On Sunday I got back home after a week camping in Somerset at a Christian gathering called New Wine.
Despite what felt like none stop rain (Nathan’s reaction when I got back was: ‘you smell damp’), we had a wonderful time.
So, at this gathering there were 14000 people who worshipped, prayed, listened, reflected and connected with God for a week. 650 of these people were aged 8-9 and so they came to our venue, called Rock Solid.
These 650 children were looked after by 125 volunteers, who in turn had a team of ‘Pastors’ to teach, encourage and keep an eye on them. This is what I was up to. I was ‘Team Pastor’ for a week with 4 others, including my TI (vicar boss).
The venue was essentially a cow shed which had been carpeted and decorated, with a stage, lights and a sound system. The venue was also complete with coffee station for the Team, office for the admin volunteers and a gunge tank!
When I arrived I found myself setting up the prayer tent, which I absolutely loved. This space was a gazebo with beanbags and prayer stations. We had a world map with sticky note prayers, glitter mason jars to meditate with and luggage tags tied on a washing line which thanked God for the gifts he has given us. As my Mum said, ‘That gazebo is my kind of Church!’
The tent was a place reserved for God, yet it was accessible and it provided a good view of what was going on outside. I loved watching the same children visiting regularly and seeing them grow in the way they prayed and engaged. One particularly lovely moment was when a little girl came in and said ‘I really want to get to know Jesus better, can you help?’ I asked her if she had made new friends at Rock Solid, and if so, how? She told me that she had, and she smiled and talked to them. I said it was exactly the same with God! The more you talk to him, the better you know him. I prayed with this little girl and she went on to use the prayer stations in the tent. I had lots of amazing conversations like this every day!
Alongside the prayer and worship, there was also silly games and gungings! Brave volunteers would get a tank of gooey stuff over their heads every night after losing a game of some kind! The balance between daftness and serious God moments seemed to have been struck really well, and yet God was definitely present in all of it! Each volunteer worked, despite awful weather, exhaustion and in many cases, illness, to ensure that the 650 kids had a week to remember.
The theme of the week was Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements in the Gospel of John, which can be difficult for the most long standing Christians to get their head around! And yet, when the children heard a talk around Jesus saying ‘I am the Gate’, 450 children responded by getting up and walking through gates placed around the room. They knew this meant that they were making Jesus their ‘forever friend’, and it was just the most wonderful thing to see. I even spotted two girls going through several gates due to excitement! Although Jesus is the Gate, rather than Gates, their enthusiasm to go through more than one gate can only be a good thing!
Over the week children could be seen to grow in confidence in the way they prayed, and in joy when they worshipped. I feel full and I know that I will be fuelled for months to come from my experiences last week. I feel like I can talk to children about God and prayer better than I could before, and I definitely know not to underestimate what is going on in a child’s mind! They are often insightful little sponges who need to know God’s love in their lives just as much as any adult!
I started back at work today, fighting a cold, but happy and really encouraged. I’m even more excited than ever to see what God is doing in Formby, having recently been reminded of his love, power and grace.