Somerset is a snapshot of English religion at the moment. And it's been raining on all of them:
- The 'atheist summer camp' at Bruton, with 24 children attending. I hadn't picked up that it was an American 'ministry' extending its reach to the UK. Less press coverage is being given to the thousands of children and young people on CPAS Ventures and Falcon camps - if you count Soul Survivor there's roughly 30,000. If 24 is a 'big following' (the Times) then I wait to see what adjectives are used of the Christian camps. To its credit, the Times has a couple of pieces on Christian summer camps too. (note to commentors: no rubbish about 'brainwashing' please, that's what happens in places like North Korea, please don't cheapen the term by applying to these camps, whichever sort it is you don't like).
- a few miles to the West it's New Wine at the moment, and tweeters have noticed the rain and mud, along with lots of other, better things. Thousands are there for worship, teaching and fun, and along with Soul Survivor NW pretty much takes over the Bath and West Showground for the whole of the summer holidays. For a flavour, the evening talks will be live on Hope FM next week (2-8th Aug)
- further along the Mendips, a witch has just been selected for Wookey Hole (local cave/tourist attraction) out of 50,000 applicants. The original 'witch' is a rock formation in the cave, but the Hole trades quite heavily on 'the witch of Wookey Hole' as a marketing snare. Some of the applicants were clearly practicing witches, rather than just folk wanting to dress up in black and cackle. Bizarrely, the job is supposed to give people an idea of what the caves were like in the Dark Ages. Erm, exactly the same, but without spotlights and handrails?
- just up the hill from Wookey Hole, the Big Green Gathering (an outdoor Green Festival, bit like a smaller Glastonbury with less music and more eco stuff) has been cancelled following some shenanigans with the police. It would have had a healing field, sweat lodge and assorted New Age stuff, along with a few of the Christians who've developed forms of prayer and outreach for New Age contexts.
- Back down from the Mendips is Wells Cathedral, which next week will be hosting a memorial service for Harry Patch, the last surviving WW1 veteran who died recently. Over 1000 are expected to attend.
So, what's the rain? Is it God's judgement on the atheists and the witches, or a trial to prove the faith of the Christians? Is it a succesful deluge to wash away some New Age claptrap, or a suitable sign of mourning to mark the passing of a generation?
Or is it just rain?