I spent 3 days last week in Stuttgart in Germany as a guest of the something called the Kirchentag. It’s a great gathering of Protestant Christians from all across Germany. There were 30,000 active participants and over 100,000 visitors to different events all across the city. I was there to meet with German pioneers and to take part in a seminar on the English experience of forming fresh expressions of church. But the whole event got me thinking…. Why can’t we do something on this scale in Sheffield?
So how about an annual Sheffield Christian Festival? One which tries to draw together every stream of the Christian church in the city and region and celebrates our common faith? A blend of Greenbelt and Taizé and New Wine and Soul Survivor and Spring Harvest and Walsingham only right here in this city and region. Can you imagine it?
I’ve been reflecting for some time on the absence of strong Christian festivals in the north of England, especially since the demise of New Wine North a couple of years ago. I’ve been trying to imagine how we could start slowly and build something here: perhaps camping out on Doncaster racecourse or Beauchief Abbey. But camping is not really that appealing. And it would be hard to offer something for everyone in a single event or style. So how about something stretching over a long weekend which draws people into the city and celebrates all the different churches have to offer? Isn’t it the kind of thing a humble, confident church should be doing?
Almost 25 years ago the churches of this city and region combined in a remarkable way for Mission England. Many still remember that as a high point of collaboration. There was much fruit. Perhaps the idea of a City Festival is part of the answer.
I’m the kind of person who sometime has ten ideas before breakfast. Not all of them are good ones. Those who work with me sometimes bear the scars and have learned to sit on me from time to time. But every so often, there’s one which is worth pursuing. How about it? An ecumenical, regional, annual Festival of Christian Faith in Sheffield to build up the churches, to strengthen faith and discipleship, to witness to our common faith, to celebrate God’s love and make an impact across our region. First one in 2017? Let me know what you think.