Recently I had the unanticipated experience of finding myself at a barbeque with a bunch of guys from the special forces. As Poole is a military town, with a Royal Marines base in the harbour (home to the SBS) this experience was not so surprising as it would have been when I was living in Sidcup. Nonetheless, it was an interesting evening.
When I was 17, my burning ambition was to join the Parachute Regiment, and I took the initial selection tests for officer training. By the time I got to university and had spent a few months in the Officer Training Corp that ambition waned, and my life took several different turns. Twenty years later, despite regular lurches towards pacifism, I still feel a measure of regret that I didn’t spend a few years in the military. If I had my time again I think I’d give it a go.
The past few days I have been away at our Together At Westpoint event, which gathers churches from across the south and south west of England, and beyond. It was a truly wonderful time, and I loved every minute of it. About 140 of us were there from Gateway and it was an excellent time of hanging out together and eating lots of cake – as well as superb times worshipping Jesus and hearing great preaching.
It was interesting how often military themes came through at Westpoint. We are a pretty militant lot for Christians! Rather than the church on the back foot this was the church advancing. One of the real highlights of this was our offering at which £101,000 was given, which was pretty impressive as their were less than 2,000 of us at the event. There might be a recession on, but we’re not participating!
One of the truisms about events like Westpoint is the number of unsung heroes – the real foot soldiers – who make the thing happen. All those people who never appear on a platform but labour away making sure the showers work, and the kids are looked after, and the site is tidied. We said goodbye to one such hero today – Joe Nolan, who has been on a year team at Gateway and is now heading off to Exeter University to read theology. Joe has served us so well, in so many areas. I’m going to miss him.
We finished Westpoint with a barbeque. There weren’t any SF soldiers there, but as I looked around there were a whole crowd of men and women who are very special, and a force to be reckoned with. There’s nothing like the local church.
It’s amazing who you can meet at a barbeque.