Covenanter International Holiday Conference 2010 – Gartmore, Scotland (The Final Cut)

30 Jul

With all four AK writers having been at Gartmore last week, expect unrivalled and probably unnecessary coverage over the next few days, starting with my report of the first four days of the conference. Ali will take up the action with the second half of the week, and James and Andy will weigh in with conference audio, extra photos, and anything else of note.

Saturday

For 3/4 of this blog, the week began at 05:00 on an overcast Saturday morning. Having been awake until around 3 hours previously due to an ill-advised FIFA tournament, spirits were at an all-time low as we set off in Gavin’s Fiesta towards Larne to catch the boat with the hole underneath. Things went from bad to worse as I became aware of a desperate urge to use the facilities, and as we discovered upon boarding that a fry would cost upwards of six of your British pounds. However the arrival of fellow pioneers Loughridge, Hanna and Moffet helped raise morale, and cameo appearances from Gregg and other less notable Covenanters kept things interesting. During the crossing, we (ie James, Ben and myself – Renwick Pundit was unavailable for comment) entertained ourselves by distilling a month of World Cup action into a single best XI, playing a 4-2-3-1 system – Neuer; Lahm, Pique, Puyol, Coentrao; Busquets, Schweinsteiger; Muller, Sneijder, Villa; Forlan. With this important business taken care of, attention turned to how we could get both Gav’s and Ben’s cars to Hampden Park, and our pre-conference lad’s treat.

Taken at the horribly early departure time of 1:55am

Slightly more excited travellers…

Things brightened up as we hit the open roads of Scotland (mainly because the Sun was rising…)

Predictably our efforts failed miserably. SatGav enabled us to find the home of Scottish football, but with my series of texts to Ben’s passengers being worse than useless, our compatriots found themselves hopelessly lost. Cue a moment of Divine providence – as the four of us were sat in Subway consuming foot after foot of mega breakfast, Ben pulled up at the traffic lights outside, having spent the previous 45 minutes driving blindly around Glasgow! Spotter’s badge goes to Andy Mo. After we had finished our calorific feast, we returned to Hampden, and sampled the delights of the Scottish Football Museum, a fantastic experience packed full of stuff. Then it was time for the stadium tour, where we learnt that Ben isn’t the only one who is a hazard to the public at large with a ball at his feet. There will be more surprises from Hampden at a later date.

The journey north to Gartmore took around an hour, and upon arrival we found a lovely flat campsite for us to pitch our tents on, with nice trees and excellent views stretching eastwards to somewhere else. Gavin and I quickly realised that our 2-man tent was designed for two men who are extremely well-acquainted, and a second tent was obtained from Ben, who had brought, alongside 37 combat knives, enough canvas to cover nine people. Ben’s spare tent later failed us in the middle of the night, which resulted in a very cosy finish to the week as we migrated back to the original tent. Meanwhile those in the dorms were greeted with mints on pillows, complimentary dressing gowns and a Corby trouser press in each room. We don’t know what the facilities were like for residents of the mansion house, as none of them deigned to speak to the lowly campers during the week.

This is what Ali was up to while his tentmates were at Hampden

Tim beside a full and set up Campsite

The Chip Shop in Aberfoyle was a popular choice for Saturday evening’s tea

The conference began officially that evening with icebreaker games organised by Deborah Steele, which were a good laugh, as we watched Americans trying to figure out Switch If. After supper, the first Youth Extra of the week went down, which some well-meaning person had placed Emmaline and myself in charge of for the week. She saved the day by having stuff planned, unlike your correspondent.

Balancing Pete

Sabbath

Sabbath morning started damp and dreary, conditions which were a reminder of why literally tens of holidaymakers flock to Scotland every summer. Morning worship was great, with Bob McFarland risking the ire of parents by distributing US military clickers to about fifty small children. Pastor Bruce Backensto of Beaver Falls RPC, PA preached an excellent exposition of the conference psalm, Psalm 96. Well worth a listen. How great it was to worship our Redeemer with 400 RPs from around the globe!

After a good feed from my dear mother, we returned to the sports hall to hear our conference guest, Faith Cook, speak about her life and testimony. I must confess, my knowledge of Mrs. Cook was limited to knowing her name and that she was an author. But as her story unfolded, it became clear that she is an extraordinary woman, who has experienced times of both extreme sadness and great blessing. She even got to cook for Martyn Lloyd-Jones! Her tale was very moving, and was, for me, one of the highlights of the week. By this stage in the afternoon, a strange, fiery orb had appeared in the sky, and the campsite was bathed in a warm glow. Discussion turned to the local population of Jabberwocks, and their voracity at this time of year.

