As I write, the last days of racing are upon us and we wait with trepidation and blistered hands for the end of the week. When we can sit down at last without wondering if someone forgot the bread rolls.
Every year we plan and await the onslaught, and every year we find that – despite the intense amount of work involved – there is something strangely satisfying.
I will say it now before someone throws a teaspoon at me, but it is the strange satisfaction of all those incredible hard workers joining together in an indefinable capacity to make something happen. Year after year we find new faces alongside the experienced and, even though there is much to be done, the thing that has been most obvious this year has been the increasing sense of community spirit built because of the races: and not just between our increasing army of volunteers, but among our visitors too.
When visitors to your church feel a sense of belonging and welcome they have not experienced elsewhere, and they see those helping out laughing, joking, and doing their hardest to provide the best environment they can, you know there is something Kingdom-based happening.
There may be (very) long days and the occasional damp brow to be mopped, but throughout it we build an increasingly strong network of friendships and relationships. Foreigners from distant lands (Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Brazil and Leicestershire) sit alongside regulars and (occasionally) locals, all enjoying new things like sausage casserole and coconut slices (though not in the same dish).
Conversations on the car park, talking to the gate staff about the bikes (discussing the best way to roast the sheep on the field), or the odd tickled rib at the tea stall; these are the things that provide an atmosphere that attract people to the Kingdom. When people’s perceptions of God and his people are overturned from the grumpy and miserable to the joyous and lively, these are the memories formed and shared which honour the Kingdom.
So yes, we are all fairly exhausted. And yes, we're glad it's a while until the next lot of races come along. And yes, we'll enjoy the rest, thank you very much.
But if it wasn't for those who do so much – and without realising it – we would not be the Church in this place. So thank you.
And God bless you all.