Something was happening across the nation. The ‘charismatic movement’, which rooted back to the early sixties in the UK, was now gathering momentum and house churches were springing up in many places. Through the seventies a new phenomenon was taking place in the UK, summer Bible Weeks. The Keswick Convention had, of course, been blessing people for many decades but now something fresh was happening in the charismatic wing of the church.
This new phenomenon drew hundreds of people to gather with tents and caravans on some large tract of land – an agricultural showground or a racecourse perhaps – and meet daily in marquees for a week’s teaching. Personally, we attended the Capel Bible Week (successor to the Abinger Convention), on the land of the Elim Bible College, from 1974-76. Then the Dales Bible Week, hosted by Bryn Jones, was launched in Harrogate, a northern market town, and hundreds started travelling there from the south of England.
Downs Bible Week
A few weeks before we set out for Harrogate in 1978 we felt God tell us that we were to host a similar Bible Week in the south in 1979. He sovereignly revealed that it should be held on Plumpton Racecourse, near Lewes in Sussex. ‘Who would organise it?’, Terry asked. I felt a surge of excitement, as did his church administrator in Seaford, Trevor Brierley. And so Trevor and I went to the Dales Bible Week with notepads in hand to learn as much as we could from their experience.
Terry’s next question related to numbers: ‘how many could we cope with?’ I thought of a number that seemed ridiculously large: ‘one thousand’ I said. In those days that was indeed a large number in charismatic circles. But God had other ideas and when we publicised the Downs Bible Week bookings poured in. We had 2,900 that first year, which had grown to 8,500 by the time we closed it ten years later.
It was at the Dales Bible Week in 1978 that I asked Terry to tell me if he ever felt I should be ‘full time’. I knew a call on my life from the age of 9 and then again at 31; I was now 37. We were in a crowd and he did not appear to have heard. Since I had not really intended to say it (I still do not know why I did) I did not repeat the request. However, in his letter of 1980 in which he invited me to be his administrator he reminded me of that request: ‘Did I still feel that way?’ Since it was still on my heart and was a promise from God I unhesitatingly picked up the phone to say ‘Yes’.
Next time, the final posting in this series, we will see how the first ‘team’ came together.