Really? My week as a conventioneer

Spending time in the Lake District is one of the best things that, in my opinion, one can do for the old trio of mind, body and soul. And no, I’m not moving into the circles of New-Age thinking- sorry for any offence, unsure what else to call it- but just think about it. You can go hiking, swimming or climbing. Spend time away from the internet- yes, a blogger encouraging to step away from the screen- and the TV to be surrounded by beautiful fells. Take a timeout from the monotonous grind of daily life. There is nowhere better to do this than the Lakes. And this is part of what keeps me returning each year for at least one week’s retreat from the world.

The other reason for that retreat is the opportunity to spend time with 3,000+ other Christians in teaching and worship. This year was particularly special as it was their first year with an evangelism week. Our speaker for the morning meetings was Chris Sinkinson and our theme was Really? Searching for Reality in a Confusing World, which we explored through a Bible overview. Chris is a lecturer at Moorlands Bible College, teaching Apologetics and the Old Testament. He’s also studied the historical evidence for the reliability of the Bible and brought it all into his talks, which I found brilliant as a History graduate. There is even a hollow in the area protected by the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine and where the Temple is believed to have stood, that would be the right size for the Ark of the Covenant.

My lunch on the Monday, Wagamama style sweet chilli chicken noodles. Yum!

The evenings had a choice of three; the normal evening celebration with a different speaker each day and worship led by Stewart Townsend; ‘In Conversation With…’ several Christians from a range of walks of life; Film Club with a different viewing each night complete with a discussion on it. I went to the evening celebrations mostly as I enjoy worshiping with so many other Christians. The talks were good though you could tell they were being used as evangelical tools. This is because the Keswick Convention is renowned for deep, biblical study but the evangelistic flavour to this year meant that it wasn’t as deep as in years past. The one night I didn’t attend an evening celebration was to see James Cary, who was the guest on Wednesday’s ‘In Conversation With…’ One of the minds behind episodes of My Hero, My Family and Miranda and one of the creators of Bluestone 42, Jam is makes his living writing sitcoms. To be honest, his twitter handle, @sitcomgeek, reveals just how much he loves them. I found it enlightening as he described the appeal of comedy as a way of revealing truth about society and culture. Basically, we laugh at the uncomfortable situations that happened to the characters because we are uncomfortable with the reality of them. If you watch Miranda on BBC (if you don’t, DO) you can probably understand what I mean. Jam explained how that appealed to him as a Christian through his faith in God’s truth and exploration of it.

James and I paddling/ standing on flat stable-ish stones.

The afternoons were downtime. My friend James had come up for the convention for the first time so a lot of afternoons were spent exploring, both culinary and countryside. He persuaded me to try the Lakeland Pie and Sandwich Shop, consequently resulting in most of our lunches coming from there, e.g. my sweet chilli chicken noodles. I introduced James to Derwent Water and the fine art of managing to stay upright while balancing on stones in a lake. It’s trickier than it looks! We also got lost trying to find the Castlerigg Stone Circle on the Thursday and instead chose to head in the direction of Latrigg, so ended up walking up there.

The town of Keswick from the top of Latrigg.

It was a bit of an insane hike as I was still wearing wellies and had a handbag rather than a backpack as I hadn’t expected much of an uphill climb. We also went slightly cross-country, with James persuading me to follow forester and sheep tracks rather than official paths. But it was fun and I definitely felt like I deserved my chicken tikka sandwich- again from the Sandwich Shop- by the time I had lunch. James insisted on waiting till he reached the top before his but my stomach protested too much. I can’t recommend climbing Latrigg enough, despite self-injuring my tendons and back through ill-advised footwear. It’s technically to small to be a mountain but I think that can work in its favour. If you are new to the Lakes then check it out. If you like good views and open fellside then also take a hike up it. I think it’s definitely in my family’s top 10 favourites.

The woodland on the edge of Derwent Water. Great for exploring.

The evenings were filled with Earthworks and the Night Shift. Earthworks is Keswick’s venue for the Tearfund cafe, IVP bookshop and the various organisations that exhibit at the Convention. One of these organisations that I spent a lot of time chatting with was Compassion. This is because the two ladies representing Compassion are from my sister and parents’ church so we spent a little bit of time helping them out. However, it doesn’t take much effort to make me visit Earthworks, which is open afternoon and evening, as I love chatting with the different representatives and browsing the bookshop.

The Night Shift is the late night entertainment put on by the Keswick Unconventional stream. These are the guys also responsible for the Film Club and Lunchtime Concerts, which I didn’t manage to make this year. Each night consisted of interviews, live music and general mayhem from the hosts, James Carey, Cameron Potts and Nathalie Pownall. The idea behind the Unconventional stream is to provide an outlet for those at the Convention who enjoy the creative arts. Night Shift, however, has become incredibly popular with conventioneers with St. Johns being packed most nights. My favourite night was Sunday, with Andy Flannagan providing the live music. I love Andy’s music and how he uses it to challenge as well as entertain. But in general the Night Shift was fantastic- the cheap tea and hot chocolate from More Tea Vicar helped.

So that was my week as a conventioneer at the Keswick Convention asking the question Really? And was it really worth it? Yes, because nowhere else can I be challenged by the very creation surrounding me while soaking up teaching that encourages me to keep asking questions. The theme for 2015 is The Whole Life for Christ so if you want to come I suggest checking out the website (here). And I hope to see you there.

Looking out from the Whinlatter Pass trail.

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