It’s actually harder than you might think to get out of London. I used to be hugely frustrated with all my London friends when I lived outside the M25. Time and again it proved nigh on impossible to get them out of the big smoke. They all became so irritatingly London-centric. But now I understand. It’s so easy to find yourself inextricably drawn into that default position. And when you think about it, it has a certain logic. After all, who really relishes the thought of being stuck on one of the major arterial roads out of town late on a Friday night? The last thing we want to do after a busy week at work is sit in traffic. I want to sit on a sofa. And not so much sit as slouch. And I want to wake up late on a Saturday morning snuggled in my duvet until such time as I can be bothered to drag my lazy backside down to the newsagent to buy the paper and to the kitchen to brew some coffee. But that ship has sailed. I live a different life now! Now I’m more likely to be found on the touchline berating my boys for ignoring a two man overlap or listening to my daughter tap out the notes to Taylor Swift at a piano recital. I certainly don’t want to wake up in a dorm with a bunch load of strangers and have to queue for the shower. So why do it? Why have weekends away? Why are they an integral part of the ministry programme at CCB? Because they really are.
One word. Depth. That’s what we gain by going away. Depth. We get to go deep. We get to go deep with God’s word. And we get to go deep with God’s people. Going away is a crucial way to stop being superficial and shallow. And by staying in London, busied by all its wonderful distractions, it’s hard to prevent that becoming the norm. The key thing a weekend can offer us is time. There’s lots of it. And it can be given over to the things that ultimately matter. God’s word and God’s people. On a weekend away we can think deeply about a subject. The cumulative benefit of consecutive talks or studies on a subject is invaluable. We can engage with it. Chew it over. Talk it through. And pray about it. And then we can just hang out with God’s people. We don’t have to rush off anywhere. Even washing up or drying up together provides an opportunity to chat at length with someone and find out about their life, their work and their faith. For much of our time in London we’re meant to be somewhere else. We have our next appointment in mind. Someone else is expecting us to do something or be somewhere. But on a weekend away we try to free people up from all that so that they can linger.
We’ve got a few weekends in the programme at CCB. There’s the Knowing God weekend for our Evening Church crowd of young workers, Morning Church Men’s Weekend Away and Morning Church Women’s Weekend. The Evening Church gender specific weekends are in the summer. And we’re planning our inaugural whole Church Weekend away in September. Weekends away have become memorable times over the years. It’s not easy to forget one elder’s astonishment at one young men’s enthuiastic and realistic rendition of Prodigy’s ‘Firestarter’. There was the year that on the return home we skidded in the snow and got the car stuck in the ditch. But I also remember thinking about the nature, effect and defeat of indwelling sin, our responsibility as parents and cultivating our affection for Christ. And those are probably more valuable.