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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Christian festivals: summer essential, escapism – or something more?

Darby Vincent is LICC’s Digital Lead. Her weeks are typically filled with webpages, emails, iced vanilla lattes, indie video games, and crochet projects galore.

But when the summer festival season hits, she’s itching to pitch her tent in a muddy field, listen to top-quality talks, play spikeball ‘til the sun goes down, and then enjoy questionable and watery cups of hot chocolate and DMCs with her church family.

You’ve got it. She’s a festival enthusiast. But she’s equally excited about the God-given encouragements and opportunities that she sees every single day. Here’s why… 

Tell us about your experience of festivals growing up.

‘I was six weeks old when I went to my first festival. I’m pretty sure I was the youngest person there! And then, throughout my childhood, we went to festivals every year as a family – Catalyst, Stonely, and Newday, to name a few examples. We’re all seasoned festival attendees and love serving on the different teams at these events – be that kids’ work, stewarding, or prayer ministry.’

Why do you love going to festivals?

‘Festivals are filled with fun, fellowship, teaching, and time with God. They’re a beautiful picture of heaven. You’re worshipping with people from loads of different backgrounds, and you immediately feel like family! It’s easy for the rhythms of our week to feel mundane and to forget the bigger picture. Festivals are a great way to break out of this, to expand your vision of what God’s doing in our nation and world, and to go deeper into your faith. I always come away from them inspired about how God could be at work in my job, city, and friendship groups.

‘I love being surrounded by thousands of other people who love Jesus. You’re reminded that, even if you’re the only Christian in your workplace or street, you’re part of a bigger family, a bigger story – God’s multicultural family and God’s salvation story. There are thousands of others at the same age and stage seeking to faithfully serve Jesus and partnering with him to grow as disciples and make their places more like heaven. I’ve made deep and lasting friendships at these events which have been hugely influential in my walk with the Lord, and for which I’m truly thankful.

‘Festivals are often filled with precious times to talk about faith questions, both big and small, and to share life together. And as well as deep conversations and time set aside for worship and teaching, there’s loads of time to have fun! Think sumo wrestling, nerf gun arenas, tuck shops, card games, and campfire ‘cookery’ – anything from the humble pot noodle to a fabulous fry up. Oh, and I nearly forgot the endless supply of baked goods… there’s never a crumb left at the end of the week.

‘Finally, festivals are a great place to connect with charities and resources that help you to live faithfully and fruitfully for Jesus. You’re probably not surprised that, at the end of a festival, I don’t really want to leave!’

So, in Darby’s own words, festivals are ‘well fun and mega encouraging’. But they’re also not the be-all and end-all. She firmly believes that God is with us in our everyday spaces and places – he works through us to transform our ordinary places. And festivals can be a key part of being equipped for that work. 

With that in mind, what advice would you give people who are attending a festival this summer?

‘Have the best time! Throw yourself into everything the festival has to offer and get equipped and inspired to live with Jesus in your everyday places and spaces. Ask yourself how you can apply what you hear and discuss to your normal routines – Monday’s music groups, Tuesday’s teatimes, Wednesday’s walks with friends, Thursday’s thankless tasks at work, and so on.

‘But, at the same time, don’t feel the pressure to go to every single seminar, talk, and session. Festivals can be times of spiritual refreshment, but they can also be super draining – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s easy to get sucked into a holy hierarchy and to start comparing yourself to others. But the reality is that we’re not saved by the number of things we attend, but rather by the grace of Jesus Christ. And there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy teaching and fellowship when you’re back home and in your normal routine.

‘Also, the post-festival crash is real. You leave on a massive high and on fire for Jesus. When you get home, you’re excited to get up with the sun to pray and spend time in God’s word. But then, on day two, you hit the snooze button and, when you finally get up, you feel super discouraged. It’s hard to readjust to normal life.

‘I’ve struggled with this plenty of times. Recently, I’ve tried to reframe my expectations about what the festival’s for before I go. They’re wonderful spaces to intentionally set aside time to spend with God. You don’t have to rush away to set up tea and coffee after the service, and you don’t have to do any housework, or admin, or commuting for days.

That means there’s loads of time to digest the content, which is fab.

‘But I also remind myself that God is also speaking to me and working through me when I got to normal church services and when I go about my day-to-day tasks on my frontlines – my workplace, neighbourhood, and friendship groups. He’s equipping me – and all his disciples – every single day. It just looks different, and often feels different, to when I’m at a festival. We need to not be overly reliant on these few festival days and get excited for everyday encounters with our loving Father, too.’ 

What would you say to those who aren’t going to a festival this summer – or have never been to a festival before?

‘Festivals are an absolute privilege. But for many people, they’re not feasible – be that because of annual leave allowances, accessibility needs, or accommodation. Camping’s not for everyone! And that’s totally cool. You’re not a lesser Christian because you’ve not been to a festival. Wherever you’re spending your summer, God is at work. And he wants you to join him in his work, right where you are. And church services and groups are also great places to get equipped and to enjoy lots of the things that make festivals so great – teaching, fellowship, corporate worship, prayer, and more.’

So, whether or not you’re going to a festival this summer, remember God is working 24/7 – and he invites you to join him in this work. The 51 weeks of ‘normal’ life are why we have the focused, fun-filled time at festivals. Put simply, you’re invited to the ‘Frontline Fest’ – to enjoy fellowship, fun, and fruitfulness in your everyday context. It might be a bit less muddy and we can’t promise the endless supply of baked goods, but we do know that these moments are just as God-filled as any festival seminar.

Darby was speaking to Sophie Sanders, Marketing & Communications Executive, LICC.

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