600 burgers and hot dogs, 650 local friends, hundreds and hundreds of expectant faces painted, prayers written, gladiator podiums ridden on, gloopy biscuits decorated and munched, sacks jumped in, football played, toddler toys stacked and joyfully knocked over. In summary: 3 hours of glorious fun, sunshine and activities on The Green in Chester le Street.
On the surface, our Redeemer Fun Day, was a glorious “success” – people came, people enjoyed, people left. Tick, tick, tick.
But these “successes” were just the framework; it goes deeper than all of these combined.
New relationships were formed. People were seen and cared for. Seeds for the future were sown. Connections were made. The rule of Jesus’ Kingdom, His care and compassion for these precious friends was shown. Acts of Grace, over and over again.
“Why would you come and do another Fun Day?” “Is it all really free?” were common questions asked. The answers to these questions can be both long and short at the same time. Ultimately, they boil down to the same thing though: “It’s because Jesus has told us to, and He’s a real person and a real King and the One who we live for. And He sees you, He really does and His seeing, His love is personal; it looks like something. And in this moment, it looks like you coming and being hopefully blessed by something that you haven’t asked for, that you just get to receive from and enjoy. That’s called Grace. Undeserved favour…..and that’s the Gospel, the Good News of our Jesus in a nutshell. Can I tell you a bit more about that?”
And these questions have been asked before as we have stepped into this space in previous years’ Fun Days – before the space of Covid time. Having organised Fun Day’s three or four times before, there was a blue print of things that had gone really well previously but there was also a newness to 2023. There was a looking back, but stepping forwards into something new as together, as one church, we look to lean into what God is asking of us and seek to faithfully take the next step in that.
In all big events that are organised, a whole lot of prayer goes into the practical running of the day and we saw blessing after blessing in how God answered these. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect: wall to wall sunshine called people out of their homes and into this communal green space. Neighbours chatted, old friends reconnected, conversations were finished from yesterday. Thank you God! The warmth of the sun on our skin just brought so much joy and meant that the BBQ was a roaring success, the long snake of patient face paintees could wait in the sunshine and the music resounded down the streets. Another answered prayer was food: I have to confess that as more and more people packed onto the Green, I was anticipating that I was going to need to do an emergency Morrisons burger and hot dog run to get top ups! But me of little faith; in fact the food ran out only at 4.50pm, 10 minutes before the end of the event. Thank you God! When the police arrived approximately 30 minutes into the Fun Day, I wondered whether this was a pre-arranged visit or whether they had come to break up any trouble. It turned out that they were just dropping in due to it being a large gathering but while they were there, we were able to talk with them and they were even tempted by the egg and spoon race! One comment that really stuck with me from the day was their observation of how peaceful the Fun Day was. For all intents and purposes, a large gathering in this community space may be a recipe for brewing unrest or fights, but they commented on how peaceful it felt. Wow, this was only because of God’s grace! There were certainly no fights that I was aware of, everyone had a smile on their face, all the activities ran smoothly and all the events ran without any hiccups. Thank you God!
Both in the days and weeks leading up to the event, the set up, running of and pack down, my heart was filled with pride and joy watching how different members of the Church family used their giftings to the glory of God. Organisation, administration, resourcing, team communicating, cooking, creativity, prayer, friend welcoming, management of health and safety, and so many more. It was also such a blessing watching different ages getting stuck in, right from the youngest members of Redeemer up to the older ‘young ‘un’s’! I loved watching our wonderful young adults getting stuck in and helping serve on different events, but then watching their joy and craziness when everyone else was packing down as they painted one another’s faces, took team photos and played around on the grass. Serving, relationship building and fun.
We have known and will continue to know the joy and struggle of reaching out to communities in the area God has called to, across the whole of Chester le Street. We know the joy and struggle of fruit seen and unseen. We know the joy and struggle of dreams dreamed and brought to life that feel so joyfilled, and others that are left with a lingering “Well that didn’t seem to go so well” and that’s OK! Our job is to be obedient. It’s not my might or power that people are saved, it’s by the Holy Spirit so our job is to be the hands and feet of Jesus and go wherever we are to love and serve others.