For a few days over the Easter weekend we went to Spring Harvest at Butlins in Minehead. We were pleased that there was plenty for our little daughter Callie. We could drop her off in her own sessions for three hours each morning. The Butlin’s activities were also open to us such as a fairground, swimming pool, climbing frames, etc. So it was just as much a holiday as a conference. But still I was hoping for a little more than just 'lively' worship and 'inspiring' sermons in the meetings.
In the mornings we chose the Encounter Bible Studies. Russ Parker who is part of the Northumbria Community had some interesting stories to tell about how God had spoken to him and used him in various settings. I was glad that the preaching was accompanied by PowerPoint and short videos often featuring Christian music and compilations of scenes from movies or slides. Russ also had a couple of violinists who played for us and led us in songs and hymns. And there was a short time for group work and feedback.
After a break there was a choice of sessions that unpacked the study guide on the theme of being an apprentice of Jesus. I went to a couple of these sessions and found that it was good to have the talks broken up with activities again. But I found all these teaching sessions a bit too much really. So one morning I went to the chapel to be quiet, read the Bible and pray in the first session. I also found the Prayer House, which for me was the best find of the week. For a couple of the second sessions I was in there praying at the various prayer stations, writing on the prayer wall and relaxing in God’s presence.
In the afternoons I went to the art workshops and spend some time with Callie taking her on the dodgems, adventure golf and soft play area as well as taking her to a multi-sensory worship workshop. My niece Hannah had also found the Prayer House and recommended going to one of their meditations while Nettes watched Callie. I discovered that this was really an alternative worship service – with video, prayers and responses and a worship activity. If I was to go to Spring Harvest again I would do one of these every day.
We went half board so we had dinner and breakfast at the Butlins' diner. They were excellent for your traditional British meat and two veg. But there was not so much choice on the veggie options, healthy options or international cuisine all of which I tend to prefer. So I usually joined the queue for the salad bar. But the 'all you can eat' policy meant that we always had plenty.
In the evenings I took turns with Nettes to be with Callie in her session and put her to bed - I found it very special to take the bread and wine with Callie one evening. But this meant that I only got a couple of full evenings out as the first day we were just settling in. One evening I spent in the Encounter Café that ran as an alternative to the main celebration. There was music, audience interaction, chat, games and a five minute preach as well as making these plasticine models! The other evening I went to the Readings and Reflections - another service with Russ Parker. I also went to see Sue Rinaldi and comedian Joe Fisher. But these gigs didn’t start until 10:30 so this gave me a couple of hours in the Sun and Moon where I could quietly read my study guide with a pint.
All this meant there was one venue we had not gone to when it came to the last day – the Big Top. I did see something of it the night before on our chalet TV. During the meeting two artists who I knew from the art workshops were painting a huge picture at the back of the stage. And anyone could come up and do some art beside the stage. So on the last morning it was the Big Top. I looked around the artwork that was there. But apart from the art I was not as impressed with this venue as much as the others I had seen - especially the Prayer House. There were some familiar contemporary worship songs. And finally we were aptly sent off with a sermon on ‘Go!’
Spring Harvest this year was probably a one off for us - although next year’s does look interesting. The title is ‘Different Eyes - Living Distinctly in a Time of Uncertainty’. We were grabbed by the themes of social justice and ethical issues such as fair trade that are going to be covered. Perhaps we should have waited a year?