If you remember back to the very early days of CounterCultural. CounterCouture. (when I was still using Blogger!), you might remember I wrote two posts on the Keswick Convention (Life On Team|| K4K at the Keswick Convetion and Really? My week as a conventioneer). After all, I have been to 15 conventions and 7 of those involved me being on the K4K team. I even wrote a couple of posts about what to pack when off to a Christian convention! Am I devoted to the cause of convention-ing or what?
(I’ll stop blowing my own trumpet now)
It has now been three years since those posts. That means it is about time for an update about all things Keswick. To make this update even better, it was also a special year for two reasons…
Those of you who are crazy enough (in the best way) to stop by CC.CC. on a regular basis might recognise Annabel and Catherine. My two best friends who have sacrificially given up their time on occasion to feature in various posts… because my time management is so bad I had double booked seeing them with doing something blog-related.
Well, 2017 marks the year I took them to the Keswick Convention. A whole week of camping, eating, teaching and walking… so much walking! We did find a way to make it more fun but more about that later.
Since I was 10, my family have always camped on Crosthwaite Campsite. Yes, even the year I missed the Convention they were still there camping as usual. We might not quite be part of the furniture yet but I’m pretty sure we’re on our way to it! So I was pretty excited about bringing the only two people that me and my mum agree on being family camping with us.
Fortunately, we had some excellent weather and no rain until Wednesday. It wasn’t even heavy until Thursday, which is great by Cumbrian standards. To make life even better (what could be better than camping in sunshine???), Catherine brought an inflatable tent… and I’m now kicking myself for not taking any photos of it! Straight away, it removed all the aggro from putting up a tent with poles and we just had fun taking it in turns to pump it up. Seriously though, pumping it up was a workout with the hand-push pump we had. Working on our biceps!
The rest of camping was pretty straight forward, mostly due to the good weather we had. The showers always take some getting used to for people new to Crosthwaite Campsite but then again they are completely open though single gender (phew!). We even had a pretty good kitchen/storage and sleeping/living divide going on between the two sections, complete with a no shoes unless absolutely necessary policy. I honestly don’t think I have ever managed to keep a tent quite so clean.
Of course, there is one highlight to camping at Crosthwaite. While we may not be as communal as Spring Camps at the other end of town (complete with whole campsite meals), we do love to be one community. Part of that is every evening of the Convention (including the Saturdays!) there is a 20 minute hot chocolate and praise in the marquee on site. While I don’t tend to make every evening (when I go to week 3, I’m normally found at St. John’s for the Night Shift), the evenings I do make are always fun. Free hot chocolate always goes down well but combined with various songs I’ve been singing since I was a toddler makes it a brilliant, if sometimes embarrassing, highlight of the year. In fact, this year Mike, one of the committee, decided to “ask” who had been singing the grace at the end of every meeting since they were children. Obviously Steph and I willing embarrassed ourselves by sticking our hands up as high as possible! Annabel and Catherine just kept quiet and pretended they weren’t with us… like sensible people should. However, by the end of the week we had Catherine joining in the actions and Annabel just laughing at us for being big kids. But if best friends can’t drink hot chocolate while laughing at/with you, then are they really best friends? If anything, the two of them were more eager to get back in time for the hot chocolate than I was! I think I can count that as a success!
This is one of my favourite things to do while in Keswick! You cannot blame me considering the choice of fish’n’chips, cafes, bakeries and sandwich shops there are! I even stopped in Booths, my favourite supermarket, to get some bacon and plum loaf to take home with me!
However, this year was a little different. Where I normally camp with my parents, we will spend far too much money on fresh produce from Booths, buy lunch most days from Brysons Bakery or Booths, and eat out at least once if not more. As three twenty somethings, Catherine, Annabel, and I decided to be a little more frugal. So we made a meal plan and while driving to Keswick stopped in Penrith to do the food shop. With most of food coming from Sainsbury’s instead of Booths, it was definitely a cheaper holiday… not to mention eating with a vegetarian kept the meat costs very low!
However, there were definite upsides to eating with a vegetarian. I have now been converted to the wonders of Linda McCartney sausages and Quorn mince as alternatives to satisfy my meat cravings. We also managed to eat a lot of fresh produce because vegetables are generally safer to keep in a cool box than meat is. Saying that, by the end of the week I was craving something more than mushrooms and carrots if I’m honest.
Nonetheless, being on a frugal meal plan doesn’t mean you can’t eat out when on holiday! I introduced the girls to the Old Keswickian, the Lakeland Sandwich Shop, Brysons Bakery, and Laura in the Lakes Cafe. Just four of my favourite food-related places in Keswick. The Old Keswickian’s chips got a huge thumbs up after a smaller than expected meal (kale cooks down way too much) and the Sandwich Shop kept us going while walking through Ashness Fell. The girls also finally got me into the Golden Hills, Keswick’s Chinese restaurant. The duck chow mien was delicious as was the glass of rose I enjoyed with it. Way better than I expected a house wine to be! But for me, the real icing on the cake was getting Catherine and Annabel hooked on plum loaf. Baked by Brysons, it is available in both of Keswick’s supermarkets as well as the actual bakery. It is delicious and utterly addictive! Catherine even took a loaf home with her!
