Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Well, not really an escape, but we, the members of Grace Community Church, had left the daily round for a very special time of blessing.

We were not at Barton’s Camp, our venue for the last three years, since last year we had only managed to squeeze in the 70+ who had gathered. This year we were at the Poplars, a beautiful family farm near Ledbury, who specialise now in growing people.

It was through the Common Market that the farm had to have all its fruit trees cut down, and so, seeking alternative productivity, the young family had felt God’s call to open their premises especially for Christian families. Here there was provision not only for the youth. While many were allocated to dormitories, Janet and I were shown to an odd little building, but with every creature comfort – en-suite, comfy beds and even a wardrobe! Yes, there was a rota and you had to take your turn for cooking, cleaning etc, but there are advantages to being in your eighties. How thankful I was that my name was not there.

We soon found the kitchen, where one of Ross’s curries was bubbling away, not to mention the apple crumble to follow. And yes, this year there was a luxurious lounge, with space for young as well as older. How good it was to see some of our college students who had joined us in order to help to look after the children, for of course we had not just come for fun and games, but in order that we might meet with God through his word.

Not only did we have comfy chairs in the lounges, but in the Pack Hall, the huge barn once used for storing the fruit, but now used for our meetings, where we were hopefully storing up God’s word in our hearts. There was ample seating, room to worship God, yes, even in the dance, but also more comfy chairs along the side, for us oldies, (older anyway). Lewis Roderick, co-pastor from Christchurch, Newport, was our guest speaker. We had a short service of welcome on the Friday evening, when Lewis gave a short overview of his ministry concerning being united with Christ, enough to assure us that it would not be dry doctrine, but concerning a living, vibrant relationship with Christ. Then back to the kitchen for  hot chocolate, joy, hugs and eventually most of us were settled in our cosy beds.

A frosty, sunny morning, and after bacon butties for breakfast, and prayer, most of us were sitting out in the glorious sunshine before we made our way to the  barn with expectant hearts.

I won’t attempt to give you a synopsis of Lewis’s ministry. I know what impacted me. Remember I had been anxious about how far away I might be from the Saviour when I got to heaven? Now God was showing me that I wasn’t going to heaven in order to be a spectator to the triumph of the Lamb. Jesus died for each one of us that together we might be part of the celebration, for we, the church, are not  only his body, but his bride. We will have no place there as an onlooker, but as the joy and delight of our heavenly Bridegroom, the marriage feast of the Lamb. Oh, what joy.

Marshmallows round the bonfire was a special activity rounding off the day, made complete by a wonderful blaze of coloured lights against the backdrop of starry blackness. (learned from the Maori’s I am told - )

Sunday morning was a very special time of family celebration, including ‘Messy church’ with meaningful handwork at each table, and then the highlight of our celebration when we broke bread  together. It was at the discretion of the parents as to how their children were included, and for one birthday girl who had very recently committed her life to Jesus, it was her first communion.

Back for our last ample dinner and then it was clearing up, loading of cars, - the  great photo shoot and we were on our way. We are so very thankful for all those who had been planning and working throughout the year to make this such a successful time. Our hearts are still brimming with thankfulness to God who is knitting our hearts together and making us a small part of the universal church of Jesus Christ.

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