The best of days

A thousand thank you’s to everyone who came and helped out at our fantastic Day Away on Saturday. What a day! It was the Chilterns at its bright and beautiful best, in the perfect location down at Restore Hope Latimer. That amazing long valley, with the cross just in sight at the far end, a 5 minute drive from Chesham but somehow ‘miles away’ and so a genuine retreat to a quieter place.

Think of all that we enjoyed on the day – rousing worship, very thoughtful, down to earth and compelling teaching on sharing our faith from Nick Cuthbert, lunch in the warm September sunshine, a myriad of workshops and things to do, croquet even, and to cap it all a spitfire doing 20 minutes of stunts right above our heads, the Jesus Hokey Cokey (with the clown-in-chief making a fool of himself again), hog roast serenaded by Andrew on the piano and the arrival of the Ice Cream Van.

We try to pace these days very carefully – we don’t want to be bored, but we do want plenty of time to talk, relax, sit in the sun for a few moments, watch the children playing. They are invaulable times to get to know people better, actually share what’s going on for us with God, rather than compare frantic diaries, and enjoy the church being family together. Please do come next year – it is a very big site and we have room for more. I for one thought this worked better in September, with a ‘starting the new school year’ feel to it. The lovely weather definitely helped.

One of the things that I noticed (it’s hardly rocket science, brain surgery etc), is that where we meet to be church does make a difference. There’s a lovely informality in the barns and spread out rooms down at Restore Hope, with all that space for lolling around, talking and the huge bouncy castle. You do more in circles than in rows. We all naturally and without thinking about ‘what rota am I on today’, muck in together.

Like so many of you, I really enjoyed Nick’s teaching session. These were the points that stood out to me:

– that in Jesus’ day, you fished with nets, as a team, rather than lines on your own. It was perfectly illustrated by the fishermen down at Restore Hope! Fishing was a communal activity, which you did alongside people you knew and trusted. Whereas to our ears, when Jesus compares sharing our faith to fishing, we think difficult solitary activity that you can only really do if you are an expert and have all the right kit. (what’s more, it is seriously boring and you rarely catch anything!)

– that within the church, there’s no such things as a volunteer. Nick’s point was that a real theology of the church helps us to think of ourselves as members of the body, not as consumers who do or don’t decide to give up some of our valuable time. We will all have different parts in that body, different levels of responsibility, different reserves of time and energy that we are able to use at this season in our lives. But none of us is a volunteer. I have a terrible feeling that we are still using ‘volunteer agreements’ here at St. Mary’s, so we will have to up our own game. ‘Volunteer’ is misleading, and it makes light of the responsibility and privilege that each of us has as our birthright as Christians.

– that when it comes to sharing our faith with friends, it is about having connections, not contacts. We can all remember a time when we guiltily scroll through our contacts list wondering who we can invite to church or to an event. Only to realise that our faith and love for God  have never featured in conversation or our sharing of life with people – there’s not a connection to build from. We are constantly asking ourselves whether the complexity and business of church life is actually impeding the growth of the church! That can’t be right!
We’ll decide properly at our November DCC meeting about the date of the next Day Away, but do please listen out for it and bust a gut to get there!

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