Christian events are back online

The CHRISTIAN summer festivals have been widely live online for a second year, but the success of the Keswick Convention in person is likely to encourage those planning future events.

The three-week teaching and worship gathering, in its Lakeland setting, normally attracts 12,500 participants. Its main tent can accommodate 2,800 people. The organizers remained true to their plan to move it to a new house on the site of the Pencil Factory, where the old packing hall and an adjacent marquee could accommodate 900 and 1000 seats respectively, while respecting a distance social one meter.

“We were very lucky,” said COO David Sawday. “We have reduced the number to comply with the third step of the government’s roadmap so that we can still hold the event, even if we have not reached the fourth step. We had half our membership, but still a large congregation in every way. “

The conventional had trusted the brand, said Sawday, “knowing that we would do our best as we could.” Covid safety precautions had included lateral flow testing, and there had been no infections among staff, volunteers and responders on site: there had been only one case reported by a visitor to the during the three-week period, which ended on August 6.

“We had a great time Monday morning when the restrictions were lifted and singing was allowed. We sang ‘Great is your faithfulness’, and it was very moving, even for those who had crossed the border from Scotland, where singing was allowed earlier, ”he said.

The fresh air, the scenery and being in Keswick were all part of the attraction, he acknowledged. But the event was also held online, and there were high levels of engagement, with 181,000 participants online over the three weeks and around 65,000 hours of viewing. “People who come for a week on vacation can now do the other weeks online; some will even look into a vacation cottage if they have children. It’s also a wonderful way to have this relationship with the supporters.

There is no Greenbelt festival this year (News, May 7), but the offer of a camping weekend during the August bank holidays at Prospect Farm, at the festival site in Boughton, more a weekday rally (News, May 14), was enthusiastically accepted. up: 1,500 campers are booked for the weekend, which is now full, and bookings continue to flow for the weekday offer.

Despite the familiar presence of the Jesus Arms bar and the Tiny Tea Tent, the organizers stressed that this was not about “Greenbelt lite”: not a festival but a gathering. There are organized things to do, live music in the evenings and workshops, but no published daily schedule.

“It’s obviously a lot smaller, but it gives us the opportunity to try things, learn lessons, refine things,” Greenbelt Creative Director Paul Northup said Tuesday of the Week. last. “There are no big stages or big productions: everything will be delivered to the campsite itself; it will therefore be very intimate and very focused on the camping experience.

Many of those who booked were “people who would come to Greenbelt even if we moved to the North Pole in the short term,” he said. “But there is also a pinch of people, a contingent for whom vacationing this summer has been such a vexed experience, and who are wondering: why not go camping with the Greenbelt community for our vacation this year. ?

“There is certainly a feeling that for many people this will be their first experience of a ‘mass rally’ coming out of the pandemic. What we are hearing from people is that they prefer to try this experience with a community that they can trust and that will respect people’s different approaches to Covid security, in a really sensitive way and caring about the community.

“There are a lot of different dynamics, I think, at play when it comes to these people coming in, but, yeah, it’s the major Greenbelters that have the lion’s share of bookings. “

Those events that were only online for a second year, such as the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, developed an enhanced experience, encouraging groups and communities to meet and share together and submit their videos. The spiritual nature of it had also developed, Walsingham Schools and Young Pilgrim Officer Caroline Ward said with images of the interior of the Holy House of the Sanctuary Church. “We have learned not to be afraid of silence online, with just a picture and time for reflection.”

Organizers of the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) are encouraged to have 170 exhibitors registered for their first post-containment show, October 12-14, at Sandown Park (News, July 23). Although it is normally around 200, there was a climate of optimism, Steve Goddard said Monday.

“Everyone just wants to be back. We are very happy to have already booked several hundred visitors, but we are aware that it will take time for people to fully come with us. Many prefer to book at the last minute.

Part of the exhibition has been moved to the Esher Hall, to reassure visitors in wider aisles. In terms of exhibits, many of the new technological resources, especially around the streaming of services, are designed to help churches respond to the changes and opportunities presented by the pandemic.

The 18-month absence was an opportunity to step off the treadmill and reflect on the way things were done, Mr. Goddard said. “We are not promoting the ‘old familiar’ but the ‘new different’. The Bible says 396 times, “And it happened.” He never says, “And he came to stay.”

On August 5, the government finally announced an insurance scheme for the live events sector, which contributes £ 70 billion to the UK economy and supports over 700,000 jobs. The industry has fervently campaigned for more than a year for a government-backed insurance plan to cover costs incurred if the event were to be canceled due to Covid restrictions. The new regime will run from September 21, 2021 to the end of September 2022.

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