The logistics of attending a Bank Holiday Weekend Festival are pretty impressive. We start booking local accommodation at least month ahead. About a week before we travel, we confirm numbers and meal arrangements. Josh and Viv do a mega spreadsheet with all the vehicles we can summons (about 15) and all the passengers to fit in (usually 90-100). Hence in recent years we've unified our travel arrangements so everyone travels of Friday afternoon and returns after lunch on Monday. Not a chance this time: there was the "We're booked in for Friday night" brigade, and the "We're staying over until Monday" brigade.
I was anxious that without the traditional Friday evening warm-up meeting, folks would be milling around more intent on chatting with each other than engaging with the Saturday afternoon event. When the time came, we had a full house, and an unusual additional ingredient - a full Channel 4 television camera crew. Joe, the producer, announced that their interest was in "Living Stones as a non-biological family". Non-biological. Are they cyborgs, or something? To be fair, I had been given advance notice, because I was due to take some baptisms, moved for the occasion from the customary tea interval into the evening event programme.
Mick stunned some of the afternoon congregation with the challenge for single folks to defer marriage until they were 25, to give their best years to God. I don't know why they were caught unawares; pastorally, this has been the best advice for many years. It's particularly relevant where folks are selected to be part of a church-planting team or new community foundation, and need to balance the privilege of the call with responsibility to give it their best shot.
During the tea interval I caught up with Hilary. She normally does all the meals for the marquee team from a catering caravan parked on the site. "What did you do with the couple of free days?" I asked. Sensibly, she'd resisted giving over the time to more audit work. The day was beginning to feel like a speed dating event. All the people you'd bump into over four days, but only half the time to spend talking with them.
Taking baptisms at Northampton Jesus Centre is an interesting challenge. The tank is inset in the main stage. It's so short that there isn't room to stand in the water, lest the poor candidate should crack their head on the steps when they get immersed. To officiate you squat like a garden gnome over a fish pond, and lean forward you won't lose your balance. I discussed the arrangements with Joe from Channel 4. He had previously interviewed a brother from Birmingham, and the deal was that they would film his baptism. We had two guys to baptise from Yorkshire. I agreed that one of them would go first, so the camera crew could anticipate the best shots. Being centre-stage, we introduced everyone so the whole audience got drawn in. When I checked my phone, Josh had texted, "Stop playing to the camera". Hmmm.
The great thing about staying at Kings for Bank Holiday Weekends is the Sunday morning cooked breakfast. This being Easter Day, all the children seemed to be tanking up on chocolate, too.
At the morning event, John had a Jesus Centre spot. He related how his in-laws had worked abroad, including Jordan. Here they'd been at state banquets that involved four "sittings". First the kings and top diplomats dined. Then they withdrew to a second chamber and were joined by the next-level-down officials and guests. After this spread, they went to a third room where anybody and everybody attended. Finally the poor, outcasts and homeless came to the banquet. This provides the background to Jesus' words, "The last shall be first and the first shall be last".
In the evening "Kids' Splot" teams of nine-year-olds competed to embalm a victim in the manner of eastern burials. At the response time later, some interesting old friends sought out Mary and I for prayer. There was an encouraging healing of one sister's knees (sorry it sounds strange). Paul drove the minibus home. I was impressed to find we were back by 11.20pm, until someone pointed out that all the clocks were an hour out.
If you want to listen to the new dvd released over the weekend, Ignite, click on: