So here I am, writing to you from the middle of a field in Nottinghamshire, more precisely from a caravan in the County Showground near the civil war town of Newark.
Yes, it must be New Wine and it’s the final day of a memorable week.
Thankfully the weather this year has been good – no monsoons or massive electric storms, as in previous years. And above all, no force 8 gales. (I recall 1993 with some trepidation.)
We are on Green 8 along with about 25 folk from Christ Church in our varied caravans and tents. Alongside us are some units from St John Burscough while if I look through window on my left I can see St Andrew, Clubmoor (L13) stirring into life on a beautiful morning. I can see one guy eating his cornflakes wearing his sun glasses.
So why are we all here, some 9000 of us? Essentially, to give God space for him to work in our lives and just as importantly, to sort us out in order that he may work through us to bring his Kingdom to a disordered and damaged world.
The strapline for New Wine says it all: “Local churches changing nations.” A huge vision – not ours but the Jesus who sends us into all the world to live and proclaim his victory. But note – not as individual Christians doing our thing but together, as local churches. The Christian adventure is above all a team game. In many ways the basic unit in the New Testament is the local manifestation of the body of Christ.
So how does God work through New Wine?
In all kinds of ways. Through the morning and evening teaching sessions – this year the morning sessions taken by a Canadian, Gary Best, have been outstanding. Through the seminars, some very good (including one, you will be pleased to hear, on using blogs, Facebook and Twitter in ministry). Through the times of worship – not my style of music but I have decided to enter into it. And of course, through the fellowship with fellow disciples.
For one big bonus of being here on Green 8 as part of a local church is that we operate as a unit – shared meals with other people doing the cooking (except when it’s your turn), common tasks, pooling resources. Especially if caravanning or camping is not you.
However, it strikes me what really counts is simply just being here.
One hassle for me is to keep our two smartphones charged. If you have one, you will know how quickly the batteries are exhausted – unlike my old Nokia. The challenge is always to find an available power socket in one of the facilities we use that no one else has already claimed.
But this year I have hit on a cunning plan. I carry with a four-socket extension lead. Any power socket will do – just re plug their charger into one of my sockets. So as we worship, our phones are being charged. They are plugged into the power supply, just like me.
For I now understand that the Holy Spirit recharges us at a much deeper level than we are often conscious of, often bypassing our emotions or feelings. God keeps his promises; he fills us with his Spirit when we ask him and make ourselves available. How he does it is up to him.
So it is well worth the investment of time, energy and finance (we hire our caravan, which is towed here for us) to be here at New Wine. Then in the memorable words of Andy Hawthorne, God’s wonderful gift to the people of Manchester, we are equipped to do something for God so that we are stuffed if he doesn’t turn up! (But he always does!)
I guess the challenge for each of us is to find that place, that event (and we may well have to be creative in some family contexts) in which we give God that time and space he needs to renew us and in doing so, renew those areas of his world we happen to be through us.