My social media feed has been filled over the summer with pictures from Christian conferences and youth camps. People meeting together for worship, pilgrimage, inspirational teaching and community building. Simon Hill, our Youth Officer, spoke on the radio about Spree, where many of our young people had a lot of fun, and I was moved by a picture of Justin Welby at Soul Survivor in the midst of thousands of teenagers praying fervently for him.
I had the privilege of a week in a tent on the Bath and West Showground at New Wine, where I was delivering a seminar, but mainly receiving input from others and mingling with wonderful Christian people with whom I shared coffee and wine, and learned much from as we chatted in queues and over barbeques. I came back refreshed and re-envisioned.
There is something powerful about gathering with many others for celebration, worshipping our God in a way which is different from our weekly rhythm. God’s people have always done it. Festivals of different kinds are woven through the Old Testament, and we see patterns emerging of annual pilgrimage, high days and holy days, significant seasons marked out as special in the Church through the ages.
It is healthy to have annual rhythms in our spiritual life which sustain and feed us. Autumn is always a busy time – a new term, perhaps new Alpha or Pilgrim courses beginning – the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury this year for us being a particular focus. I have tried to prepare myself for this by spending time in August in retreat and refreshment, ‘abiding’ with Jesus, reading and allowing some space to grow. It’s important to continue a sustainable routine into the busyness of autumn – short, regular periods of prayer and reflection perhaps or meeting with smaller groups of kingdom people week by week, to learn and pray together and encourage one another.
What are your spiritual refreshment patterns – annually, monthly, weekly? How, at the start of this new season, can you ensure they don’t get crowded out?
In Matthew 11:28-30, The Message translation, Jesus says:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I pray we all, as kingdom people, will learn the unforced rhythms of grace in ways which sustain us, and enable us to flourish.
Nikki Groarke, Archdeacon of Dudley