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Ten Great Things about Big Church Day Out 2012

It was a real joy to wander around the Big Church Day Out at the weekend, and see an event becoming everything the visionaries behind it dreamed it could be.

It was a real joy to wander around the Big Church Day Out at the weekend, and see an event becoming everything the visionaries behind it dreamed it could be.

Former Delirious keyboards man Tim Jupp's vision was to bring the generations together to worship. To enable them to enjoy time together giving God glory and having fun. Revelling in the glorious Wiston estate in West Sussex, and the amazing variety of the people of God.

There were families. Couples. Thousands of kids. Older generations. Black, white, British, European. Church groups enjoying the open air. Talking. Laughing. Singing. Dancing. Worshipping together. Praying. Eating lunch on makeshift Jubilee street party tables. Getting stirred by the call to social justice. Throwing a wet sponge at the vicar in the 'church fete'. Enjoying being part of God's big, messy, peculiar, rich and diverse family.

You could sit quietly in Wiston's age-old church, finding God in the quiet amidst the stone, wood and kneelers.

You could bounce with the crew at the front of mainstage to the rap-rock worship of LZ7, the Celtic verve and sizzle of Rend Collective, the Latin soul pzazz of Israel Houghton.

You could talk to people you've never met before and sense that family bond that draws us all together in Christ.

You could sense something happening amongst the gathered thousands that echoed through eternity. A kind of rehearsal.

It wasn't a teach-in, with seminars, workshops and notebooks. But there was plenty to be learned, and time to do it.

Big Church Day Out does something different to other events like Spring Harvest, New Wine, Keswick, Pentecost Festival and Greenbelt. And that's ideal. We don't need duplicates. We need time to celebrate so that we're energised and knit together strongly enough to serve in the tough times. Partying and feasting is good, provided it equips us for sacrifice and suffering too.

So here's my Top 10 Great Things About Big Church Day Out 2012 ... in no particular order. (NB I couldn't see or do everything, so sorry if I didn't mention your act/food/highlight/thing. I'm sure it was great too)

1 Tree-tall flags, whipped by the wind. "Terrible ... as an army with banners" the old 80s chorus used to go. We are an army, but we don't have to be terrible. Just available.
2 The awesome Watoto Children's Choir – African joy distilled into voices and movement, celebration music that has been squeezed from young lives that have seen very tough times. Moving in every way.
3 Gungor – music of beauty, challenge and intelligence combined with breathtaking virtuosity. Rarely have cello and guitar duetted to such stunning effect.
4 The sudden popularity of bow ties as stagewear. Take a bow Rend Collective and Martin Smith + Band.
5 Newma's Latin Flavours – South American street food par excellence. Brazilian sausage with chilli sauce. Wonderful.
6 The tea tent lawns – like gatecrashing a garden party at a minor Royal's country pile.
7 Quality surprises like the mainstage entertainers with Diablo and football skills, the guy who got the crowd dancing merengue, and the church fete ale tasting tent (Westerham Brewery meets Bible Society)
8 Space for exciting new bands alongside MOBO winners, choirs and chamber orchestras alongside Sally Army bands and singer-songwriters ... in the Tea Tent and on the UCB Stage.
9 Consistent mainstage high quality from the genre mixing Israel Houghton and the Afrobeat fusion of Muyiwa to the creative jazzy influences of Newworldson and the big worship power of Phil Wickham, the energy and fire of LZ7, Leeland and Newsboys, to assured celebratory leading of Matt Redman and Tim Hughes.
10 Easy to drive in. Easy to drive out. Minimal queuing. Lovely.

PS And no, I didn't camp so my youngest's description of the torrential Saturday night rain as a "blessing from God" was something I couldn't disagree with. I think his shoes have finally dried out.

Photos: Many thanks to Dave Wood, from the excellent Christian music site

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