God-Filled Youth Festivals 2023

This summer, young people from around the diocese have been making memories and forging friendships at Christian camps all over the country.
For some, these festivals are a first encounter with God – the planting of a seed that requires nurture and care. For others they’re a place for affirmation and adoration, as young people committ to putting Christ at the centre of their everyday lives.
We caught up with a few of our youth leaders and churches, to find out where God’s been at work…

Having not been to a youth festival since before the pandemic, Youth Worker Lou Mcgoldrick and a team from St Paul’s Church in Oadby, accompanied a small group of young people to Satellites in Shepton Mallet – a youth festival run by the Christian oranisation, Youthscape.
The five-day gathering is designed to help, equip and encourage teenagers to live with God at the centre of their lives for the other 360 days of the year.
Satellites included a breadth of seminars, from racial justice, climate justice and AI, to relationships, being a good friend, getting creative, looking after your mental health and supporting LGBTQ+ young people. There was also free coffee and treats to keep the Youth Workers going!
Lou says: “The main meetings and worship were really powerful, but equally the after-hours acoustic worship was also a great way to connect with God in such a simple and authentic way.
“We choose Satellites because of its authenticity, its core vision of putting God at the centre, its inclusivity, and the fact that it’s at the cutting edge of current issues while, of course, being lots of fun!”
In a change from the once-a-week, often term-time only ways youth leaders get to connect with young people, there are benefits to spending more concentrated periods of time together – particularly when camping is involved. Lou explains: “It’s very difficult to replicate the quality time you can have spending several days together - doing life together - and it’s so encouraging for young people to see so many other young people who love Jesus, doing their best to follow him,” she says.
“I think our personal highlights were getting to pray with some of the young people, seeing them so motivated to go to seminars, to listen, learn and bring back to the group what they had discovered.”
For many, it seems, this summer has made a lasting impression upon their lives. Lou says: “A true sign of a good festival is sadness to go home and the excitement to come back,” she continues. “They are already planning on who they can invite next year or how they might serve the festival - and that is a feeling shared by the young people and the team of leaders. We can't wait to go back next year, and I’d highly recommend Satellites as a festival.” Home | Youthscape

St.Luke's Church in Thurnby have been taking young people to Hungarton Camp for 20 years. The ‘camp’ is on a farm owned, and generously given over to them for one week every summer, by the Dixon family who attend Knighton Free Church.
This year, 22 young people and 15 leaders pitched up in the field for four days of fun, friendship, festive food and faith-finding.   
During the week, they journeyed through ‘The Big Story of the Bible’, learning about Creation, the fall, the Old Testament patriarchs (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David), Christmas and Easter. Throughout all of this, they were focusing on how God always was, and always is, with his people.
With four days to fill, there was also time for swimming and a farm tour, as well as giant inflatable fun, rope swinging, songs around the campfire, a silent disco, crazy games, a delicious Christmas dinner including a visit from Santa, and an Easter egg hunt with the Easter Bunny.
Lydia Goodman, Youth Work coordinator at St Luke’s, spoke to us about the importance of camp in terms of bringing young people and their families into a relationship with church and God, saying: “This year, the majority of young people attending the camp were from non-church families and have been attending our community youth group on a Friday night, therefore camp was a really amazing opportunity for us to share Jesus with them for the first time. 
“It was also a really great opportunity to build relationships with young people and serve them and their families. We hosted a big reunion BBQ in the week following camp for the families of the campers and this was attended by around 95 people.” 
Lydia says the significant moments of camp were seeing the young people discover Jesus for themselves and put the pieces together. She explains: “One camper had a really pure moment when he realised that the 'serpent crusher' we had been learning about all week was Jesus who was born at Christmas. Another camper, who has additional needs, was very tentative about coming and his parents were worried as he had never been away alone and had struggled with school settings and trips. He had the most amazing time and was quoted saying: ‘I've had the best time of my life!’
Through generous giving from Thurnby’s church family, Lydia and the team were able to give every camper their own youth Bible to take home with them. She says: “When we gifted these to the campers and explained that people from church had donated money towards them, they were really moved, and one camper said: ‘They must think we are really special.’” 

A group of young people from St Nicholas Church in Fleckney enjoyed themselves at the annual Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage in North Norfolk. With its title and theme of Illuminate, they spent their time thinking about how God illuminates us and we in turn are to shine with Christ’s light in our own lives and circumstances.
Fr. Philip O’Reilly says: “The pilgrimage was the usual mixture of inspiring worship, great fun, and fellowship. Although the weather was very challenging at times, in many ways we fared better than the original forecast. It was fantastic that the number attending this year was treble the 2022 figure.”
The national Youth Pilgrimage at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham goes from strength to strength and continues to be a vital part of many churches’ youth ministry and a potent method of evangelisation.
Fr Philip adds: “Indeed, it is a setting in which many young people make a deep commitment to Christ or first sense a call to serve in Christian ministry. Our young people are determined to come again next year and to try to bring some friends as well.” www.walsinghamanglican.org.uk

First published on: 30th August 2023
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