>Take one large house on the Suffolk coast in the shadow of a nuclear power station. Add about 80 people of all ages. Allow to blend for about five days. Garnish with good weather, new friendships, exploration of the Bible, late night conversations, wide games and several people falling in the boating lake. Et voila! You have a wonderful church holiday at Sizewell Hall. Thanks to everyone who was there, who visited, who organised, cooked, led groups, prayed for us and who played in the table tennis tournament (I am too modest to mention who won it).
I came back having had a wonderful time, but very tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week!
While we were there someone commented that it was a bit like the Acts 2 church community where we shared so much of our time, space and selves. They are onto something there. Is this one reason why God seems to speak powerfully on occasions when groups of Christians go away together, whether it is to big events like Sprinkle Harvest or Roll Survivor or whether it is a youth group going away for a weekend or a church holiday like ours at Sizewell Hall? Of course there are other reasons too, such as being away from distractions, being put into a different context, intentionally going somewhere to encounter God as well as being part of a temporary community.
One of the things that is different from the Acts 2 church, however, is that they were outreach-focused. All of the events I have described are focused inwards, on those who are attending. The Acts 2 church grew not because they were so lovely to each other but because they were expressing their faith practically. I am constantly challenged by the phrase ‘they gave to anyone as they had need’. The traditional way of seeing that is to think that it is about looking after the needs of all the new believers. But the ‘anyone’ is not qualified. If they really did look after the needs of anyone who was in need I think that would explain how they grew so rapidly and how people were being added daily to their number.
So what happens on these wonderful occasions away is only really significant if we put into practice what God has said to us while we have been away when we get back.
Two stories about holidays, at least one of which is true:
Two ladies went on a skiing holiday with a Christian travel group. While out on the slopes one day one of them felt the need to relieve herself. Obviously there were no toilets so her friend suggested she go behind a pile of rocks where no one could see her. The lady ski-ed over to the rocks and crouched down, one-piece ski suit around her ankles.
An ardent traveller decided to spend most of her Mediterranean holiday sunbathing on the roof of her hotel. She wore a swimsuit the first day, but on the second, she decided that no one could see her way up there, and she slipped out of it for an overall tan. She’d hardly started when she heard someone running up the stairs. She was lying on her stomach, so she just pulled a towel over her rear.
“Excuse me, miss,” said the flustered hotel manager, out of breath from dashing up the stairs. “The hotel doesn’t mind you sunbathing on the roof but we would very much appreciate you wearing a bathing suit as you did yesterday.”
“What difference does it make,” the lady asked rather calmly. “No one can see me up here, and besides, I’m covered with a towel.”
“Not exactly,” said the manager. “You’re lying on the dining room skylight.”