Joy at Kempton Park – Sunday 17 June
I’m sure many of us in the past have been prompted to ‘step out of our comfort zones’ or ‘dream bigger’, but when the call is from someone you truly love, can you really say no!?
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Rowena Cross, the Director of Mission, Evangelism & Discipleship at St Saviour’s Sunbury, who, along with her husband Ron (Vicar of St Saviour’s Sunbury), has birthed a vision and initiative stepping far wider and dreaming far bigger than they have before. Bringing thousands of ‘church-goers’ and ‘non-church-goers’ from the local area to worship together at Kempton Park, and not only that but also feed them, all for FREE!
Caught by this incredibly infectious vision, I went to find out more…
How did the idea of ‘taking over’ Kempton Park come about?
On holiday last year my husband came to me and said, “I’ve been praying, and our vision isn’t big enough!”. Now, our vision here at St Saviour’s is big, it’s ‘Radically transforming lives in the love and power of Jesus’. Ron and I think large, it’s go large or go home! So, I was like, fine – whilst sat on my sun lounger.
When we first came here [St Saviour’s] I had a flash of a picture of people worshipping at Kempton and thought that was just my imagination and didn’t think anything of it.
Ron’s prayerful prompt spurred Rowena on to ‘go large!’…
I went to Kempton and said, “Hi. We’ve got no money and we’re doing a ‘Love Sunbury’ weekend.” Which we were always planning to do. A weekend of working with local companies and going out and showing Sunbury we love them, through social transformation, prayer, etc. “I want to culminate it in this massive celebration, so people know that God loves them. There is nothing in it for you, but can we have it for free?”
They said, “Can we think about it?” Then came back to me a week later and said, “Yeah, you can have it! And we’ll help you with the car parking, the stewarding and the first aid.” So, myself and Ron sat there for an hour staring at each other thinking ‘Oh! We’ve actually got to do it.’
Through some encouragement, from a friend here at St Stephen’s, Rowena got in touch with the Luis Palau Association, Philo Trust and New Wine to help support this vision, all of whom said a big fat yes. Rowena found she was being encouraged by some ‘small world’ personal connections between herself, the Luis Palau Association and Philo Trust, and the encouragements didn’t stop there.
Now ‘The National Weekend of Invitation’ [run by the trust behind ‘Back to Church Sunday’] are involved, because it’s the same weekend as The National Weekend of Invitation, and this came as the Church of England decided they were going to get behind [their campaign]. I didn’t choose this date [17 June], this was the date Kempton gave us. So, it’s Father’s Day and The National Weekend of Invitation!?
Rowena continued to share the reason for her passion for evangelism…
For 34 years no one told Ron and I about Jesus, we’d never met a Christian and we lived in London. That isn’t possible, that’s a big fat lie. No one had ever invited us to church, no one told us about Jesus, we weren’t given the option about making a choice! So, I promised God, when someone finally did share the Gospel with us – and we were all in from day one – I would tell as many people as I can.
At this point in the getting ready for this event we’re in the ‘oh my goodness, we can’t do this’ phase, we have to keep focussed on why we’re doing this – so we can preach the Gospel.
Why are you getting so many churches involved?
This is not about OUR church, this was never about building our church. It’s about building his [God] Kingdom. The reason we’re working with all these other churches, in all these other areas, is because when someone gives their life to Jesus we want the person who prays for them to take them to church the next week, even if they have to take a bus or hire a minibus, to physically take that person to church and walk that journey just for a couple of weeks.
The next step on the discipleship journey is ‘how do you build roots?’, and that means you need to be in a good church. A good church, for me, is someone who teaches you the bible, who teaches you not to compromise on your faith, who teaches you Jesus is the be all and end all of your life, and if you are in relationship with him everything else will flow from that. You need to be taught that, it doesn’t just land in your lap. God doesn’t wait for you to know everything, he says ‘go out and do it and I’ll equip you while you’re doing it!’
It was a minefield trying to think of a name, but what I kept coming back to was joy is like forgiveness, it’s a choice. It’s a God given thing. It’s not an emotion like worldly happiness – ‘let’s have fun!’. And we wanted people to see the ‘Joy of your salvation’! We tried all these different words, but we kept coming back to ‘Joy’. We needed something that wasn’t ‘Christian-ese’. It does exactly as it says on the tin – Joy at Kempton Park.
What can we can we expect from the day?
