Monday, 16 August 2010

Downs Benefice Parish walk - Day 1 Minstead

Today was the first day of the Downs Benefice Walks - every 2 years the benefice runs a week long series of walks.  This year we have a series of 6 circular walks close(ish) to Winchester all with some literary theme.

Today's was an 11, or so, mile walk (at the end my pedometer said 27,158 steps which feel about right) starting and ending at Minstead.

We had a lovely day for the walk and at 9:30am an intrepid group of 16 walkers headed out from Minstead into the forest.
Morning Walkers

The walk was a lovely mix of tracks, road and open areas in the New Forest and we saw our fair share of ponies as well as some free roaming pigs. New Forest Pigs

After lunch we stopped in Brook at the Green Dragon pub for a quick beverage and to collect another group of people who would be joining us for the afternoon section of the walk.
Afternoon Walkers

Our numbers swelled we pressed on back through the forest to Minstead, stopping off at the village church to see Arthur Conan Doyle's grave and look round the lovely church.
Arthur Conan Doyle's grave
Minstead Church
Minstead Church

The day finished with an ice cream at the suddenly very busy village shop.

Few photos from the day in a set on flickr - here

Sunday, 1 August 2010

New Wine - Local churches changing nations

Our home for the week 
Looking down from our pitch on Brown 4
We spent last week at New Wine's Summer Conference "Unstoppable" which was held, as usual, at the Bath and West Showground in Shepton Mallet. This was our 9th year attending but the first time that we were the only people from our church who were camping. Christ Church Winchester had around 250 people camping and were happy for us to join them up on Brown 4.   Thank you Christ Church for the BBQ, Cheese and Wine evening, Hog Roast and afternoon Cream Tea - me thinks we may well look to camp with you again in the future ....

Each year we enjoy the worship, hear great teaching, and spend time with friends on the campsite. The girls enjoy the freedom of taking themselves off to their sessions and activities during the day (this year Alice was in "Boulder Gang" and Helen was in "Club One"). No matter how many times I go the scale of the event always impresses - for example Boulder Gang is for just for children aged 10 or 11 but they still have around 500 children attending !
Numbers for dinner swelled by day visitors

Though we were the only ones from our church camping for the week we did also have one person staying in a nearby B&B who joined us on site each day and were delighted to have friends visit for a day during the week.

Among the many highlights for me this year a few were ...
  • Simon Ponsonby's great teaching in the morning bible study sessions in Venue 1.  He was supposed to be looking at 5 parables from Matthew 13.  However after 3 insightful sessions he decided that the other 2 he'd prepared weren't as interesting so changed tack and instead gave us a session on love based around John 21v15 and a talk on Joshua 3 v5.
  • An interesting explanation of the famous "turn the other cheek" passage suggesting that, when taken in the context of the time it was written, this is actually an example of taking an effective non violent stand against injustice.
  • Mark Griffiths telling the story of the "The Happy Prince" at the All-Age Celebration, having a "reverse collection" (a bucket passed from person to person and rather than putting money in you take out a small gold coloured disc), and being challenged to perform an act of kindness over the next 4 weeks that costs us something, in time, emotion or money, but which has no chance of being repaid.
  • Hearing of the inspiring work of the Street Pastors - volunteers who spend time on the streets on Friday and Saturday nights (10pm - 4am) being with and helping the people who are out at that time - largely club//pub goers.
  • Browsing the marketplace and talking to people about the HoverAid charity and the work that it does reaching the otherwise unreachable in Madagascar 
  • Hearing Adrian Plass talk in the ToyBox Cafe - a wonderful mixture of the amusing and the serious.  Including why Joseph is the character in the bible who best understands inner wholeness, why having a note of the names of the mid 90's Sri Lankan cricket team tucked away inside your bible could prove useful, and the importance of not trying to navigate further than Milton Keynes before you are married, 
  • Mark Melluish (following Simon Ponsonby's lead) and abandoning his planned talk for the final evening and instead talking about Love.  Based around the story of Bartimaeus he talked about the importance of being interruptable, ready to stop, listen, pray and make room for others in our busy lives.
When we collected the car from the car park at the end of the week it was covered in dust - just what you want after a week's camping as it only happens if there was no rain to wash it off :-)   We've had wet weeks at New Wine in the past and dry weeks and I have to say that, whilst both are fun, the dry ones are better.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in running this year's conference and I pray that the people attending this week will be similarly blessed as were those there last week.