What is it that makes us do it? To leave our comfy beds and home comforts; loading the car with sleeping bags, boots, and clothing for all weathers, while our wonderful leaders had been shopping and planning, working out rotas, for the feeding of the five (well, fifty something, if not the five) thousand.
Yes, once again, ‘Grace Community Church Porthcawl’ set out for our annual ‘Away Weekend.’ Using the same venue as last year, Barton Camp in North Somerset, we were better prepared to transform it from a rather Spartan facility to something nearer to home comfort. We had a row of comfy garden chairs at the back of the meeting room for a lounge area, while Ross’s curry this year, instead of ‘dragon’s breath’ was just right, and each team produced excellent meals.
Those of us who did not have to wait for school to close were fortunate enough to have been able to leave early and so avoid the heavy motor way traffic, but we all arrived safely, all the hassle of packing and travelling forgotten in the joy of being together.
You see, we are a family. We see each other most Sundays, but sometimes not in between, and families need to have special times of being together. It was such a joy to see so many young families playing happily together, and an even greater joy that some of our now college students had joined us and had prepared lessons and activities for our children so that the parents would relax, knowing they were well cared for.
After the journey and unpacking, Friday evening was not the time for teaching ministry. We gathered for worship and then Tom read of Moses’ desire and delight in God’s presence, giving us the theme for the weekend.
After breakfast and a prayer time, for those without commitments, Saturday morning was a very special time of worship and teaching. After Tom had spoken, first of Moses, and then of our need to seek God’s glory and know him coming in power among us, as he has done in our nation in years gone by, we were released in worship.
Since my husband died I have had very little voice and usually sing ‘in my boots,’ but I found my voice soaring as I joined in a wonderful choir of praise. We were on the Mount of God, as Moses had been and God was among us, touching afresh, and speaking to us through his gifts. Oh, what a comfort to know that we don’t need a veil (tea-cloth someone said) as Moses did, because the glory must fade.
Some of us set out to explore the lovely country side in the afternoon, returning with an appetite for Ross’s homemade scones for a Somerset cream tea, while other relaxed or played games. There was no ‘Grace has Talent’, since most of our talent, sadly, had been unable to make it this year, but a wonderfully competitive and varied games evening, great fun for young and old alike, ensured most of us had a much better night’s sleep.
Sunday. Again, great praise and fervent prayers in our prayer meeting, and then sadly packing up before we gathered for our last time of ministry. Perhaps I was looking forward to a time of praise and release such as we had had the day before, but God always has fresh bread, and always something more. His challenge that we should be the people of God, his light in a world of darkness led us in humility to his table where we broke the bread and drank the wine together, as a family.
Then we listened to a testimony. It was a story of terrible suffering and there were not many dry eyes, but we were also awed at the wonderful deliverance God had brought about, through the invitation of a young mother to come to an Alpha evening. Though she only went three times, this one who had seemed to be so hopelessly ensnared had met with Jesus. He heard her cry and eventually brought her out of this horrible pit. Her feet set on the Rock, she was now able to bring her children up to love and serve the Lord.
Sunday morning; was this the right time to listen to such a harrowing story? The Communion should be a reminder of an even more harrowing story of how God gave his Son to save us. And yes, this story too brought great glory to God, for through hearing it we realised that here is someone who is now a servant of the church, always available to work, and to reach out to others who may be entrapped by the enemy. How we praise God for counting this ‘Trophy of Grace’ as our sister and friend, she and her family wonderful members of the family of Grace.
A final meal, scrumptious as always, the big Grace photo, and off to our own homes, and yes, our comfy beds.
As with every family gathering, there is great joy in being together – some of us, especially the younger element, wished we could have stayed there – but with the joy is an inevitable sadness when the circle is not complete, for whatever reason. We are so very thankful for this special family time together, but pray that maybe next year we may have less of us left at home, and more with us for this mountain top experience.