Well that was pretty amazing, and the best and most exciting Sunday that I think I have had for such a long time.
Most of the team awoke at around 5/520 am to arrive at a large field by 6am. It was grey, quiet, a little chilly ….. but many people were active. As stall holders set their stalls up people were already trying to buy stuff. People asked if they could buy the icon and our deck chairs, and I think we could have sold the holy oils!
All through the day I think it’s true to say that people did not quite ‘get’ that we were the only stall there not trying to sell anything. People wondered about the catch and were not entirely comfortable with receiving something for nothing. We were not even pushing what we had to give away. If people looked interested we invited them to look more closely and take part. This sensitive low key approach ensured people were comfortable.
The day was amazing. I’m guessing thousands of people passed us, and we probably only engaged with say 50 people, but the levels of those engagements were quite amazing. People asked us to pray for or with them or for family members. People were interested in Psalm Readings and Jesus Deck readings. One person told me how they had met Jesus as they were trying to commit suicide and how the experience stopped that from happening. I think this was raised as the person was trying to make sense of what they had experienced.
That one conversation made the whole day worthwhile for me. The other personal highlight was, though, seeing the rest of team grow in confidence as they put their training into practice and saw that God used them … even in their nervousness! I love seeing people realise that they can be involved in mission and that it is all about listening to stories of other people.
As a trial we think this went well. As we ran the stall we were able to think of other things to offer (maybe a short communion service at 11am?) and how to set the stall up differently.
If you visited us today, then thank you it was great to see you. Sue and myself aso wish to thank the team – you really were amazing! l. It seems that everyone had at least one significant conversation with a guest to Dekhomai. So … next week we will be there … if you go to boot fairs come and say hi … if you think you might like to work with us on the stall, there is space and time for training so get in touch.
So … that was the fair …. bring on the the fair!
Tomorrow we take Dekhomai to the boot fair.
We are guessing that we will be a unique stall in that we will be the only people there not selling anything. Our aim is to welcome and explore spiritually.
We will be offering things for free … prayer for healing, prayer beads, Jesus Deck readings and hand massages.
This is the first time we have gone into such a public setting and a number of the team are naturally nervous. A number of us, as well, are pretty excited and intrigued to see what sort of response we notice. so …. if you are the praying type please pray for us tomorrow morning …. we will be there from 6am until about 12 noon.
I’ll let you know what happens sometime soon.
St Mark’s hosted The Big Lunch this afternoon. It was an amazing experience with around 500 people attending on what turned out to be a pretty glorious day weather wise.
I was in awe during this event for a number of reasons. Seeing many good friends from the last few years working together to provide an amazing event for the community was excellent to see. Seeing others, particularly our young people, and my daughter and her friends, providing the live music caused a bit of a proud dad moment. Events like this do not happen overnight … they happen after years of relationship building with the community …. and with a great co-ordinator who just happens to be my wife!
Another highlight for me with a particular group of people who responded to this post theme a little while back was our trial of Dekhomai in this setting. We did some hand massage and Jesus Deck training in the morning and in the afternoon people stepped out of their comfort zone and gave things a go. The outcome in the shape of conversations, prayers with people and seeing God speak powerfully in a very gentle way with many people was simply a stunning and awe inspiring experience.
So … St Mark’s and other people ….. that was amazing. Thank you for letting us play a small part.
Sweeps came and went. The weather meant that the festival was a bit of a wash out with last minute cancellations and the accompanied lack of hoped for business for local traders. There was definitely a lot less visitors around than there have been in previous years which is a real shame as this is an excellent festival to come to.
The lack of numbers at the festival meant that there were less people walking past the Dekhomai stand but the positive flip side of this meant that we had more time to listen to people. I will remember this Sweeps festival as being marked by the sheer privilege I have experienced as I have been invited into personal lives alongside the great feeling of inadequacy I have felt as I have prayed, asking God to meet with these lives.
I personally wanted to push out and try something new at this years Sweeps and have been thinking and working a lot on dreams; in particular asking myself the question ‘could God still be talking to people through their dreams?” I have done some prayerful research of God speaking through dreams in scripture alongside psychologists interpretations of common dreams. Did you know, for example, that a common dream is being found naked in a public place; apparently the ‘common’ interpretation is that the person is living a lie and worried about being exposed. I have always found dreams quite fascinating.
