There is something oddly refreshing about packing up for the weekend and hanging out in the countryside. This year’s ChristChurch London Student Weekend Away was back at Carroty Wood in muddy Kent, and it was, quite literally, a breath of fresh air.
I can’t put my finger on why, but the process of getting to know people is accelerated radically just by spending an entire day together. Maybe it’s seeing them bleary-eyed at breakfast, in their pyjamas with no make-up on and realising they’re actually no good at mornings either (although no-one is more like Scrooge in the morning than I am. Seriously). Maybe it’s seeing them delirious at midnight, when a ten player game of Uno has gone a tiny bit too far and everybody’s verging on hysterical. Maybe it’s seeing how much of a fussy eater they are, and whether they prefer to dangle in mid-air on a high ropes course or pretend to be Legolas in archery. Maybe it’s those three-hour conversations in the middle of the afternoon where an extraordinary range of topics are endlessly examined and exploited.
Maybe it’s just time.
This weekend away was characterised by the sheer amount of time spent with other people. I am reliably informed that the Friday night was spent testing the boundaries of student silliness, with Haribos being stuck on faces and human pyramids built and destroyed (I had a date with the Phantom of the Opera that evening, but the photographic evidence paints a thousand words).
Saturday was a day of friendship and faith. The teaching this year was focused on encountering God, and it was uplifting to see that what we were hearing, about His desire for relationship with us, was being immediately put into action. God definitely met with me this weekend, and I’m pretty sure He had things to say to a lot of other people too. He’s pretty cool like that. There was time to spend in prayer and worship, focusing on Him and listening to Him speak. This was followed by a good old-fashioned bonfire that kept everybody occupied for the night (why are bonfires so mesmerising?). Sunday was to be spent preparing ourselves for the real world again, learning how to hear from God amidst the threatening cries of coursework deadlines, and how to put His words into action.
It was wonderful to spend so much time in community with everyone, surrounded by nature, the only distractions being each other. In London, despite encountering hordes of people every day in one of the most bustling cities in the world, true community seems to be notoriously hard to come by. We are too busy, too stressed, too far away to concern ourselves with connecting with friends on a deeper level. But I reckon that the kind of friendship found in Carroty Wood isn’t just reserved for one weekend a year. Kent doesn’t have a monopoly on fun. You don’t have to completely thrash everybody in archery to spend time with them (Did I say completely thrash? I meant beat them hands down… With grace. And humility). The activities provided on the weekend away were a brilliant way of having a good time together, but it’s easy to forget that we live in one of the most exciting places in the world. There is definitely fun to be had in London too, especially at Christmas time.
Maybe the process of getting to know people is accelerated radically just by carving out a few hours in our hectic London lives and saying ‘let’s spend some time together’.
Image: Campfire by Doug Beckers, used under CC