I’m sat on a bench in the walled garden, on a warm and cloudy day. It promises to be the third scorcher in a row. We only had a few brief showers since we arrived but there are still loads of people, mostly teenage girls, wearing wellies. And you never seen such a variety: as well as bold single colours we’ve tulips and roses, hearts and butterflies, spots and stripes, plus a selection of abstract patterns. At first I thought it was just some weird fashion statement. But I’ve since decided that it’s an example of God’s grace. And there are plenty of other examples this week.
And as for fashion sense… You really have never seen anything liked it. Trendy teenagers, middle-aged predictable men. Slogan T-shirts and branded outdoor gear abound. And then there are the “youth-worker trousers” (you’ll have to ask the actress Sarah Grace about them)
Our speakers are a mixed bag, too. Mike Breen is tall and handsome, immaculately dressed and speaks with a proper English accent. He strides across the stage waving his hands as he reveals the humour and pathos of Biblical events. Then he descends almost to a whisper as he arrives at his main point. He plays his audience as a conductor leads an orchestra.
In contrast, Don Williams wanders round in T-shirt, jeans and shabby anorak. He speaks quietly and almost hesitatingly from the Bible as an old Grandfather dispensing wisdom. Elaine Storkey sits on a stool and chats to the audience as if to her family. Her husband Alan addresses his students with quiet authority born out of his years of study and experience of his field, yet responds to questions and challenges with great respect. And Amy Orr-Ewing, who looks too young and beautiful to have any great message, speaks from a deep love of God and some powerful experiences of his work among the toughest situations.
If I was interested in churchmanship, I could find reasons to reject every one of them. But God has obviously worked in and through these people as they have surrendered to him, and he is speaking through them this week.
Praise God we don’t all need to be the same to enter his covenant or be part of establishing his kingdom.