I have a lot to report, so this may become several posts, but we shall see what happens.
Saturday morning was something of a nightmare. I was really tired and didn’t want to get up (the after effects of a late-night phone call) and so the morning got a really slow start.
I did remember to pack everything, thanks to a brainstorming session with a pen, paper and a great friend on skype. I left the house, got into town, dropped off my books at the library (two weeks late, eyewatering fine), did some shopping that I’ve been promising myself I’d do, went to the bus station – and relised that I’d not fed the cats. I’m not going to be home til mid afternoon monday at the earliest. This is not good at all. Found out that Lorraine was away for the weekend, so nothing for it but to go back home, feed them and get the next bus.
Finally reached my destination:- Marquee plus mum and dad and thousands of friends at about 5:30pm, 3 hours later than I wanted to. It annoyed me that I was so late, because this weekend was pretty important to me. Only 3 days ago Noel, a man we all looked up to, respected and admired passed away. I knew people would be feeling sore and lost, and my speciality is being able to see in someone’s face when they need a hug, so it really bothered me that I missed the first session of the bank holiday.
That said, the Saturday evening session was really good. There were very few tears. Individual people had moments of sadness as you would expect; but corporately, as a church, the mood was one of celebration of a mans life. Noel had always been unafraid to follow God’s word and challenge the status quo. He was never afraid to offend someone, if by that offence he pushed them away from something harmful, or a dangerous thought pattern, or laziness.
Throughout the weekend people paid tribute to him in their many and varied ways, telling stories that had the whole tent shouting with laughter or solemn for a moment. For a weekend when I was a little apprehensive of not being able to move for tearful people mourning en masse, it was a beautiful time.
The details of Noel’s funeral were announced, among which featured prominently the request from Noel himself, “no black tie, this is a celebration!” which is just such a Noel comment that I think it’s going to be one of the most colourful funerals in the history of Northampton! It is a standing room only event, which pretty much says how loved he was. The Jesus Centre in Northampton can hold approximately 2000 people in the main auditorium, and the expectation is that the auditoruim and all available overflow rooms will be completely full.
There was a video made by Trevor and Steve of their visit to Sierra Leone to several churches there who are part of the Multiply network. It was vey moving, seeing how these people live and function day to day, and there was great laughter when it was noted that Steve pumped up and gave to some of the children a new football – Steve gained a whole gang of 12 year old best mates!
Later in the evening, still on Saturday, a group of leaders from other Multiply affiliated churches were bought on stage, introduced and invited to speak for a few moments each. Some of these men lead chruches in places where it is illegal to be a christian, and their lives are in danger daily, but if anything, it makes them stronger. These men have no fear of what man can do. They would say that they fear more what God will say at the end.
When we finally got to the end of the evening and got back to Mum and Dads place I had the pleasaure of putting up my tent in the dark, which was an interesting experience, but it did mean a very peaceful night after supper was eaten and I’d gone out to sleep – until 5am when the dawn chorus started!
I think that’s all about Saturday, the rest of the weekend will follow soon!