Take a group of Christians (including some a bit unconvinced), on a weekend away from our ordinary lives, add the amazing scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, wonderful weather, great hospitality, and of course inspired leaders. That is the Scargill experience.
And as someone once said, ‘Scargill is a safe place to say dangerous things.’
So, our weekend theme was Heart to Heart: but Whose heart to whose? God speaking us, us speaking God, us to each other, or all of these?
As we drove into Kettlewell, a huge rainbow, like a promise, appeared over the Dales. We’d arrived a day before the ACW weekend began, and experienced wonderful northern hospitality at the King’s Head, with a view of the church from our window, and the best fish, chips & mushy peas ever.
After a cool summer of too much rain and far too many dry, breezy days with the sky like a dull grey ceiling, everyone needed some sun. The sun came out on Friday morning, and shone over Yorkshire like a blessing, out of a wide, clear blue, sky. It shone as if it never did anything else. (Which it doesn’t: but ‘clouds get in the way’, as the song goes…) Walking through Kettlewell before going on up to the House, a red car passed us, friends waved and greeted. Fiona, Amy, and Shirley. It all began to feel like coming home: so many ACW’s now make the Scargill experience an annual pilgrimage!
And Heart to Heart began: God’s heart to all of us, ours to him, and, also, definitely ours to each other. It’s such a privilege to share our lives: from writing exercises set by leaders, Bridget, Adrian, and their friend the actor David Robinson, came poems, monologues, even songs, telling moving, thoughtful, or humorous stories. We’d been asked to write ‘something we’d never written about before’ . We had to dig deep, everything was heartfelt. A lively performance poem about becoming a mother; an imaginary conversation where Tolkien seeks to reconcile with the already-departed C. S. Lewis; the tale of an brave, eccentric, Jersey-based Granny under the occupation; and several heart-rending stories of childhood hurts and fears. Encouraged as ever by Adrian and Bridget, everyone managed to feel safe enough to say dangerous things.
And the sun shone like an affirmation. Dazzled, we had to pull the curtains so we could unscrew our eyes to see the performers.
I found the conversations special, too. Getting to know many ‘ordinary’ people who are, of course, unique and extraordinary (in a good way!) Where we live is a tiny intellectual hothouse, a corner of a University city where ambition, achievement, and competition dominate. These are of course are in an academic terms. Default is secular and wit is cynical. The Scargill experience is one of balance. Scargill is a place of the heart, not the brain and the intellect, though these are of course important. In the ‘God to our hearts’ area, the message to me was stuff to work on.
It was also a challenge: if you’re in a church which isn’t ‘feeding’ you, how long do you stay to help it along, and if you leave, are you a rat abandoning ship? Just one main worship session over the weekend. I’d been looking forward to it, and treasured it. We’re quite ‘involved’ in our church …So where now?