A weekend of indulgence with a difference - report from Bright Lights first posted 10 July 2001

 LONDON - first posted 10 July 2001 - 664 words I have just returned from a weekend of complete indulgence! And the weekend is definitely over. How do I know? Strangers greet my smiles with the look, that mask of blank indifference, you know the one. This weekend I indulged in a feast of worship. The occasion: Bright Lights 2001, Youth Festival (16-30's) at SPEC, All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney. As a first-timer, and an 'older youth' at that, I arrived excited yet apprehensive, I haven't been to a religious camping thingy since.....! The indulgence ? 48 hours of music, prayer and smiles, just what the doctor ordered for a spirit buffeted by a class of lively children for the last few weeks, or would that be a priest! ROCK DJ, the mnemonic for Remember Our Crucified King Dominus Jesu, and that basically sums up the weekend. We remembered through: listening to moving personal testimony; we remembered by listening to and singing with the music of boredom-defying bands; we remembered by praying with the guidance of priests and youth workers; we remembered by exploring the outer realms of our creativity in soul-searching workshops. To say I couldn't get the bed off my back this morning would be an understatement! The testimonials: James Mawdsley: Burma campaigner, gave a "mind-blowing account" ( Chris Eglin, 33, Canada) of his ordeal in the pursuit of freedom for the Karen people of Burma. He said, "The first step to freedom is a sense of utter accountability. For whoever is the master of the life is also responsible for the consequences of their decisions. To blame others (friends, employers, politicians) when things go wrong is to take the role of a child - one who is not in control, one who expects to be governed." Irene Gut Opdyke: More of an oldie than any of us, at 80 years of age, brought many of us to tears with her description of the brutality she encountered through the 2nd World War. She hid twelve Jewish people in the basement of an officer's villa and protected them even through the loss of her own freedom, and the risk of her life. The bands: In the words of David Curran, 22, of Heston, "Music, quality music." Emmaus, my personal favourite, weathered the whole weekend, leading worship in their own inimicable , charismatic, full on, join in or miss out, style! Phatfish, greeted us on Friday, and we wished they could have stayed longer! They were great while they lasted! Kelido, lead the masses in boogying to cover-versions of, you name it, they probably played it! The prayer: Well! what can I say! I can only agree with Clementine, 23, of London, who said, "Bright Lights has definitely been an uplifting experience for me. I can't wait to go next year." I have been so inspired by the enthusiasm generated by people younger than myself, so confident in their faith. The diversity of expression of faith was mirrored by the outer images, resplendent in scarlet hair, mohawks, grey curls, M&S fashion versus rebellion with a capital R! Topped off with the smiles! Morning prayer, evening prayer, adoration and creme de la creme, Mass, Saturday and Sunday! and of course, it wouldn't be a Catholic event without Reconciliation! But, no collections! All fully attended, fully participated in, without gimmicks, just pure joy and wonder! A most lasting memory will be the juxtaposition of nine priests, clad in traditional garb, yet seated on our marquee covered stage, with our Cardinal. The sea of smiles brought us completely together. The homily, well, you should have been there, because Cardinal Cormac, shared with us things that he hadn't told anyone before. I was for one, spellbound, by his down-to-earth, anecdotal, non-patronising, straight-forward belief in the importance of the future of our youth. His love and understanding shone. The workshops: Well, need I say anything more. The weekend was Fab! The workshops, an added extra! In conclusion: So, finally, what did this 'older youth' gain? A super recharge to my spiritual battery! An even deeper sense of commitment to my faith and, friendship . I already miss the smiles of strangers! But, this is only the beginning, I hope this experience will lead to further opportunities in which to share my joy in my relatively recent refound and confirmed faith! As Jason Monaghan, 16 from Harrow, summed up, "Best time I've had in ages, the best bit ? The bands and the Masses." For more information about SPEC visit their website SPEC

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