CVM Gathering report 2016
At the end of June the CPA took a small group to “The Gathering”, a men’s festival organised and run by Christian Vision for Men and held in a field near Swindon. Equipped with tents, bacon, burgers, beer from a Christian brewery, CPA T-shirts and wellington boots, we arrived on the Friday afternoon for a perfectly timed downpour and groups of soggy men frantically trying to pitch tents on a muddy field – Bear Grylls would have been proud…
With a break in the weather the BBQ’s came out before the first evening meeting. After a keepy-uppy competition hilariously hosted by Steve Legg of Sorted Magazine, CVM President Carl Beech welcomed the men from all around the UK and quickly established some codes of conduct which included the banning of all fruit for duration of the event, and the exclusion of any flag waving or interpretive dance during the worship times. Throughout the weekend various offences were disclosed and dealt with severely by the occupying military, the Armed Forces Christian Union.
The evening meeting also featured a powerful message from CVM Executive Director Nathan Blackaby about change in our lives, and worship lead by Graham Kendrick and his band. The rousing sound of 2,300 men belting out the 90’s classic “Shine Jesus Shine” was one of the highlights of the weekend, and this classic 90’s song has now become something of an anthem for The Gathering!
Following a short break and a perusal around the “Mess Test” at all the exhibit stands and a free cup of tea we found ourselves with a pint-in-hand and sitting back in the big tent for some stand-up comedy from Paul Karensa, a very funny man and a great way to get the really get the weekend in full swing!
It would have been remiss to begin Saturday without a bacon and egg roll – so we did! Refreshed and well-fed we trudged through the increasingly sodden field for the morning meeting, which featured an incredible talk by Mike Vickers who has waked with a large wooden cross all around Europe to spread the Gospel message. Carl Beech also interviewed the boss at Compassion UK about their work and there was plea to all the men to sponsor a child in poverty.
The afternoon consisted of seminars, a car display, axe-throwing, human archery, 5-a-side football, scalextric, Euro 16 on the big screen…and some more rain and mud! One of the best parts of the weekend was meeting new people and as we were sporting our trendy CPA T- Shirts we had many conversations with people about the work of the CPA, and made contact with serving officers, police staff, and others who had connections with the police service.
The evening meeting was incredible. There was a tangible expectation in the big tent as we kicked off with more hilarity about breaches of the “no fruit policy”. The main meetings were punctuated with some very powerful testimonies from men who had been stuck in desperate lives of crime, addiction, drugs, prison and depression. These men had found forgiveness, hope and release from their situations through a relationship with Jesus. Carl Beech wrapped up the evening meeting by speaking from God’s word with passion and conviction. At the end of the meeting he called on the men in the tent to make a commitment to Jesus if they hadn’t already. With an overwhelming and unprecedented response, about 200 men came forward and came to faith under the canvas of the tent and a brilliant rainbow in the sky!!
Sunday Morning featured more testimonies from men who had found faith in Christ and grown in their relationship with him through tremendous adversity. Roy Crowne from HOPE gave the final talk of the weekend from Romans 12 encouraging us to be experiential, to endure and to be an example in our faith which prompted more men to commit their lives to Jesus!
The whole even was rounded up with “manly” communion (chunks of bread and flagons of Ribena!) which was a great opportunity to unite as brothers in remembrance of Jesus ultimate sacrifice for us.
The weekend was so inspiring and such a great opportunity to spend time together, meet new people, encounter Jesus and just have a great time that we have already booked to go back next year. I would encourage every bloke to book a ticket and come with us. We have plans to have a CPA stand in the Mess Tent, and to have a greater CPA presence to share the work that we do and link with others that are in the police service or who have an interest.
The website www.thegatheringformen.com has more details and instructions on how to book. If you’d like to go as part of the CPA group please contact me.