It was so good to meet again face-to-face at the first CSUK national gathering since 2019. We were really blessed with not just the UK crew, but also the international director of Christian Surfers, Roy Harley and his wife Sharon; the leadership team of CS Holland plus another 12 members; and Audrey and her daughter from CS France. Below is a report from one of our members, Chris Clark, which gives a flavour of the weekend; it was a fantastic gathering and we’re excited for 2023 already.

Shepton Mallet 32, Polzeath 15.  Not a rugby score but the difference in temperatures between leaving for, and arriving at, the National Gathering.  Great to see familiar smiling faces as we pulled into the campsite and during the fab BBQ that the Tubestation had cooked for us. 

It was wonderful to walk into the familiar chapel and see my old Tris surfboard, with the name of the disciple James on it, hanging from the ceiling as usual.  In fact, just about everything was wonderful.  Everywhere I looked there were people I wanted to say, ‘Hi!’ to, or things that made me feel like this was home.  After a 3-year National Gathering drought, we were all looking forward to a spiritual soaking and hopefully one in the sea as well.

The worship soared, as the band led us skilfully and joyfully in praising the God who had brought us back together.  South African Director of CS International, Roy Harley, and his wife Sharon were there, as were the ‘Dutchies’, a crew from France, and people of various nationalities from all over the UK.

I bailed on the Saturday ‘dawny’, loving the extra two hours in bed, and then loving the breakfast croissants, fruit, and coffee even more.  The theme of ‘It’s in God’s hands’ felt very appropriate.  The chosen text of Philippians 4:6-7 starting ‘Do not be anxious about anything,’ was reassuring, familiar, and instructive.  I was comfortable too, having finally remembered to bring a fold up chair, bliss! 

I went to the workshop entitled, ‘Do wooden surfboards really work?’ (mostly because I was running it!) but there were five other talks I wanted to go to also.  A walk to the headland in the afternoon was spiced up by Met Office warnings of thunderstorms and strong winds, which was pretty accurate on the exposed headland.  With perfect timing, the rain lashed down just as we piled into our tent with Tunnock’s Tea Cakes and almond slices from the local Spar.

Saturday evening was a perfect thanksgiving and celebration of Phil’s 20 years of living by faith, and the 14 years of faithful service by David Renyard and family.  Mike Scott spoke movingly about the way that Phil had been there for him minutes after his wife Chris had died 15 years ago.  The trophy presented in Chris’ memory for an outstanding contribution to CS, went to Alice Ovenden for her amazing prayer ministry with CS.  She is a surfer now too!  The team award went to Phil, Ali, and David; no argument there.

Sunday morning, I was up at 5.45 and heading for whatever surf there was.  Me and my paipo, plus four fishermen beach casting, were the only ones there.  I was first in! I had 30 minutes in my chilly shorty playing and praying in the surf before heading back to bed for an extra few Zs.

Roy Harley gave a great message to the combined Tubestation congregation and us CS National Gathering delegates.  ‘Get to know the shaper, paddle out and dare to drop in,’ was the perfect message for me to take back to the CS Bristol Crew when we next meet up. 

Sophie from Scarborough needed a lift to see a friend in Bristol, so Nicky and I offered to take her on our way home.  Sophie tried in vain to get an address as we drove up the M5 but couldn’t get hold of her friend.  She had the address of another friend in Bristol so we headed there hoping she would be in.  She was, she was delighted to see Sophie, and there was just the one parking space for us right outside her door.  It was in God’s hands all along.