To cut a long story short, I decided to offer ‘dream discussions’ at this years festival. I felt ‘dream interpretation’ was quite a major claim for a bunch of amateurs to be able to make… but I also have a real belief that, actually, if people are dreaming and that if there is a meaning from God then those people, really must be able to understand the dream for themselves and how it applies to them. If that were not true, then there would be little point God using this method of communication with people!
I have had a good number of dream discussions over this weekend. They were amazing. No two were the same but as we chatted together and I prayed remarkably people were able to focus on their dream and gain some understanding. I have started to wonder now whether those that do receive dreams simply need to take time out to think about them, and that is what we seemed to be doing over this weekend at the festival.
The team from all over the diocese worked brilliantly this year, and it was great working with you all … our visitors and guests were also a joy to work with -thank you. Once again, Sweeps has been a highlight of my year.
Next weekend in Rochester sees the return of the Sweeps Festival. This is probably my favourite of the Rochester Festivals which is a collection of great music (most of it free in or outside pubs), dancing (50ish Morris Dancing groups) and of course beer. If I were to choose one festival to come to in Rochester then it would be the Sweeps Festival without a doubt; the atmosphere is great, and people come to relax, listen, watch and have a good time.
In the cathedral we will again by hosting our Dekhomai stand from Saturday until Monday. This is a ‘welcoming place’ in part of the cathedral which offers a place to sit and chat, prayer for healing, dream interpretation, the making of prayer beads and hand or foot massage. If you are in the area why not pop in and say hi … or if you would like to get involved we could still do with a another team member on Sunday or Monday afternoon. The ethos of the stand is to simple welcome and serve people with an aim of helping those who are searching to re-connect with God. At the end of every encounter, whether it is a Jesus Deck reading, a foot massage or a general chat we offer to pray for each person and their family. In this way we believe people meet with God.
In previous years people have asked about the Jesus Deck which, sadly, have been out of print and difficult to get hold of. They are now back and you can order a Jesus Deck here. While on the Jesus Deck I was intrigued to see it being used as a lectionary over on Steve’s blog … hadn’t thought of that and I could see that being really powerful for some people.
so … that was Dickens, when we saw an amazing 19000 people pass through the cathedra! That’s quite a few!!!
The team I worked with were excellent, and at times we had people queuing for hand or foot massages and Jesus Deck readings. The experience was such a humbling privilege as we engaged with many people on various levels from talking about the beading, to joking about Christmas, to praying for some form of healing.
One person I will remember for a while was a distressed person shaking with fear who needed help. We simply prayed for God’s peace and this person became calm almost instantly which shocked her and her family. It was a delight to see.
The weekend has again left me with far more questions and frustrations than answers. I guess the main frustration is how we seem to just scratch the surface with most of those 19000 choosing to walk past the stand, many even refusing to make any form of eye contact. I wonder whether a part of that is a fear of not wanting to engage with something of the ‘unknown’. My question, which I guess is closely connected, is why God seems to connect with some people and not others.
Other questions which came up which I’d like to investigate sometime revolve around the whole idea of what people think they are doing in their actions. One of the team, Nathan, was reflecting on people lighting candles and asking what, in their mind, are they doing or trying to do? It’s an interesting thought as we heard people use language like ‘pray properly’ and ‘make a wish’ and ‘thats for uncle Albert’. The action of lighting a candle is certainly helpful, and thousands were lit this weekend, but it is interesting maybe to consider what is actually happening here for various people.
Anyway … the weekend is over, the Dekhomai stand is packed away, we continue with Advent and welome Christ into our lives again …
This weekend is the Dickens Festival again in Rochester when thousands of people descend upon Rochetser from all over the country, and even the world, to ‘celebrate’ Dickens and his works.
WE expect around 8000 people to pass through the cathedral today and amongst our normal services and carol services we also attempt to engage with people again this year through our Dekhomai (greek translation: ‘the welcoming place’) as part of our Benedictine tradition of hospitality.
Today we will be be offering Jesus Deck readings, Prayer discussions, prayer for healing, hand and foot massages, the making of prayer beds, blessings as well as simply a place to chat. In other parts of the cathedral there are opportunities to light candles for people you may wish to remember.
So … if you are in the cathedral today … be one of the 8000 and pop in. Please say hello – even if it looks like we are busy it would still be great to say hi. If you can’t make it over the weekend, please hold those working in the cathedral in your prayers and especially those on the Dekhomai stand who seek to be a blessing and a help to those who come to us.