For just one Sunday in each year since way back, was it in 2,005? the intrepid Ross and Ann have organised an Away Weekend. For this Sunday in the year the doors of our chapel remain closed.
Not only finding a suitable venue but taking on the catering in order the keep the expenses down, it has been a huge commitment, but one that has proved to be very worthwhile.
Last year we were more than satisfied with the accommodation at the Poplars, once a fruit farm but, pushed into diversification, is still being farmed, but also producing spiritual fruit, through providing facilities for Christian camping.
The date was booked, ample provision for maybe a hundred, for we had been over eighty last year. But first one family, another and then others told us that they already had commitments. Oh dear! But instead of giving up, discouraged, they steadily proceeded to plan.
I had been struggling with some viral infection, but was lovingly persuaded to come, and doubtless it was the same loving family ministry that brought so many of us together. When we counted up, in spite of absentees, we were nearer 90 this year.
What can I bring as my impression of the weekend? I can only describe it as SUN SOAKED. Yes, in spite of the calendar, Spring had shown no inclination to come until – yes. Warm, wonderful sunshine, especially for us?
But we were not just blessed by the natural sunshine. We were basking in the presence of God. We could also say we were SON SOAKED.
One of the blessings of ‘Grace’ is happy children. On being informed that they could not attend this year for the exciting reason that they were having a very special holiday to New Zealand, one little boy burst into tears. ‘But I look forward to this all year.’
Not only was there lots of opportunities for fun and games, and a kitchen, which seemed to have a non-stop supply of snacks as well nourishing meals, there was also food for our souls. Some of our one time youth had returned to take some sessions with the children, thus giving our usual teachers a break. A big big thank you to you too.
And of course spiritual food for us adults was a priority, though physical needs were met too. While some laboured cheerfully on kitchen duty, taking their turn at serving, you would often find groups lingering in the dining room and you knew that meaningful relationships were being formed. And for those let off heavy duties there was a wonderful lounge, full of old fashioned and well worn settees where we had opportunities to share and get to know each other.
We held our services over in what was once the packing shed, now turned into the sanctuary, where we gathered to hear from God even as we brought our worship. I am not going to attempt to bring you a synopsis of Tom’s ministry, as you can find it recorded on our website (if you are cleverer than I am), but when he introduced his subject I knew God had seen my need and was here to meet with me, for he spoke of the wonder of knowing God’s presence, and of the importance of always seeking, knowing more and ever being surprised by him.
Our prayer meetings following breakfast were well attended, with grateful parents, now child-free. I think one prayer highlighted for me the ministry of the weekend. Tom has told us the story of how Moses had pleaded with God that he would not send them any further without God himself going with them. As one brother prayed, we felt he had been there amongst those watchers, perhaps envying the faithful Joshua, and we realised that for him too this was the greatest need of his life.
As ever, we had our ‘Grace has got talent’ which produced much hilarity, but there were moving moments too, and we had some precious times of joyful worship. Tom had been teaching us of God’s prodigality in giving, and how he wants us to ask and receive, and now we were encouraged to give back to God of the precious gifts he had been giving us.
So what of little Arthur, who had been looking forward all year to our Away Weekend? I am sure that their special holiday in New Zealand more than made up for it. But I am sure too that we could do well to look forward all year to our next special Weekend Away.
But what about our intrepid Ross and Ann? God is no man’s debtor, they say. I’m sure this is true, for their hearts were overflowing when they told us how one of our own Kids Club had come home to ask, ‘How can I know that Jesus is my own Saviour?’ What a reward for his parents, and also for the young people who had so willingly given up of their holiday time to come, not just to have fun with the kids and to keep them occupied, but to teach them from God’s word of his wonderful love.