Bascially, the Keswick food scene didn’t let us down. Really, can you say you’ve been to Keswick if you haven’t tried at least one chip shop, one cafe/coffee shop, and plum loaf?
So the teaching at the Keswick Convention is always great. 100% centred on the Bible, robust and to the point. And, yes, a little conservative for some people…
This year was no different. If anything, it was more robust than normal. Don Carson was leading the morning Bible readings on Galatians, where we looked at how the Law of the Old Testament no longer had any control or responsibility over those who were now under Christ, i.e. Christians. It was an idea I was familiar with but as Don went through five chapters from Galatians, he showed it in a new light, 100% based in scripture. Anything I had previously felt about my faith being based in my feelings, i.e. how I felt about God at that moment, was washed away. I was reminded how my faith is based on the truth of the Gospel, which does not change. In particular, the Wednesday Bible reading on the Law as our Guardian before Christ came was incredible. That was the moment when I realised/remembered that the Law, also known as trying to be good enough, was not going to get me anywhere. I needed to accept that in Christ’s death, I moved from being a slave under the Law to being a Daughter of the King. That is downright kickass!
It doesn’t stop there either. Where I would normally have a lie in at Keswick and a lazy morning before heading up to the 11.15 Bible reading, Catherine and Annabel were determined to make the 9.30 seminars. Not wanting to stop them, I joined them for ‘The Bible Applied to Life’. A series of four seminars led by Alistair McKitterick, we looked at how we can apply Scripture to life today. This included seemingly irrelevant verses like the law to not cook a baby goat in the milk of it’s mother. It was a really interesting series and gave me lots of food for thought. In particular, Alistair was keen that we see the social sciences as tools to be used alongside and carefully compared to the Bible. Not swept aside in a “science vs. religion” style debate. (Goodness knows, we’ve had enough of them!) I definitely need to read back over my notes but I also feel a lot more prepared for the next time someone asks me why I wear polycotton when the Old Testament Law teaches against wearing two types of fabric next to each other… once I’ve studied that verse, obviously.
So apart from the community atmosphere on the campsite, the great food, and the even better teaching, what is it about the Keswick Convention that makes it so special? Well, it is in the Lake District… and you do have whole afternoons free to do whatever you like. For me, that is what really sets it apart from other Christian festivals and conventions. There aren’t many where you can have great teaching in the morning, hike through the fells or swim in a lake in the afternoon, and finish it all off with worship in the evening.
We managed to get four walks in this year. Latrigg and Ashness Fell were brilliant as I got to share two of my favourite walks with my two best friends. Steph also accompanied us on those walks, which did result a large amount of reminiscing about previous years at Keswick unintentionally. Latrigg was particularly fun as it was windy and raining on the Friday, resulting in Catherine almost being knocked off her feet at least once. It may only be a small hill, not even a mountain, but the views from the top are stunning. We could even see the campsite though not our own tents.
The other fell that we climbed was Cat Bells. One of Keswick’s famous fells, I had never climbed it before this year. Yes, it definitely is a climb with various rocky areas where you are using your hands to secure yourself to the rocks you’re scrambling up. For me, Cat Bells is even more special. You see, while I am okay with being up high, I’m not a fan of high wind on steep or sheer drops. Cat Bells definitely qualifies for having some steep drops along the way. I genuinely didn’t think I was going to make it all the up to the top. Definitely had some crab/spider impressions going on while I was clinging to the very rocky-scrambling sections of the walk. There may even have been a very unflattering picture of me taken looking through Catherine’s legs while flat against Cat Bells. That one will not be appearing on the blog, for obvious reasons.
Our other success was walking the whole perimeter of Derwent Water in 6 hours, including detours for geocaching, a waterfall, and ice cream. Now I call that an achievement! It was a beautiful if hot day for a walk and I loved regaling/boring Annabel and Catherine with my find memories of the parts of the lake nearest to Keswick. However, once we were past Ashiness Bridge’s jetty, I was in unknown territory and excited to be on a bit of an adventure. We went through all different sorts of environment, from woodland through to marshland and even a village or two. There was even a chance to play pooh sticks on a bridge dedicated to A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin. For three girls who all grew up reading adventure books and climbing trees, it was quite possibly the best walk of the whole week.
After 15 Conventions, I am done with Keswick?
Errr, no way! In fact, I would encourage everyone who reads this article to book their tent, caravan, apartment, cottage, or hotel room as soon as they can! Keswick books up quickly for the three weeks of the Convention quicker than I can demolish a garlic bread baguette… which is pretty darn quick!
Basically, the Keswick Convention offers scripture-based foundational teaching, majestic scenery, fell walking, and excellent food, it is definitely the Christian convention for you. It may not offer whole evenings dedicated to the Holy Spirit or sung worship that lasts for half an hour but what it does offer, it does what it does knowing the Cross is at the centre. That, to me, sounds like 12,000+ people who know a good thing when they go to it.