A Noisy Spiritual Retreat

by Gerry Lynch last modified 21 Aug, 2014 04:27 PM

Hundreds of churchpeople from across the Diocese attend the New Wine summer festival

“The impact of gathering with thousands of other people from all over the country to worship is immensely powerful and moving.” That was one Wiltshire vicar’s verdict on his return from this year’s New Wine summer festival.

For many churchpeople, New Wine is one of the highlights of their year. As is usual, a large number of people from the Diocese attended this year’s event, conveniently located at Shepton Mallet, just over the diocesan boundary into Bath & Wells.

New Wine is a genuinely massive event, with around 25,000 people coming to the 2014 festival, entitled ‘United’. It’s so big that it’s a one-week festival that runs twice, in successive weeks. While it’s famous for its big stage charismatic worship, rock festival-style, that’s only a small part of what New Wine does.

New Wine aims to support local churches as they change the world around them for the better, so a large part of the festival is geared to equipping and training people to better serve God and the world.

The first New Wine summer conference was 1989 – New Wine is now an established phenomenon. So what makes New Wine so successful after a quarter of a century?

For Jonathan Triffitt, Vicar of St James’, Southbroom in Devizes, family is a big part of the festival’s appeal.

“New Wine is a great family event. It’s the highlight of our children’s year”, he says, “Our oldest kids, who’ve grown up going to New Wine since they were toddlers, are now taking leadership roles there. As a Dad, that’s great to see. As they’ve grown up, New Wine is where I’ve seen them really grow spiritually.

“We thought about going to a different festival this year, because it’s important to hear different voices in the Church, but New Wine is so special that our children didn’t want to go anywhere else.

Martin Smith at New Wine“Although the worship of the festival is in the Charismatic Evangelical tradition, people who attend come from churches in a wide range of traditions. There are a wide range of spiritualities expressed at New Wine, including people from middle-of-the-road Anglican Churches and a very noticeable smattering of Charismatic Anglo-Catholics.”

 

That’s borne out by the variety of parishes in this Diocese who send groups to New Wine. Some are parishes well know to be rooted in a lively Evangelical tradition: St Mary’s Longfleet; St James’, Southbroom; St Paul’s Sherborne; St Luke’s, Parkstone; Canford Magna Parish Church; and St Paul’s and St Francis’ in Salisbury, to name but a few. Some of the parishes for whom New Wine has become a big part of summer have a more mixed tradition, like St Mary’s, Lytchett Matravers and St Thomas, Ensbury Park. Others, like All Saints, Broadchalke, are very definitely ‘middle-of –the-road’ village churches.

For Jonathan, however, the magic of New Wine isn’t so much because of its Church tradition, but because of the depth of faith and attentiveness to God at work in the world that surrounds it.

“For me, New Wine helps to gently build and maintain my faith. We’re always so busy ‘doing Church’ that we can get worn out. The testimonies of where God is working and what he’s doing in other people’s lives, for me, really helps to release and restore faith.”

The theme of restoring energy resonates with another Vicar in the Diocese who’s a New Wine regular, Ali Mepham from St Mary’s in Lytchett Matravers.

“New Wine is a noisy spiritual retreat.” says Ali, “Some people have quiet spiritualities and some people have noisy spiritualities – I’m in the latter camp! So the very lively, charismatic Evangelical, worship at New Wine refuels my batteries for the year.

The Arena at New Wine “There’s so much going on – worship, seminars and events available at different times. I’m putting myself in the way of encountering God and learning more about my faith. It’s a place you go to where everyone is expecting to meet God.”

The power of being together with thousands of other Christians, where faith is the norm, is another theme that resonates with Ali as much as with Jonathan.

“We spend so much of our time working in environments where people don’t believe in God and are sometimes sceptical about Christians. That can be draining”, said the Dorset priest. “So, the highlight for me this year was sitting in the presence of God, without me putting my expectations on Him. That meant I could be alive to the presence of the Spirit and enjoy seeing what He was doing for people.”

For Jonathan, however, the real benefit of New Wine will only be seen in the weeks and months to come.

“As with any festival, the real challenge for New Wine is how it impacts when we come back to our communities."

Further information: www.new-wine.org 

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