It’s like a family festival. We have a big stage; Dougie Doug Doug is going to be doing a set for the families. We’ve got artists such as Noel Robinson, Throwback Kid, Tracey Leanne [from X Factor], Daughters of Davis – hilarious, they do a really good covers set. And, Andrew Palau is flying over to preach.
The Gosp-Ability Choir have agreed to come, who are singing for Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding. It’s a choir full of people you wouldn’t think would be in a choir – you’ve got people with cancer, people who are depressed, people who suffer from anxiety – bringing people together to do the unlikely.
Tracy Leanne, who was in X Factor last year and got through to the finals, was being helped by our Foodbank whilst she was doing that. She came back after and said, “I can’t tell you how much you helped me when I needed it. I want to do something for you.” I said would you sing for us!? So, she’s singing, and that’s beautiful because that’s a story of what God can do.
So, it will be two hours of music and laughter and preaching and then we will ‘attempt’ to feed the 5,000 for free, using supermarket surplus food to highlight the huge food poverty vs. food waste in our area.
Rowena and the team are reaching out to the schools, doing assemblies, and homes in their parish to invite those outside the church to come along…
We’re going to knock on all the doors and offer to pray for people and invite them along. We’re trying to go as large as we can. We will be reaching out to secular media nearer the time as well as the Christian media. The reason [for the event] is to preach the Gospel, so if people want to invite their friends then bring them along – but you don’t have to.
Rowena went on to explain that they want believers as much as they want non-believers…
If we just invite 5,000 people and no Christians where do they see the light? We are his hands and feet on earth. You have to have a combination of both. You have to have Christians who are filled with joy, worshipping with abandon so people say “No one told me this is what church is about!? I want some of THIS, and they don’t want anything from me!?” That’s why it’s free, so nothing gets in the way of the truth of the fact that they are loved.
As well as changing the lives of those who haven’t been to church before, Rowena also hopes for ‘Joy’ to shake up the faith of those who have been attending church for some time…
We’re all saying, “It’s for these people [those who have been invited, who don’t regularly go to church].”
But God’s up there saying, “No it’s not! It’s for you lot [the regular church-goers].”
If it hadn’t already, by now the ‘interview’ had turned into a conversation and Rowena was sharing story after story of the encouragements they have had in the process of planning the event. One including a prophetic image given to a couple at St Saviour’s 20 years ago, saying they will be part of sharing the Gospel to Sunbury and the surrounding area. Rowena also shared the encouragements she is finding in the bible’s scriptures at this time.
One is in Matthew, it says ‘Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking it’s impossible. But with God everything is possible.”’ (Matt 19:26). And then Acts 2, because Peter stepped out in Acts 2. It literally says, ‘He stepped out and he preached the Gospel.’ When he really didn’t want to, it was all going wrong, and 3,000 people gave their lives to Jesus! If anyone needs to know why they need to come, why they need to get involved – read Acts 2!
If we want to help with the event, can we? And how?
YES! We need pray-ers. You could serve on a catering team. There is something for every gifting. And we need people to help with hospitality, people to be welcoming and looking after people, and keeping an eye on them. You can never have too many of those people.
There is identical evangelism training (you don’t have to do it twice, it’s the same) on the 2nd and 3rd May, run by the Luis Palau Association and Philo Trust. Then there is response training, if you are on a prayer or pastoral team we need you, the training will be on the 13th June. One hour in the evening to equip people.
We’re doing a renewal evening on 13th May at 7pm, which we want everyone to come to. We’ve got a big band, All The Kings Pieces, coming from Wales to do a prophetic, spirit led ‘ROOAARR!!!’ – I’m imagining Braveheart, legging it out the church ready for Kempton.
So yes, we need you, we want you. We need Christians who are on fire for God. We don’t want ‘trained’, ‘professional’ people. We just want people who love Jesus, it doesn’t matter what that looks like.
As we came to the end of our conversation I feel Rowena’s last words were the most challenging and faith building…
I really want my answer to be, yes. I want to step out of my comfort zone for the rest of my life for Him. Does everybody know about Jesus? No. So when they do, I’ll stop.
So, come and join Rowena, Ron and hundreds of others from the local (and wider) area on Sunday 17 June at 10am for ‘Joy at Kempton Park’ – praising God and showing the joy of your salvation! For all the latest details visit the ‘Joy at Kempton Park’ Facebook page.