We had the most amazing time at the Royal Lancashire Show, which took place from 22 to 24 July.
Our aim was to be a Christian presence and to offer a place of rest, refuge and hospitality and to highlight the local needs in our rural communities and how they can be supported. Alongside that, we raised awareness of the growing crisis in our climate and the issue of climate justice.
We certainly experienced the variations of weather following the heatwave from downpours which knocked out our electrical supply to instant sunshine and stifling humidity. But nothing could dampen the atmosphere in the Church Tent representing Churches Together in Lancashire.
My team of Denominational Ecumenical Officers were supported by Fair Trade Preston who provided complimentary tea, coffee and juice to all who came in seeking a place to sit and take a break. Around the café area, visitors could learn about the work of A Rocha, Christian Aid, Age UK, Farming Community Network, RABI (Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute), Preston Street Pastors, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Hope for Justice.
Christian Aid presented a seminar each day on “Climate Justice” brilliantly announced by one of Lancashire’s Town Criers who called upon the people of Lancashire to come and help “Save the Planet!”
There was a separate space for children organised by the Diocese of Blackburn’s Children’s Work Advisor, Sarah Earnshaw, who with her team had devised some ingenious and challenging tasks for learning about and combatting ocean pollution.
Although we went home each evening, it did feel like we had lived together in a very special community. We began and ended each day with prayer and reflection culminating in a most moving service for the Show led by Major David Taylor, NW Divisional Commander for the Salvation Army supported by the Blackburn Citadel Band.
Just as the service began the heavens opened adding to the numbers gathered inside… our God indeed reigns/rains! The breaking and sharing of bread was led by Major David with Fr Peter Hopkinson VG, the DEO and church leader for the Catholic Diocese of Salford, the Rev Phil Gough, newly-appointed interim Chair of the Lancashire Methodist District and the Very Rev Peter Haswell-Jones, Dean of Blackburn Cathedral. Not for the first time, God made his dwelling in a tent and those present found themselves on holy ground.
The visitors to the Tent, many of whom don’t really get the divisions in the churches, thought it was brilliant that we were all working together to offer this place of rest and refuge and help make a difference to the local and global community. We were particularly blessed by a visit from a group of Muslim ladies from Burnley who insisted on sharing their lunch with us.
One of our neighbours, Marc Morris, a blacksmith, had a mishap when the wind blew his tent away. Our team came to his rescue helping to erect a makeshift tent and offering a comforting cuppa. As the service drew to a close Marc came in with an iron cross that he had made especially for us as thank you for just being there.
Another highlight was a visit by the Rev Kate Bottley and the Songs of Praise team. Yes, we will be on the “telly box” on 28 August along with the bright and beautiful of Lancashire and its creatures great and small.