13 June 2011
Churches supply Solace to rockers
While Kings of Leon, Foo Fighters and Seasick Steve let rip with high-octane rock, local churches soothed some of the 60,000 hungry hearts with tea, cake - and a smile - at last weekend's Isle of Wight Festival.
More than 20 volunteers served free refreshments, offered prayer and chat - and even washed smelly feet - at the church-run 'Solace' tent, which was hailed as "a feast of hope" by mission specialist Roy Crowne.
This established festival feature provided space to reflect. Live acoustic music and chilled open mic sessions added to the atmosphere. Music festivals might be a playground for the young, but church members of all ages on the Isle of Wight supported the Solace team. A massive army of bakers were hard at work providing the cakes.
"We love giving our time and energy to this," said Ced Wells, one of the organisers. "Shed loads of cake containers and tins flood in - and what is amazing is that, despite high demand, we've never once run out of cake!"
With its popular chai tea recipe, the tent has become a talking point, and often long queues form for the legendary homemade selection. Now in its sixth year, Solace has gotten more popular at each event, and regulars seek it out.
"We just give as an expression of what God has given us and convey his love and grace," Ced added. "We keep it simple - a way of serving and not expecting anything in return. We make festival-goers feel pampered and relaxed and offer them full acceptance which can open up conversation."
It all started when an older church member bumped into a festival organiser and secured a pitch. He approached Ced, saying: "We should have a Christian presence here - but it's not for my generation to be on the front line."
The island's 100 churches were all in support of this venture, making it very much a joint project owned by the local Christian community. Volunteers mainly came from a combination of six churches. And they will do it all again at Bestival, another music festival which takes place in September.
"It's a feast of hope and a model for other churches to follow," said Roy Crowne, who heads the nationwide initiative HOPE, which encourages churches to work together in such schemes. "We'll be following the Solace team and their adventures, because we want to learn from their example."