On Saturday 17th September, 450 people gathered at Lightwater Valley for the URC Yorkshire Synod BIG Day Out! The BIG Day Out takes place biennially and is an opportunity for all ages to come together from across the synod for friendship, fellowship and fun. At 5pm, after the team have enthusiastically waved off the last of the guests the BIG tidy up begins. Full of adrenaline and yet totally exhausted, we pack away our equipment and resources and look back on the last 24 hours and our experience of the BIG Day Out 2022…
The work begins on Friday to prepare the venue; boxes are unpacked and instruments unloaded, sound systems are rolled into the building and gazebos are driven out around the park to be erected first thing on Saturday morning, resources are checked and crafts are prepared as paperwork is checked and invoices settled. At 4pm we head to Ripon to check into our accommodation and meet a little later to share a meal. It is an early night for us all as we consider the anticipation of welcoming 450 guests to Lightwater Valley the following morning.
With the final preparations complete it is time to head to the entrance where all of the nerves and anxiety give way to the excitement and joy as we greet the lines of people who arrive for their BIG Day Out experience.
All too soon it time for Worship Together where almost 150 people gathered to listen to the story of Abraham, the ancestor (36 times removed!) of Jesus, and to consider the beauty and the blessing of being part of Jesus’ story ourselves. One mother commented about the joy her daughter experienced at being a part of the worship time together ‘My little girl enjoyed everyone singing together and dancing without everyone looking.’ Yes, we sang and we danced!
This year volunteers from the Yorkshire synod hosted worship together, a sing-a-long, an opportunity to ‘Talk to a Pastor’, and short workshops on celebrating the diversity in the URC, recognizing the blessing of children in our churches, and finding out more about the heroes in the Bible. We were pleased to welcome Roo Stewart from JPIT (Joint Public Issues Team) who lead an interactive workshop on climate change and becoming net-zero communities. And this is all aside from the delights of the rides and activities available at Lightwater Valley itself. These activities were attended by smaller groups of people, yet were valued and enjoyed. ‘The activities provided warmth and communion together; I was glad to have been part of them,’ was the feedback of one participant. Another added that ‘they offered a lovely atmosphere and added great meaning to the outing.’ When asked about the Sing-a-long, one participant noted ‘how lovely it was to share singing together, away from the hustle and bustle.’
So if you did come along to the BIG Day Out, we hope that you made happy memories and had a positive, enjoyable experience (please do share your thoughts with us here: https://forms.gle/XoUqGcAaMMjfZHZj7) and if you didn’t attend this year, do look out for information about the BIG Day Out 2024!
Finally, we want to emphasize that the BIG Day Out is a day for EVERYONE. It is also an opportunity to extend an invitation to ALL who are involved in the life of your church, no matter how big or small and no matter how old or young. One participant commented that the BIG Day Out was ‘beneficial for all who attended’ and went on to describe ‘a ‘non-threatening’ environment to get to know family members and groups on the periphery of our church’ and another acknowledged that attending the event as a church ‘strengthens our fellowship.’ One church shared the story of how the BIG Day Out helped them to keep engaged with a family when there is no longer anything locally to invite them to: ‘We have one family (of 6 – 3 children, mum and dad and grandma) who attended our messy church for years. Unfortunately our messy church has now closed, but the Big Days Out allow us to keep in touch.’
So, as far as we can tell the BIG Day Out 2022 was a fabulous success once again. We are delighted that the BIG Day Out was well received by the synod and that all who attended had a positive experience, however we do feel that there is potential for the event to be even bigger and to reach even more churches in the Yorkshire synod. The planning team work really hard to ensure that there is something for everyone, but we recognize that there is still so much that we could do! If you would like to be involved in the planning and organizing of the BIG Day Out 2024, please contact email@example.com.