Christian events go live again

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CHRISTIAN summer festivals have largely gone online for the second year, but the success of the in-person Keswick Convention is likely to encourage those planning future events.

The three-week teaching and worship meeting in Lakeland typically attracts 12,500 participants. The main tent holds 2800 people. The organizers stuck to their plan to move it to a new home on the grounds of the pencil factory, where the former packing hall and an adjoining marquee 900 resp.

“We have been very blessed,” said operations manager David Sawday. “We have reduced the number to meet level three of the government roadmap so that we can still hold the event if we haven’t reached level four. We had half our number, but still a large gathering. “

The congress participants trusted the brand, said Mr. Sawday, “knowing that we would do our best as best we could”. Covid safety precautions included lateral flow tests, and there had been no infection among staff, volunteers and speakers on site: only one case was reported by one visitor during the three-week period that ended Aug. 6.

“We had a wonderful moment on Monday morning when the restrictions were lifted and singing was allowed. We sang ‘Great is thy trusty’ and it was very emotional, even for those who had crossed the border from Scotland, where singing used to be allowed, ”he said.

Fresh air, the countryside, and being in Keswick were among the attractions, he admitted. But the event also took place online, and there was a high level of engagement with 181,000 attendees online over the three weeks and an estimated 65,000 hours. “People who vacation for a week can now do the other weeks online; some even watch in a holiday chalet when they have children. It is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate this relationship with the supporters as well. “

There is no Greenbelt Festival this year (News, May 7), but the offer of an August holiday camping weekend at Prospect Farm on the festival grounds in Boughton and a weekday get-together (News, May 14) was eagerly accepted up: 1,500 campers are booked for the weekend, which has meanwhile been sold out, and the weekday offer continues to be booked.

Despite the well-known presence of the Jesus Arms Bar and the Tiny Tea Tent, the organizers emphasize that this is not “Greenbelt lite”: not a festival, but a gathering. There are some organized activities, some live music in the evening and some workshops, but no published daily program.

“It’s a lot smaller, of course, but it gives us a chance to try things, learn some lessons, and refine things,” said Paul Northup, Greenbelt’s creative director, Tuesday last week. “There are no big stages or a lot of production: everything is delivered on the campsite itself; So it will feel very intimate and will focus a lot on the camping experience. “

A large part of the bookings are “people who would come to Greenbelt even if they moved to the North Pole at short notice,” he said. “But there are also a lot of people who are really annoyed with vacationing this summer and think: why not camp with the Greenbelt community this year?

“There is definitely a feeling that this will be the first ‘rally’ experience for many people when we emerge from the pandemic. What we hear from people is that they’d rather try this experience with a community that they can trust and that respect people’s different approaches to Covid security in a really sensitive and community-minded way.

“I think there are a lot of different dynamics in terms of the people who come, but yes, it is the core Greenbelter who have the lion’s share of the bookings.”

These events, which were exclusively online for a second year, like the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, developed a heightened experience and encouraged groups and communities to meet and participate together and send in their videos. The spiritual nature of this has also evolved, said the Walsingham Schools and young pilgrim commissioner Caroline Ward, with footage from inside the Holy House in the Shrine Church. “We have learned not to be afraid of the silence on the Internet, just with a picture and time to think.”

The organizers of the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) are advised to book 170 exhibitors for their first show after the lockdown at Sandown Park from October 12-14 (News, July 23). Although it would normally be around 200, the mood was optimistic, Steve Goddard said on Monday.

“Everyone just wants to go back. We are very happy that several hundred visitors have already been booked, but we are aware that people will need time to come completely with us. Many prefer to book at the last minute. “

Part of the exhibition was relocated to the Esher Hall in order to give visitors the security of wider corridors. In terms of the exhibits, many of the new technological resources, particularly those related to streaming church services, are intended to help churches respond to the changes and opportunities presented by the pandemic.

The 18-month absence was an opportunity to get off the treadmill and think about how things were done, Goddard said. “We do not promote the ‘old familiar’, but the ‘new different’. The Bible says 396 times: “And it happened”. It never says, ‘And it is here to stay.’ “

On August 5th, the government finally announced an insurance scheme for the live events sector that will add £ 70 billion to the UK economy and support more than 700,000 jobs. The industry has been passionate about government-sponsored insurance to cover costs for more than a year if the event has to be canceled due to Covid restrictions. The new regulation runs from September 21, 2021 to the end of September 2022.