I wake up at a civilised time in my very comfortable room in a beautiful house opposite St John’s Church in Keswick. Soon after 8am I take a short walk through town to breakfast at the Rawnsley Centre. I am not usually a breakfast person, but this is a great way to start the day by meeting up with the whole team. Our first shift starts at 9:15am so there’s enough time to join the Convention prayer meeting.
Our first shift is 9:15am – 10am. The team is split into groups, taking turns to do different jobs. One group will empty bins around the site, another is on car park duty, and the rest manage the pedestrian crossing onto the Convention site. Being on the crossing means you greet every conventioner during the week, as well as spend time chatting to the security team. Emptying bins means you get to see where all the different aspects of the Convention take place – kids and youth, seminars, Keswick Unconventional, Base Camp as well as the main venues.
Our team meet to pray during a quieter time at 10am, before heading out to man the crossing and car parks again before seminars end and the rush for the main tent begins. Occasionally there will be a request for help over the walkie talkie – tables to be set up, signage to be fixed, puddles to be swept away… puddle sweeping is a surprisingly popular job! Any spare team members walk the site and pick up litter. Conventioners are very considerate and there is very little litter to collect.
Once most people are on site in the main tent and kids and youth programmes, our team can get to the Bible Reading, slightly late, but in good time for the talk. We leave before the final song to take up our positions at the crossing again. This is the busiest time with adults and children all pouring out of their meetings and heading for lunch. Our job is to look out for cars, make sure everyone stays safe and be a friendly face!
Unusually, motor traffic has priority during the Convention, even at the pedestrian crossing, to keep disruption to local businesses at a minimum. When a car or lorry is spotted, we leap into action shutting gates and forming a human barrier across the road.
When most people have left the site, we go back to the Rawnsley Centre for lunch. Most afternoons are free for our own leisure time, but sometimes volunteers are needed to help with afternoon events.
Our evening meal is at 5:30pm. The Pencil Factory site is closed from 5:30pm – 6:30pm to allow all volunteer and staff teams to eat, so once we have eaten, we are back on duty managing the queue as conventioners wait to enter the site.
At 6:30pm we are back on crossing and car park duty, with some of the team reminding conventioners to have their bags open for security checks. When the queue has died down, we head to the Evening Celebration in the main tent. Just before the end we go back out to the crossing for the final time to make sure everyone leaves the site safely. By about 9:30pm the site is quiet enough for us to finish for the day.
At the end of the week, I was quite tired, but happy! Having volunteered for team at the last minute as help was needed, I knew it would be something worthwhile and vital for helping Keswick Convention to run smoothly, but I had not expected that it would be such fun!
Our team was a random selection of people: 2 students, 2 teachers, 2 church workers, a doctor and a professor; four men and for women; ranging in age from late teens to late fifties. We got on well and I really enjoyed worked together as a team. I was happily surprised that we were able to get to the main meetings and by the quality of the accommodation and meals provided!
I would certainly volunteer again and would recommend joining the team in for summer 2023!