New Wine 2019
This year we went to New Wine 2019 as our family holiday. It is a place where Christians gather for a week to celebrate, worship and encounter God. It was held at East of England Showground, Peterborough. We camped with our church family and I was quite apprehensive about the whole thing...
My apprehensions were because I've been on christian camp with our last church and on reflection found it to be a glorified AGM that pushed its church planting and donation agenda. I didn't want to listen to church 'propaganda' and feel that if I didn't agree with what was being said I was the one who was 'not right with God or my heart was in the wrong place'. I was worried how my autistic children would cope in this environment, as often kids and teen worship is loud, flashy and in your face. I wanted to gel with our church family and was worried I'd just be left out. I was worried I wouldn't sleep and be too cold! At this point you're probably wondering why on earth we signed up to go, we felt that this is where God wanted us to be which is why we went.
So were my apprehensions founded?
New Wine is set out with different worship spaces and teaching. The main arena is loud flashy with the key speaker and I was really scared to go in because I thought it would be just like before. My husband likes this type of worship but I felt to anxious in this space and shortly left after a few songs. I therefore went into presence, this was just my thing. I loved the worship and the preach. It was a smaller scale and allowed time and space for creative praise. There was carpet to spread out, seats to sit on, spaces for artistic and expressive worship and a space to write what you felt God had been saying. It felt like home. There was also Impact and Hungry which I didn't get to attend but each has its own style to connect with God and theme of teaching.
One night presence was full and I found myself walking over to the arena (God incidence). The teaching was really good and I really felt connected to God. It was not a glorified AGM with agendas or neat happy endings, it was real and raw. I went forward for prayer and found myself returning back to this venue. There was donation envelopes but I never witnessed anything pushy. I do believe that we should give to God and His church but at the previous camp it felt like the donation offering had become what we were worshipping, pushed at every meeting, pledges if you didn't have the money upfront, anything to beat last years total - it did not sit well with me.
New Wine offered this form of teaching/worship each morning and evening, in each of the different venues. They also had very early morning bible teaching - we did not rise early. After this there were seminars throughout the day on specific teaching and themes. There was something for everyone. There were different activities throughout the day for everyone.
The children's work ran alongside this (morning and evening). I have 15, 13, 11 and 9 year old boys. My 9 year old was in rock solid which was at the opposite position to where we camped and was quite a walk to get too. It was a dark room, lit up stage and noisy. He brought along his ear defenders and whilst he did attend he wasn't very keen on it. My 11 year old should have been in boulder gang but we managed to get him transferred to the group above - Club One. This is because his brother and church friends were in this group. He is an early September birthday so just missed the cut off and his friend is 31/8 so they are just days apart. He did enjoy club one and used his ear defenders. My 13 year old attended Club One and reluctantly attended but he did attend. Each space (adults and kids) had their own access space. This is a quieter more spacious area for those with additional needs within the venue, this is where my children hung out.
My 15 year old refused to go to any group/setting. He didn't want to leave the tent area. He struggled to cope. This is not due to New Wine, it is just who he is and how his autism affects him. My husband and I tag teamed care and we did leave him for short periods in the tent when he felt comfortable. He did have meltdowns which we managed and when we go on holiday, this is part of it. Yes we do have to give up our wants/desires so I tried not to over plan what I wanted to do because I know from previous experience that leads to disappointment and primarily I am his carer, wherever we go and whatever we do. It never stops. Holidays can just be generally tricky for us.
Church family, it can be easy to feel left out or on the edge when you join a church where members have known each other for years and years. It can be hard to break into friendship groups. As you get older, time becomes precious and its not always easy to invest in new friendships and previous experiences can also make you wary about new investments. However I didn't feel like a spare part. My favourite part was watching my boys play with the other children, not using technology! My older boys now have new heroes in the form of adults who love board games and were happy to play with them. Even my eldest joined in with the games and I think this was what kept him going. I felt we were accepted and that is a great feeling.
Camping... I am not a natural camper. I had planned all our food and comforts. I wake up if I get too cold and whilst I had a winter sleeping bag on a camp bed, I found i also needed 2 blankets and a warm poncho. I wore full length pyjamas, fleece socks and fleece jumper to bed. I also had an eye mask and ear plugs. Then I slept okay. Cooking on a stove and washing up by hand made me appreciate the appliances I have at home. I really appreciated my bathrooms after the portable loos. It seems weird how we chose to make life harder for ourselves by camping but it meant we had to work together and gave us a break from our everyday, which increased our thankfulness for what we do have. Getting ready for camping required quite a bit of work and organisation beforehand. After the first night, I relaxed into it and enjoyed a simpler way of living. I didn't enjoy packing it all up and the mountain of washing and ironing on the return.
The weather was strange... We had heavy downpours, heavy gusts of wind and then lots of sun. In the end, New Wine had to close early because of weather warnings for extreme winds, gusts upto 50miles an hour. It was the sensible thing to do but I did feel gutted as I was just getting into everything, unwinding and then we had to leave.
So how much was it and would we go again?
For us, a family of 6, 2 youths, 2 children and 2 adults it was expensive approx £750.00. Obviously you need the camping equipment and we needed a van to transport everything. If you serve you can get a discounted price, It would not have been possible for us to serve due to caring etc. Depending on when you book, would depend on whether you could get an early-bird discount. However I do think its worth the money as the program of events start early and there are lots of activities for all ages throughout the whole day and night (till 11pm). There is a delegate day off which I found a bit weird but that's just what they do, we went into Peterborough which is a nice city. I did drop in art sessions, watched movies as a family and I had encounters with God. I felt refreshed. I'm glad we went and would go again. Here's the link if you fancy going in 2020