7,000 youngsters celebrate their faith at Newday
2009: While one new young people’s camp this summer is keen to remove God from the proceedings, another that has been held in Norfolk all this week has God unashamedly at the heart of proceedings. Keith Morris went along to take a closer look.
Newday, the well-known annual summer Christian youth festival organized by the New Frontiers group of churches, set up camp at the Royal Norfolk Showground near Norwich this week. It is aimed at 12-19 year olds and attracted 7,000 young people (double the numbers from its launch five years ago), including visitors from Japan, Portugal, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, France, USA and the UAE.
They filled the vast Showground site and brought with them the largest Big Top tent I have seen in my life, as well as bumper cars, a climbing wall, skate park, cafes, chill-out zones and an obvious enthusiasm for both their faith and for putting it into practice.
Thousands of the youngsters took part in social action projects right across Norfolk during the day including running skate parks, free car washes, holiday clubs for senior citizens, kids holiday clubs, cafes, fun days, litter picking, fence painting and garden tidying. Their efforts have been widely recognized and welcomed by local MPs, councillors, Police and residents.
Religious belief, instead of being a hindrance, is instead the motivation for these young people, as Joel Virgo
, from the Newday team, explains: “We want to give young people the opportunity to roll their sleeves up, get their hands dirty and really show something of the love of God in practical ways. That can involve all kinds of things; clearing up litter, tidying up, clearing up neighbourhoods.”
Newday has some things in common with the ‘atheist’ Camp Quest but has more than a few differences, say organisers: “Newday is also very much in favour of ‘rational enquiry’ encouraging the young people to investigate the claims of Christianity for themselves, to engage first hand with what the Bible teaches and to think how faith makes sense for young people in 21st Britain,” said Joel.
“Contrary to Camp Quest’s sceptical approach we fundamentally disagree that religious belief is a hindrance to ethical and moral behaviour.”
Morning seminar with topics such as “Pray Life a Gladiator!, “Jesus and Dating” and “Broken Britain Needs some Mending”, provided plenty of food for thought.
And the enthusiasm shown for social action was also in evidence when thousands of the young people packed the Big Top in the early evening in a rock concert type atmosphere to dance along to lively worship songs amidst the flashing lights and then to hear from well-known youth preacher and Soul Survivor leader, Mike Pilavachi.
A larger than life figure, Mike spoke about the Holy Spirit and the revival which began with the Wesley brothers in Fetter lane, London in 1739. Mike quoted John Wesley as writing: “About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground.”
Mike held his young audience spell-bound and when, at the end, he offered to pray for youngsters to receive the Holy Spirit, hundreds instantly filled the aisles. So many came forward that the large ministry teams were overwhelmed.
But despite a two-and-a-half hour session with Mike, the night had barely begun with the youngsters spilling out of the Big Top to fill the music and karaoke bars and cafes, non-alcoholic of course, or ride on the bumper cars or do a spot of abseiling.
The evening was rounded of by a bouncing, jumping set from Christian hip-hop band 29th Chapter. Or at least I think it ended there, as I made my way home with the site still buzzing with activity and happy, excited, young people everywhere.
And the only Policeman I saw all evening was the one on stage praising the litter picking and fence painting from earlier in the day.
Definitely worth checking out if you are young enough, as they will all be back for the next two summers.