TV stars, numerous celebrities (of one kind or another), politicians, four or five bands, a Big Top and dozens of tents, hundreds of children, thousands of young people, dozens of homeless, pouring rain and an Archbishop – no its not Glastonbury or even Boom Town – but Focus the church week away for Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). Lucy and I have just attended this event for another year. And it was as amazing as ever.
I think last year there were about 6000 people attending – this year the figure was 7500. The many church plants from HTB were represented – each church group camping together.
The theme this year was ‘calling’ – really appropriate for Lucy and I as we start on a new phase of our ministry in Itchen Valley. There were numerous excellent speakers including Archie Coats the vicar of St Peter’s Brighton – a church which was almost redundant a few years ago and is now one of the most dynamic churches in the country; Nicky Gumbel the vicar of HTB, Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5599/what-does-holiness-look-like-archbishop-speaks-at-htb-focus, Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, Jo Saxton a Lutheran church leader from the United States, and Ken Costa the former Chairman of Lazards.
St Peter’s Brighton’s worship band Bright City https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=122&v=x_CtsX8G5Nk with Martin Smith (formerly of the band Delirious) led worship on one of the evenings with an amazing mixture of modern rock, dance and painting. Incredible.
But also and very exciting for the Valley was Josh Gauton (married by Revd Tim Hughes at St Mary’s Easton in July this year to our very own Katharine Mezger) was leading worship on one of the mornings. His EP Masks has just been released. https://soundcloud.com/josh-gauton
There was a whole series of talks by RT Kendall based on his book on Joseph God meant it for Good http://www.amazon.co.uk/books/dp/1842272357 . Just amazing and hugely encouraging.
Another very encouraging event was the session led by Archbishop Justin which concentrated very specifically on ordination. Over 200 people came to the front to express an interest in getting ordained including one nine year old! As Nicky Gumbel pointed out, Paul Williams, the former Bishop of Kensington and now Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham was 11 when he felt called to be ordained and so we should not be surprised by a nine year old coming forward!
But most encouraging of all, Lucy and I went to a talk by Tim Matthews the vicar of St Swithun’s Bournemouth http://www.stswithuns.me/ the first HTB plant in Winchester Diocese. The church was started from scratch with 11 people and one child. Now, only 12 months later, there are two services every Sunday with over 500 people attending. The church has run 3 Alpha Courses with 200 guests, and it has a regular group of 40 students. It is preparing two people for ordination. 58 of the members of the church were at Focus. All of this achieved in just 12 months! The Holy Spirit is clearly at work in Bournemouth.
Of course, the experience of church plants in densely populated city centres starting from scratch does not necessarily reflect what could be achieved in somewhere like the Valley, but we were left with the strong impression that, as Nicky Gumbel puts it, a hidden revival has begun.
Talks at Focus 2015 are at https://www.htb.org/media/event/Focus%202015?page=1