I can't say wellies have ever been part of my Christian camp experience. But apparently they are an essential part of the British wardrobe. Even during summer. So heeding this advice, I borrowed a pair from a friend, on a gloriously sunny day thinking, 'This is nuts, as if I'm going to need them' and set off for my first Focus.
I was feeling quite apprehensive about the whole experience. Despite being Australian, I hadn’t really been camping before and although a few from St Luke’s had tried to describe what it was like to me, I just couldn’t get my head around it. I mean, camping with 7000 other people, that was bigger than one of the towns I used to live in!
So, having borrowed a heap of camping gear from many kind people at St Luke’s, my friends and I arrived late afternoon on Tuesday and set up our tent. Then it was straight into a St Luke’s barbecue before heading to the Big Top for our first worship session. There is something really special about worshipping with so many people. As well as worship, each Big Top session provided the opportunity to hear from gifted speakers connected with HTB and their Church plants, as well as a time of prayer ministry.
Wednesday morning brought the rain and, unfortunately for me, a flat air mattress and a leaky tent. I came to Focus exhausted, in desperate need of some decent sleep, in a transitional period of my life. The thing about God though, is that He has a habit of meeting you where you’re at, placing you in situations that will speak to you and with people that will help move you on. Focus was that for me.
What I found was that being part of St Luke’s at Focus was like being with family. You saw the best (and sometimes the less than best) of each other, but there was always someone to chat to or pray with. It was great to meet new people, and get to know people on a deeper level than you would on a Sunday. There were a lot of laughs and someone was always there with whatever you needed, including spare camping mats for this underprepared Aussie.
Throughout the week, there were many options of seminars from a variety of Christian speakers, and there really was something that suited everyone. Whether it was attending the more theology based stream by St Mellitus which included teaching from Bishop Graham Tomlin; the School of Prayer and Prophecy with KingdomCome; the dating course with Will van der Hart; or my personal favourite, the emotional health stream with Arianna Walker, to name just a few.
There was also space to just ‘be’, the 24/7 prayer tent was a great place to pray and spend time just resting in God’s presence. The unhindered worship with KingdomCome was also a definite highlight, even though Pete Greig did encourage us to keep praying that God would ‘rain down heavily’ on us and rain it did! There was never any pressure to do anything though, if you wanted to just hang out in the marquee and read a book, that was also ok.
Needless to say, I was glad I packed wellies. I’ve heard it’s not always that wet though, so don’t let that put you off! Focus was, as the name suggests, a great time to refocus and reflect on my relationship with God. I have come away feeling more sleep deprived but spiritually reenergised, encouraged, full of great teaching and memories with the St Luke’s family.
Focus is our annual church holiday, along with a load of other churches in the HTB network. For more information, and tickets for Focus 2018, head to: https://focus.htb.org