From 23-25 June, 38 members and friends from Herringthorpe URC, Rotherham, gathered at The Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire, for their Church Away Weekend.

Rev Matt Stone, Minister, relays what they did, “We started on Friday evening with dinner and an icebreaker game, before moving into worship and our opening session. Our speakers for the weekend were Mike & Alison Davies, who are part of the 24-7 Prayer Network and who lead a prayer community in Nottingham. Mike began by getting us to explore our feelings around prayer. It turns out that most of us struggle with prayer and feel guilty for not praying enough! Thankfully, on Saturday, Mike and Alison led us in 3 sessions that would help us connect with God in deeper ways. We explored the themes of Intimacy with God, Walking and Being Real, and Praying in Community.

Mike and Alison’s sessions were very practical. After some introductory teaching, there was space to simply be with God. Alison had prepared some prayer stations for us, and offered us a range of different tools and techniques to help us connect and engage with our Heavenly Father.

Alongside the adult sessions, the children explored the theme of prayer by looking at the Lord’s Prayer, as well as three encounters with God in scripture: Blind Bartimaeus hearing Jesus’s question “What do you want me to do for you?”; young Samuel hearing God in the Temple; and the thief on the cross who recognised Jesus’ kingship and asked to be remembered in God’s kingdom.

On Saturday afternoon, between sessions, there was some free time, with people heading off for walks or to visit local attractions, and on Saturday evening we had a range of party games that were great fun! These free/social slots helped build deeper relationships between church members across the generations, and there was space for pastoral conversations too.

After breakfast on Sunday, we had an opportunity to reflect on what God had been saying to us as individuals and some people chose to respond creatively, writing poems and prayers, and using artistic gifts. During our closing worship, many of these gifts were shared and there was a real sense of God’s Spirit moving amongst us, ministering in our hearts and minds. We may have gone feeling unsure and guilty about our prayer lives, but we came away feeling more strongly God’s love for us, and His desire to share life with us – with all its ups and downs.

In the car on the way home our 7-year-old asked if we could have a church away weekend every month! That wouldn’t be do-able, but we might have one again in 2-3 years’ time. The feedback from those who came has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are grateful for the support of the Discipleship Development Fund, who provided money for our speakers costs and to fund our children’s places and activities.”

 Rev. Matt Stone, on behalf of Herringthorpe URC

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