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What David's Tent taught me about storytelling and honesty

Jenna Adae shares some reflections following her visit to the Christian festival David's Tent this past weekend

The UK is one of the most saturated festival markets in the world.

There are a number of UK summer festivals which have gained global notoriety and fame - Isle of Wight, Reading, Leeds, and of course, Glastonbury. 

Deep in the heart of rural west Sussex lies 6000 acres of land. It's the inheritance of Harry Goring - a devout Anglican whose family has owned the Wiston estate for generations and home to two major Christian festivals - The Big Church Day Out and more recently, David’s Tent (DT).

The 72-hour-non-stop-worship-event was held for the fifth year this past weekend. 

The concept first came after a group of evangelicals from London who were part of Burn 24/7 - an international organisation who labour in prayer around the clock - came together to look for an opportunity to take time out to rest, think and worship.

Tiffany Buhler who was asked to organise their first ever event on the Wiston Estate back in 2012 smiles affectionately at the recollection of the early days: “I had never put on an event in this vein before and at the time I worked with a small team. It was really risky and scary - yet totally organic and lots of fun.”

DT see their worship event as "an incredible continual voyage of discovery being guided by the Spirit over 72 hours." But in the initial stages of the thrashing out the vision, the team were faced with who they would need to invite as guest speakers.

“We were all agreed that we needed to put on a worship festival,” Tiffany explains, “but as we were largely unknown, painstaking discussions were held around who we would invite as guest speakers and who would we would get to draw the people in,” she says.

The first David’s Tent event featured Jason Upton, Jonathan Helser and Sean Feucht. 800 people turned up. This year, artists included Amanda Cook and Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger from Bethel, Jeremey Riddle and the UK’s very own Martin Smith. 

David's Tent see their worship event as "an incredible continual voyage of discovery being guided by the Spirit over 72 hours."

How crucial is it to invite well-known Christian artists to encourage others to worship at a festival? 

Marketing strategies with all things Christian creates a subculture. Although this isn't necessarily wrong, we can end up with a culture of well known pastors, vicars, worship leaders and Christian musicians who need to be booked in order to draw a crowd.

With the best will in the world, the intent to throw up our hands in the air, close our eyes and follow the invitation by the well-known to commune with God while lying prostate on the floor, can be slightly disconcerting. The curious human mind wants to see what is going on stage - well at least I did. Were the artists lying on the stage floor too? Were they dancing wildly like I was?

Whenever I go to a gig (Christian or mainstream) I'm hugely inspired by the artistry of the person on stage - but they do not become my obsession.

Instead, what I discover is that the artist will introduce me to the colour of melody and sound which I may not have engaged with before. Music, whether it be Christian or not, also stirs our emotions. (I am still trying to figure out why the Christian artist is described as "creative", but a mainstream artist is described as "genius" - as far as I’m concerned they are the same).

Christian artists are human beings and have opinions too. One artist this weekend spoke out against the negativity of the BBC for whom I work. Yet, all global news outlets carry the same premise - information about the wrongs of the world which we are encouraged through Christian song, not to follow. When I made myself known backstage, he commended me for not walking out. I laughed out loud whilst thinking "It’s cool, I know my worth."

So what is my point? I may pitch to produce a piece of work, and once commissioned, it is then up to the audience/reader to either receive or reject what I have researched and written. It does not matter to me whether people accept it or not. I still get paid. It is my responsibility to present the facts. I simply see myself as a conduit to present the story. I also pray daily I do not become too stubborn in my approach to think of myself as superior, especially to those who are not following the cause which does happen in Christendom which personally, I find unbecoming and to be frank, quite boring.

What does this have to do with David's Tent? Well, they too use channels (the well-known artist in this case) to tell the love story. The story of a man who traveled through Jerusalem and beyond with the aim of inviting all people to discover intimacy and worship God with raw honesty, in order to create room for personal fulfillment within.

David's Tent taught me to dig deep and find this intimate exchange using whatever tools we have at our disposal.

Jenna Adae is a freelance multi-media journalist. She has also worked with indigenous and unaccompanied asylum seeking children in care 

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