Now summer is officially on its way out it doesn't seem a few minutes, let alone a few weeks, since races were upon us. And the joy begins all over again soon …
We had a tremendous season this year, particularly given the horrific beginning. The weather was typically Manx – but not necessarily for May and June - and rain looked ready to defeat us completely by the end of practice week.
But God has a tendency to surprise as well as fulfil. The second week picked up beyond belief with our record day and visitor numbers in excess of what we've seen for some years. Our preparation had been done as best we could and it stood us in excellent stead. We finished with one of the best seasons ever, because God said so.
And in amongst all this are those who play a part as the smaller cogs within the bigger wheel; without whom the big wheel won't turn. Every year we seem to find new faces joining the experienced ones, with brilliant moments of the team growing in goodness.
But it is vastly underestimated just how many people are required to make an operation the size of our hospitality flourish. It always makes me laugh when people from other churches say they wish for what we have, when they have never seen the amount of work involved to make it happen: a team of 30-40 can easily look half the size when we have 550 in the grounds.
Each person plays a part and is highly valued for that. Everything from emptying the bins (which nearly always gets left to the same person…) to prepping the food, restocking the toilet rolls, putting out the signs directing people, the early starts, late finishes and sitting around waiting for news to pass on to others: these are small jobs which would jeopardise everything if they weren't done.
It is the background work, the cooking and cleaning, the maintaining and counting, the stock rotation and ordering, the wiping rain off the chairs and stacking them up again at night, which makes 99% of what happens here. Then comes the racing, when the serving and tills come into play. Without it all working together the wheel would not turn.
All roles in a church need people with dedication, for without them we could not hope to support this vital opportunity for who we are as representatives of the Kingdom. The races are vastly beyond simply a source of income (without which we would have serious questions about our future), as chiefly they provide community unlike anywhere else.
Over the years our hospitality has evolved into a community presence where people laughing and enjoying themselves is what the helpers do, let alone the visitors. All those visitors who understand and appreciate what is being offered tell us what a joyous community it is: an example of the Church different from any usual experience of stuffiness or insularity.
It is beautiful seeing someone disenfranchised from the Church now regarding it as concerned about the stranger as well as the friend and, most of all, something they want to be part of.
This symbol of community – of disparate individuals coming together in service for something bigger than themselves - provides a unique presentation of the Kingdom and we must rejoice in that.
Thank you to everyone who has provided this and who will in the future. In doing so, you help increase the presence of the Kingdom in this place when people see God working in us, as we go forward together.