Thursday to Sunday to last week, I attended my first ever festival. It so just happened that it was a Christian music festival. Who knew?!
I’ve heard about Big Church Day Out over the years but never did I think I would get the chance to go, but this year I thought ‘why not?’ One of my words for this year is ‘willing’ and so I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and head to Cheshire with my non-Christian sister to listen to the most amazingly talented worship leaders and bands but most importantly – to connect with my living God.
We decided to go to the first ever BCDO North because it fell at the end of the May half term meaning my sister and I didn’t have to to rush getting anywhere at the end of term. It was a real pleasure to join 10,000 people at this event; feeling God’s presence everywhere we went. My sister and I settled in quickly, despite having issues putting up the tent and getting mildly annoyed at each other (curse words were probably said by both of us in our minds) but in the end, we had a roof over our heads! Here we are looking all happy, chirpy and excited.
I even wore my new festival dress for the ocasion.
The festival officially started on the Friday and we woke at day break. Well, I say we ‘woke’, neither of us had much sleep. Apparently, once I was asleep I was completely out of it though I remember tossing and turning, getting up to go to the loo at least twice! Even though neither of us hadn’t had much sleep, that didn’t deter us. Nothing could keep us from good music! I was hoping and praying that this weekend would reveal to my sister how awesome God is, the music was just a way in.
And in true festival style, so I’m told, the heavens opened and it began to bucket it down. At first, my umbrella and raincoat did the job of keeping me dry but as the day progressed, the heavens continued to pour so we had to pur-chase these rather fetching ponchos:
Don’t we look hot?
Though the rain pelted it down and I got soaked right through to my pants, nothing could turn us away from the awesome music! From Switchfoot to Tim Hughes – the rain could not turn us away. Speaking of Tim Hughes, he is the only reason my non-Christian sister agreed to come to BCDO with me. We grew up with Tim Hughes, I led a Tim Hughes song at my mum’s funeral… even to this day my sister still has Tim Hughes music on her phone. And there she was, right at the front of the mosh raving away to Tim Hughes. My heart swelled with love for my sister but also my God; though my sister refused to see it, God was starting to stir up stuff in her.
BCDO had a tent called the ‘Kingdom Come’ tent in association with ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ and ’24-7 prayer’. My sister and I decided to go to the ‘Kingdom Come’ tent purely because it was starting to rain and we couldn’t be bothered. We arrived in the tent just as hundreds of people were led in the Lord’s Prayer. My sister turned to me at the end of it and went ‘wow, that was powerful’ and in my head I’m screaming YES THANK YOU JESUS! We stayed in there for a while, me worshipping away and her sitting there like a lemon. However. However, one band called ‘Kings Village’ led the tent in one of the most awesome worship songs – ‘God’s Great Dance Floor’. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was out of their seat dancing and praising God. My sister got up and danced with me! I don’t think she quite understood but she partied with me anyway. At the end of the weekend, she said “I liked Kings Village, they threw a good party” and I agree.
I was reminded of a few things over the weekend at BCDO. From Bible verses to song lyrics to what it felt like to connect with my living God. When Tim Hughes was leading worship, he kept referring to the thousands of people as ‘church’. I’d forgotten that us all being there in that field was actually church. It says in the Bible, “Whenever two or three come together in my name, I am there with you.” (Matt 18:20). There were thousands of people worshipping God and He was definitely there! Thousands of strangers, part of the same family… I’d forgotten that. I was also reminded of a verse, that has been turned into a many a songs, that resonated with me this weekend, “He says, ‘Be still and know I am God'” (Psalm 46: 10). I’m not very good at sitting still and listening to God. I want everything to happen in my timing, not His! This weekend, I wasn’t necessarily still (or quiet) but I certainly knew God was God. I am certain He is my Heavenly Father, He is my Creator, His son is my Saviour.
An American band, Casting Crowns, were at BCDO. I’ve been a fan of theirs for years, listening to album after album yet we only ever sing one of their songs in church. Anyway, Mark (their lead singer) gave the background to a new song they sang with us and it really connected with me. I was stood close to that stage, phone in hand trying to write down what he said to remember it and pass it on. It resonated with me because even though I’ve been a Christian for many years, I still struggle with why Jesus would want me. But Mark said something along these lines:
Jesus takes us as we are. There is nothing in the world that could keep us from him. Every single person who comes to Jesus is a complete mess and many people who walk with Jesus are complete messes but Jesus still reigns.
And that got me. It reminded me of Romans 8 where it says nothing can get in the way of God’s love, it reminded me that Jesus died for me the sinner, it reminded me that even though I am a complete mess – Jesus reigns above it all. I just have to remember that.
On the Saturday, there were many, many amazing artists. Saturday afternoon is when I really started to feel God with me. I can’t remember whether it was during Newsboys or Rend Collective but during worship I had to keep sitting down to write a gratitude list. I was going to go into detail for each of the nine things on my list but I’ve been waffling for too long! I’ll just leave my gratitude list with you. I was reminded of all these things on that Saturday afternoon:
- Our God is alive!
- Jesus will take us as we are no matter our past.
- Thousands and thousands of people can join together as one church family to worship our God.
- Joy is real. It is deeper than happiness, it doesn’t change with the seasons or our worldly situations.
- God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
- Music, worship… everyone can come to God in their own way and our souls will be renewed.
- Even in our darkest moments, Jesus is still there.
- Seriousness isn’t a fruit of the spirit but joy is. Worship in joy! (This point comes from when Rend Collective suddenly put panda heads on during a song. They made the point that we shouldn’t be serious when worshipping, we can be silly and joyful and we can wear panda heads if we want too!)
- God is love! His love reigns victorious. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus. LOVE!
And just like that, in a blink of an eye, my first ever festival and first ever Big Church Day Out came to an end. It was an amazing four days, an incredible two days of worship and too much time spent with my sister in a tent! When I booked BCDO at the end of March, I never anticipated that it would impact me this much. I didn’t think God would use it in the way He did. He has inspired me and renewed my soul and reminded me of who He is.
I hope to go back to BCDO next year, hopefully with my sister yet again. If you want to join me – you’d be more than welcome!