This was the question facing York Circuit in the summer of 2015. Each summer the Circuit holds a Celebration – a chance for people from churches across the circuit to get together and celebrate all the fantastic mission and ministry that is going on in York and the surrounding area. Previous events have involved brass bands, bouncy castles and barbecues, held in a local school or on a farm. But the 2015 event was so popular that when the brainstorming for 2016's event began the planning team felt we really ought to think big. Really big.
And so York Barbican Centre was hired for Sunday 10th July and the team set about planning a Celebration that would be uniquely special. To emphasise that it was a celebration of what unites us in our diversity the event was named 'together'.
We wanted the day to be a gift and encouragement to all those who work so hard, week by week, within our churches. Regular services were cancelled for 10th July, coaches and lunch were booked, and churches were asked to pray in the run up to the event. Thanks to generous grants from Melbourne Terrace Methodist Church and the York & Hull District we were able to ensure the day was free for all to attend, and to encourage everyone to invite their friends – there would be plenty of room!
Finally the day arrived, and (to the relief of the planning team) guests began to pour into the Barbican from all over the Circuit and beyond. In total, well over 900 people shared in the day, including nearly 100 children and young people. Big Ministries (part of Youth for Christ) led sessions for 5-11s and Methodist Youth President Craig Gaffney led sessions for 11-18s, before we all came 'together' for the final part of the day.
Our sung worship was superbly led by OneSound. Formerly the MAYC Orchestra and Singers, OneSound are the UK's leading Christian youth music ensemble and gave the day a truly celebratory feel, with the style varying from stirring Wesley hymns to modern worship songs. A video showcasing what had happened around the circuit in the previous year was shown, alongside video greetings from Archbishop Sentamu of York and President of Conference Roger Walton.
We were fortunate enough to have the ex-President of Conference Steve Wild come and inspire us about the priority of risk-taking mission, and encourage us to take every opportunity to show the generous love of Jesus in our communities. We were also delighted to have current Vice-President Rachel Lampard speak to us about God's desire for 'oceans of justice' and she challenged us to think about how we can stand up for justice in the current political climate. We also started to put that message into practice with a collection for All We Can's Refugee appeal which raised over £4250.
And so after a day of thoughtful worship, joyful fellowship and an inspiring call to justice and mission, the circuit faces the same question: "What next?"
Photos by Jake Neale.