The 'camp' movement is an interesting and surprisingly old one. I believe it reaches back to the primitive Methodists, and probably earlier to wherever believers were too enthusiastic to be contained in church buildings. I suspect St Francis was a handful. Certainly one of my heroes, Daniel Rowland, had to preach outside the church at Llangeitho. Anyway, there's something about getting away from the normal routine of life to concentrate on God. Whether you sit alone on a pillar in the desert, or camp out with others in the woods, or go 'on retreat' to a place of prayer, or go to a pop-festival style week, there's something that these approaches have in common. And it's the idea that God is worth taking seriously. Which should go without saying, you'd think. If God is God, then he must be total, totally worth pursuing.
The Independent reporter wasn't quite right when he suggested it was all about dumbing down worship in order to attract the masses. 'If you swap organs and hymns for guitars and pop songs, people will come flocking.' Actually, Jerome, with respect, it isn't that at all. Certainly it's about contemporary expressions; and it's true that it's using culturally popular idioms; but that's not the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart. Sorry that sounds corny. But on the whole what you have at something like New Wine is a lot of people who want to spend quality time with God. Now unlike the Quest campers down the road at Bruton they have already found good evidence for his existence, both historical and empirical, and logically enough reckon that's sufficiently important to take time out to try to encounter him some more. What's interesting is although there are so many there, no one's encounter seems the same as anyone else's, which suggests it's not mass hysteria, but it's authentic experience. Certainly in a worship meeting people sing their lungs out, and quite a lot jig around, and hold up their hands. (I did - hands, not jigging, sadly.) But not everyone. And when the time comes for praying or being prayed for, there's simply no pattern. It just seems individually different. One of our friends had long-term deafness healed. I'm still as I was, physically, but I have to say that I feel happier and more myself than I have for many months, if not years. Don't ask me to put my finger on a particular reason, or a particular moment, although I was prayed with at times, not always audibly. So there we go.
One of the best things about an event like that is meeting different people, as well as people you've not seen in a long time. I really enjoyed meeting Ian on the last day. He has Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, physically, but he hasn't allowed it to make his spirit bitter. In fact he's amazingly positive, though he does have his moments, he said - as I do, of course. He interviewed me for the site radio station. The 20 minute slot flew by, but I'm hopeful it encouraged someone who was listening, as they were packing up. Happily the sun had been shining for two days by then, and so the quagmire which had been occasionally liberally replenished during the week was drying out. It's not much fun taking tents down when they're sodden.
We're pencilled in for next year....