist and female backing singer. The keyboard player is on his knees, his ivories balanced across a pair of speakers. For the glory of God he will stay in this position for the next two-and-a-half hours.

Ravi raises his microphone. 'We, he says, 'are the Electric Born-Again Living Gospel Blues Experience. We're going to bring you some electric born-again living gospel blues. His audience is mostly young women with pushchairs and T-shirts bearing slogans like 'JIM is wicked]] and 'Take me, JIM]] JIM is an acronym for the evangelistic 'challenge, Jesus In Me. Today they're going out on to the streets to convert the heathen with several rounds of Spirit in the Sky.

EBALGBE - the Electric Born-Again Living Gospel Blues Experience - is part of the Kensington Temple, the Pentecostal church in Notting Hill that claims the biggest congregation in Britain. EBALGBE specialises in

taking God's good tunes to all you sinners out there. Last spring, it hired the Limelight and the Marquee to put on rock gospel nights. However, these only really attracted other Christians. Wanting to preach to the unconverted, it now concentrates on street audiences.

'If we were doing gigs, says Ravi, 'people might not want to come. So we're going to go out there and ram it down their throats.

Ravi is convinced that this can have an effect on the conversion rate. 'There may well be someone out there 99 per cent convinced that Christianity is the way, the truth and the life, and they've said 'OK, God, if you're there give me a sign'. Then they walk out of the front door and we come along. Then again, maybe such a sight would make Doubting Thomases slam that door and hide under the bed.

Ravi trained for a year to be a minister but, the world being run mostly by Mammon, had to take a daytime incarnation as a software salesman. He still fulfils the need to preach, though, by co-running the 9pm 'Late on Sunday service, a well-known 'alternative service at the temple. 'It's a kind of a service for outcasts.

Ravi was brought up a Roman Catholic, but strayed. He became 'a kind of rocker punk. I was into Hawkwind and going to Stonehenge and taking lots of drugs and getting drunk. He experimented with magic but that, too, left him spiritually

unsatisfied. 'When I discovered magic I thought 'yes, this is it'. But when I went along to witchcraft rituals - Wikka rituals - they were all dancing around naked and I thought, if I wanted to be doing this I'll just go back to church, because it's no different.

At 19 he went through his own dialogue with God - 'I didn't identify myself as a Christian then - and at 21 was embraced by the welcoming arms of Kensington Temple. The name change came a year or so later. His birth name, Maharishi, had uncomfortable witchcraft connotation: it means, essentially, Imperial Wizard. Of course, had he completed his ministerial training, he would have become Pastor Ravi Holy . . .

So now, 25 years old and saved, he is hell - or heaven - bent on passing on his good fortune, whether or not it's welcome. His goodly procession heads down Stoke Newington High Street, where they are greeted by bemusement and amusement.

Ravi makes use of a pause after 'We Don't Want Your Money, We Just Want Your Soul to deliver his rap. 'It doesn't matter who you are, it doesn't matter what you are, it doesn't matter where you are, it doesn't matter why you are, it doesn't matter when you are. Jesus Loves You.

The band breaks into the day's third rendition of 'You Gotta Serve Somebody. A wino tries to join in, gesturing to a girl to hand him her 'Jesus Loves Hackney placard. She flinches and dives away. Well, at least he can rest easy in the knowledge that God's got a soft spot for him.

The Electric Born-Again Living Gospel Blues Experience plays the Notting Hill Carnival today.

(Photograph omitted)

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