We were standing with our backs to the wind at the Wickham Festival in early August. Already the weather had brought us; wind, rain and serious mud, I mean serious mud! I was talking with one of our team for the Elemental Tent, trying to explain Buy Ballots Law: ‘With the wind on our backs, we put our arms out to the sides. To our left (low pressure) is the poor weather we are going to get soon and it should be with us in 20 minutes’ time’. I said it with great confidence, however it began to rain heavily straight away! Soon the Elemental Tent was full of people sheltering from the rain. It should also be said that Buy Ballots Law, with low pressure on the left and high pressure on the right is true in the Northern Hemisphere and it is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. However, this is not the only thing that is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere.
‘In 1893, 80% of Christians in the world lived in Europe and North America. Now almost 60% of Christians throughout the world live in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific.’ (Tom Stuckey, Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land). The church in the north and Europe is in decline, but this is not the case worldwide. E.g. China under Communism tried to stamp out Christian faith, but the 1980s saw the Chinese Church grow in rural areas, spreading to the cities. The growth has been so rapid that there are now more Christians there than members of the Communist Party (87 million).
None of this growth is to do with imperial power, unlike in previous times. These people discovering the love of God and friendship with Christ, are largely poor. The churches are lay led; hold to traditional Biblical faith; expect their congregations to live sacrificially; relate to local culture and importantly have a spiritually vibrant belief in prayer and God’s Spirit.
The Elemental Tent, Faith al Fresco and other events offering open spirituality has demonstrated to us that lots of people have an interest in spiritual life and practice. Not everybody turns up for Church Worship on a Sunday, after all I am writing from the Northern Hemisphere, but many people are searching, seeking and find themselves on a journey. One practice we offer people, is the possibility of walking the Labyrinth, a 5,000-year-old practice, but one which many who wish to walk with Jesus find inspirational. When we have offered this experience in the open air, with a Cross of tea lights in the centre, people have often found they have experienced Jesus in their journey. For others it has been an opportunity to reflect on life, love and God.