Dan Holland reports on recent Christian presence at the annual festival
Caleb calmed down the crowd and said, “Let’s go and take the land. I know we can do it!” (Num 13v 30)
Last Year at Download – Getting the contours
Last year I felt like Caleb when attending ‘Download’ (Heavy Rock Festival) at Castle Donnington, to spy out the land. The opportunity came about in the unique way that God alone can manufacture – a ‘random’ exchange of texts with my friend Pat who lives in the locality. I went up for a day to join the chaplaincy team and immediately connected well with the leaders; Sister Barbara, Rev Roy and Rev Andrew, now friends as well!
I returned bursting with ideas and possibilities and definitely wanted to take a small TFM team back with me in 2023. I prayed for six. They were hand-picked, people I believed would be well suited to chaplaincy at Download. They needed to be unshockable, adaptable and possessing the ‘EQ’ to work as part of a much larger chaplaincy team. Oh, and they shouldn’t mind too much heavy metal belting out all day all around the site!
2023 – Friendly, helpful and available
The TFM team of six arrived in bumper to bumper traffic and sweltering heat, along with the largest ever crowd of 120.000 rock fans. We worked alongside the wider chaplaincy, always in pairs, and in liaison with a dedicated TFM and chaplaincy prayer team numbering hundreds across UK. Prayer requests were continually fired back to these volunteers. We needed to keep foremost in our minds that we were attending as chaplains, not evangelists. Nonetheless we circulated the site being as friendly and helpful as possible, but we were careful to allow festival goers to approach us. We were there to listen, not proselytise, and to let Christ in us shine.
God’s kingdom breaking in
Many excellent conversations were had, and the TFM team excelled (though I say so myself!). One morning in the camp area a young man came running up behind us panting ‘are you Christians? Will you pray with me?’ He had broken up with his girlfriend earlier that morning, she had fled the site threatening to hurt herself. He had given his life back to Jesus a month ago and couldn’t understand why everything was going so wrong. He came to the tent later and we ministered to him at some length. There were many other marvellous moments of God’s Kingdom breaking in. Kevin and I had a long chat with two guests, one of whom is a guitarist in a semi-famous metal band, and we may stay in touch.
God gave us favour with the festival organiser Paul, who came personally to thank us for the chaplaincy and to ask us what we needed for next year. The icing on the cake was the inaugural communion service which the chaplaincy conducted on the Sunday morning. 50 festival goers gathered and I even was able to preach the gospel – the blessings exceeded what we had dared to hope for. Gospel seeds were widely sown. God willing next year we’ll be back, and maybe with a bigger team!
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus (Eph 3v 20-21a)
Dan Holland (right) with Rev Roy at Download 2023
Dan Holland is Lead Evangelist with Though Faith Missions – https://tfm.uk.endis.com/
Dan has recently completed two short books “Growing as a new Christian” and “Caring for the new Christian”, aimed at helping churches to set a baseline in mutual expectations as non-Christians take the wonderful step of receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Links here for more information:
“Growing as a new Christian” – https://christian-publications-int.com/GrowingAsANewChristian.html
“Caring for the new Christian” – https://christian-publications-int.com/CaringForNewChristians.html