So August 2018 saw myself and my 7 year old twins, Ava and Luca, head off to the beautiful Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire for our second Holiday Forum. We had never heard of Holiday Forum before 2017 when Sian and her daughter Naomi from our church (who is the same age as the twins) told us about Forum. It was certainly a strange experience being the newbie amongst people who had mostly been coming to Forum for years but everyone made us feel very welcome and we soon made some new friends. By the end of that week, we had already paid our deposit for this year!
During the year it has been great to keep in touch with Forum friends via the Facebook group which strengthened friendships and made our year apart seem like only a matter of a few weeks. It was lovely seeing old and new faces, particularly a family who had been new with us last year.
The children all picked up where they had left off with friends from last year and were soon exploring the new playground and games room in Orchard Hall which had activities for all ages from a toy kitchen, games, table tennis, and a Nintendo Wii, plus comfy seating for those who wished to spectate. The pleasure of the Hayes is that children (and adults) soon find their way around and it is a safe environment for the children to explore the grounds – particularly as there is always a watchful eye over them.
Saturday night saw many of the group coming together for another excellent quiz which taxed a few brain cells and was great fun and had questions for young and old alike. Our team didn’t win but that didn’t matter – it was more about enjoying good company.
As usual the meals at Forum didn’t disappoint (I think there seems to be an annual Hayes half stone put on by the end of the week, but the food is too good to resist!) Breakfasts are my favourite with an array of cereals, toast, pastries, juice, hot beverages and full English – definitely set us up well for the day and we were able to enjoy worship with a contentedly full stomach. Lunch and tea are also very satisfying with plenty of choices and a tempting array of delicious desserts – I only wish I could’ve managed more than one slice as too many tasty choices.
Worships were different each day with our various worship leaders who had thought provoking ideas that at times pushed my emotional boundaries – particularly thinking about my own fears and how I can erase them, often using the calming medium of prayer, quiet contemplation or a soothing stone to stroke to then reinforce the positives in our lives. Children were involved in these sessions and definitely enjoyed racing backwards and forwards to and from “Jerusalem” thanks to David Fraser.
The themed talks for each day from Laurence Moore were engaging, sometimes humorous and undoubtedly thought provoking with tales of a challenging ministry and how many church memberships are in decline and inspiring us about how we can hope to change our own churches ideas to perhaps bring in new people and fill our pews. Children were able to go off to groups to enjoy games or crafts whilst adults could relax with a drink and absorb Laurence’s words.
Each day saw the adults break off into various groups including needlework, photography, choir whilst the children enjoyed a themed activity with their peers. I myself joined the needlework group in the light and airy Vinery again and managed to pretty much finish this year’s design by the end of the week with only a few mistakes and a small amount of stabbed fingers!
Sunday night’s Ceilidh, hosted by Alistair Smeaton was again a great success with young and old joining in the dancing – thankfully no one minds that I have two left feet – it’s all about the music and friendship.
Competition was again fierce for race night, which this year was themed as the “Tour de Forum” and many people spent the afternoon preparing their cyclists and bikes – can’t beat some cardboard, shiny paper and sticky tape for a Blue Peter moment! The evening was well supported by everyone and teams consisted of all ages winding their string as fast as possible to pull their cyclists along. Thankfully host Richard Storer allowed a couple of handicap races which allowed our team to score a few vital points! I think we were certainly rather hoarse by the end of the evening after plenty of enthusiastic cheering. Many people then relaxed in the bar with the odd drink or two.
The Tuesday afternoon trips saw some of the group visit a Mill and the other half (including our family) head off to Mansfield Leisure Centre for an adrenalin fuelled afternoon in the swimming pool where the youngsters (and not so young!) enjoyed the wave machine and water slides.
Tuesday night was the much acclaimed “Forum’s Got Talent” hosted by the lovely Teresa Diamond who worked with a group of children (including my two) to perform “A Million Dreams” from the film “The Greatest Showman”. Various people of all ages took to the stage to entertain us with songs, music and comedy which made for a thoroughly entertaining evening.
Wednesday’s Treasure Hunt didn’t disappoint either and gave us our annual run around to burn off a few calories – it is a great way to see all the wonderful facilities at the Hayes as we run backwards and forwards searching for clues. In the afternoon we enjoyed Fred’s “Forum at the Flicks” with the children enjoying the yoyo competition in the intermission. It was a busy day finished off with the children enjoying making bubbles on the football pitch.
Thursday we enjoyed the Forum Evening where each group could celebrate their time spent together during the workshops and enjoy Communion together.
Sadly after breakfast on the Friday, everyone said their goodbyes and headed off home – half a stone heavier, but hearts full of faith and friendship.
I may have been uncertain about Forum when we arrived in 2017, but after another friendship, fellowship, fun and food packed 6 days, our deposit is already paid for next year and can’t wait to help the young people’s group on the theme “A story waiting to be told”.