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Spring Harvest: Church Actually Day 2 »« Understanding Atonement

Spring Harvest: more than just the Big Top

This year we as a family went to Spring Harvest but I spent very little time in the Big Top.

Spring Harvest is something we’ve only been to once before. In the past we’ve been to many Bible weeks and feel we’ve had our fill of these and our circle of churches no longer runs them anyway.  More recently we’ve been a few times to Greenbelt Festival and enjoyed the great choice of acts and activities on offer there.

For a lot of people Spring Harvest means big meetings of thousands in a big top with guitar driven songs, big name preachers and appeals to go forward at the end for prayer. So you may be surprised to hear that I went to the Big Top once in the whole six days and that was for the Big Start – a family friendly half hour at the beginning of the day. But Spring Harvest offers plenty of choice of activities and I found lots more to keep me occupied.

As the programmes weren’t available beforehand and there was only the Big Top meeting on the first evening, we spent time reading the programmes and planning our week, after settling in and getting our daughter off to her first session.

In the zones

In the morning there was a choice of going to the Big Top for a Bible reading or a number of different learning zones. This was repeated in the second half of the morning though the Bible reading was moved to a smaller venue then and one of the zones was in the Big Top. I think they expected people to go to one of the Bible readings and one of the zones which my wife did. I understand the Bible readings were actually expository preaching illustrated with plenty of photos of classical art. I’m sure they were excellent but I thought I’d prefer the zones. I wasn’t disappointed.

Create zone

During the four full days I got to a couple of the Create Zones with Sam Hargreaves of Engage Worship – where we responded to the day’s theme both by discussing and sketching ideas and making something creative such as a collage, painting or poem.

Think zone

I went to a couple of the Think Zones with Graham Cray of Fresh Expressions and Ruth Valerio of A Rocha where we got some teaching on the themes. It was good to hear theologians quoted unapologetically and doctrines discussed without any dumbing down. I also got to one afternoon seminar on Fresh Expressions with Graham Cray.

Lead zone

I went to a couple of the Lead Zones with Juliet Kilpin of Urban Expression and Viv Thomas of Formation who had some refreshing teaching that was both very practical and culturally aware. I was glad that I was confident enough to go these as I have been invited to leaders weekends with my church and am very involved even though I’m never sure of my role title!

Other zones

It was also good to hear Mark Greene of London Institute for Contemporary Christianity in the Watch Zone on one day. His talk was engaging emotionally as he exhorted us to live out our faith in all that we do and he did use a couple of film clips to illustrate it. However, I had thought there would have been more as this was the mode of the zone. My wife had a similar comment on the talk zone ‘I thought it’d be more of us talking and less of him!’ However these are minor quibbles as overall the zones were great!

Alternative worship and prayer


Another great place to spend some time was the PrayerHouse run by Bless. It was great to pray there at the first session instead of going to my first zone and at other times during the week. There was plenty of space for silent meditation and plenty of prayer stations to engage with each day. Though there wasn’t as much of this as there is at Greenbelt it was great to have this here. I also went one afternoon to the little worship time that they had there called Be Still that had some liturgy and a more led time of quite prayer.


In the evening there was a choice of ‘celebrations’. Most people went to the Big Top but I preferred the more laid back worship in GODSpace run by Bless. What was most encouraging is that it was fairly like the worship in our own church although perhaps a little more restrained. The main difference was that there were some little creative activities and it began and ended with contemporary liturgy on the screen. It was encouraging to see how in a few simple steps we could do something like this. Each night there was a guest interviewed and some group discussion with feedback.

Encounter Café

I also popped in the Encounter Café one evening which was a café church style service with guests too and also quizzes, film clips and a short talk.

Making the most of Butlins

Being at Butlins meant there was also chance to take part in some of the sports of activities there. On three of the mornings I went for an early morning jog with the sports team despite having been out late on a couple of the nights watching comedians Andy Kind and Tony Vino.

I had a go at fencing and swimming. My little daughter Callie did the fencing too and some archery with my wife.

I took Callie on the dodgems, adventure golf and to a gig by Ishmael and we all went to the Saltmine Theatre production.

On the last day when Callie was in her meeting we finished packing and went to play some table tennis instead of the final Big Top meeting before our long drive home.

Spring Harvest was brilliant and I didn’t feel I missed out by not going to the big meetings at all.

April 24, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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