In the beginning...
Three years ago, Rob Russell (who leads Church in a Club) wondered about a Tent Event on Stoughton Recreation ground, with the aim of drawing local Christians and churches together to bless the local community. In cooperation with Tim Grant of Spearhead Ministries, Rob sought support from churches in Guildford to enable Spearhead Ministries to pitch one of their tents on the Rec.
A small group of people drawn from various church fellowships began meeting twice a month at Westborough URC from July 2010 to plan and pray for the event. During the next few months we continued to meet, making plans, preparing the necessary applications to the Borough Council, and praying together and liaising with local organisations (chiefly the Guildford City Boys and Girls Football Club).
We wanted to encourage support for the Event from as many congregations in Guildford as possible, believing this to be an opportunity to demonstrate our unity in Christ. This was attempted through contact with local church leaders, the development of a website and Facebook page, and the issue of an information leaflet to churches for church members. Sadly the information leaflet came out very late and only a couple of churches felt able to support the Event financially. Nevertheless, over 40 people from several congregations did in the end volunteer.
On the 23rd July 2011 volunteers delivered postcards to nearly 2000 homes most local to the Rec. Posters were put up around the area in community notice boards, social clubs, shops and on the Recreation gates.
The Tent Event...
On Thursday at 5.30pm 45 volunteers gathered to help Tim Grant and Spearhead Ministries erect the 350-seater Tent. We are very thankful to God for all those who turned out and for the good weather that helped enormously. The Tent was erected by 8.30pm, and a couple of willing volunteers moved in to offer security overnight. Friday morning was an opportunity to finish setting up equipment and to continue to hand out invitations and engage passers-by in conversation.
The Event started on the Friday evening with coffee and cake being served in the Tent, young people enjoying the activities in the Gazebo, and 9 members of the Christian Motorbike Association parking their bikes for exhibition on the Rec. A dozen or so members of the local community hung around and were offered refreshments and were engaged in conversation.
The Del Monties rockabilly band started playing at 8pm and the evening very much went with a swing. One of the CMA spoke to those present of how he had come to know the Lord. Three local families came along and enjoyed the evening tremendously, as did another thirty others. It was a good start.
On Saturday morning the Tent was handed over to Eden People, who offered hand, foot, head, neck, shoulder and back massage as therapies. One older member of the local community commented that the massage she received was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her! Eden People also offered Prayer for healing, words of encouragement, and there was face painting amongst other things. Football training took place in the morning for 6-12 year olds. We had hoped to offer a tournament in the afternoon, but sadly only 6 children attended. Our
thanks to Simon for all his hard work – those that came enjoyed the football tremendously. Stewards on duty at the two main gates continued to hand out cards inviting people to the evening event.
In the evening Tim Grant led a Quiz Evening. Over 30 people came and enjoyed the quiz, and in the interval Rob Russell gave an Elvis Show. It was another good evening, of gentle outreach.
On Sunday morning 125 people gathered in the Tent for a Celebration Service. St. Francis’ CofE and Westborough URC had cancelled their morning worship to come together, and members from other churches also attended. Rob Russell led the worship band, which included musicians from Westborough URC, Stoughton Methodist, The Salvation Army and Church in a Club. Mr. Hatty and Mrs. Chatty performed a mime and Tim Grant spoke on Matthew 11:25-30, Rest for the Weary, before offering words of knowledge and inviting people to stand for prayer. Five people gave their lives to the Lord for the first time, three of which Tim was able to speak to after the service. Details of local church services and contact details for Alpha Courses were handed out, courses which Tim was careful to commend.
It was a wonderful morning of worship, hearing the gospel, receiving prayer and sharing fellowship. It was good doing church in a non-church way!
The Event ended with the clearing away of equipment from the Tent, and the taking-down of the Tent and clearing of the site, which was completed by 3pm.
Thanks to all who gave time, money and prayer to enable the Tent Event to take place. Also our thanks to Guildford Borough Council for allowing the event to take place, the Rangers department for all their help, and the Guildford Town Boys and Girls Football Club for allowing us the use of their premises and for serving teas and coffees for us on the Saturday. And special thanks to Tim Grant, whose experience and expertise over so many years of Tent Events in this part of the world and in Europe made the weekend possible.
Over the whole weekend there was a very strong sense of oneness, togetherness and unity – it was so good to be working together. There was also a very real sense of His presence with us.
Thank you to everyone who made the Tent Event possible. We hope it did indeed achieve the purpose for which God intended it.
May God bless all the fellowships and congregations that seek to serve Him in this town.
by Rob Russell