Sadly I managed to glue my phone to my right hand on the Saturday and so was stuck to it all week


Taking a casual browse through the programme

Evening worship was taken by Gerard Milligan and Andrew Quigley, with Andrew preaching on Psalm 23. Despite it being a well-known Psalm, the exposition was powerful, reminding us of God’s comfort, protection and meeting of our needs. It was great to hear of a preacher obeying God’s call to abandon his original chosen passage and speak as he felt led. After supper, our YE group met for a Psalm sing, and in the smaller confines of the confusingly-named Conference Hall, the praise of fifty sounded louder and better than that of the 400 in the sports hall!

Monday

Predictably, Monday was wet, and already this theme was becoming tiresome for those of a camping persuasion. Prof. Robert McCollum gave the first of the week’s addresses on Haggai, and I would love to recount it, but I was helping with the 8-11 year olds, which was great, but in a very different way. Their theme for the week was the life of Joseph, and it was great to hear how much they knew of Joseph’s life, not just the events but why they happened and how God used him in mighty ways.

The official afternoon activity for the under 65s was volleyball, but since this is for girls, we took the opportunity to play our first football of the week. It was a low-key affair, with only six on each side, but the quality was high, helped by a wet and zippy surface on Gartmore’s village playing fields. The trapezoid-shaped pitch only added to the excitement. A tightly contested game finished level, and the resulting penalty shootout was won by one of the teams.

Inside the communal tent during those wet lunch times

After an Apple core, Joel proceeded to then get butter in his eye too

Action from the girls’ sport

John laughs as he sees Ali G getting warmed up…

Visiting a sodden Loch Lomond

Once Gavin and I had cooked for ourselves for the second and final time of the week, it was time for the quiz. A highly regimented operation run by Nancy and her personal army, the highlight for me was the bar chart showing each team’s score. Mere numbers just do not suffice! The only team name to stick out in my mind was the brilliant “Two Wrights Don’t Make A Wrong”. After the quiz, there followed Youth Extra, where Emmaline had organised a night of childish stuff, including plasteceine, a sure winner. Americans got bored and spruced things up with the introduction of Ninja. I’d love to explain this strangely compelling spectacle, but I never played and don’t quite know how it works. It seems to involve Ben staring at his opponent intensely for and extended period, before attempting to strike them as hard as he can. Not so far removed from football then.

Quiz

The QuizMaster

Kids Games


Pete about to go in for the kill…

Ben playing Ninja

Tuesday

By Tuesday everyone began to slip into a routine: for those on the campsite, each day began at about 05:30 with the squawks of roughly 2735 crows, mixed in with the snoring of several middle-aged RP males. For those in the house, the butler rang a small bell, and each resident would extract themselves from their four-poster beds, don their monogrammed dressing gowns, and await the delivery of their cooked breakfast. Dorm-dwellers had to make do without the monograms on their dressing gowns.

After another instructive and challenging address on Haggai from the Prof, I represented AK at Steelo’s seminar on blogging, Facebook and all that. The rest of them went off to hear some fella Ken Smith, and I’m eagerly awaiting the audio of that being posted up here, after the glowing reports I heard. Far be it from me to recommend the work of the author of a rival blog, but Steelo excelled himself in front of an audience split between young hip-and-happening types, and concerned/curious/deluded over 45s.

In the afternoon, Gavin and Mel organised a Mini-Olympics, which was a resounding success. I was put in charge of the slippery slope, which proved to be a poisoned chalice, as afterwards roughly 50 conferees aged from 3 to 53 tried to slide down it at exactly the same time. Thankfully messrs Loughridge and Moffett came to my rescue and used their BDC voices to calm things down and restore order. One image that will stay with me for years to come is that of Peti Bajko launching his three-year-old son down the slope as if he were a bowling ball.

Getting excited about the Mini Olympics

Gavlar our Leader

Slippery slope action

In the evening, we were treated to a surprisingly entertaining ceilí, with a real band, and no ridiculous line dancing. Ali G got to kiss his Grandmother, and she wasn’t the only one on the receiving end of the smooching. However it would be churlish of me to name names. At YE, more Ninja was played, probably, and some other stuff happened, possibly.

Rebecca and the affectionately named, Crazy Keith


Adam cooling off outside!

Wednesday

My thanks to Cromie for an excellent first half of the week resport, contrary to popular opinion, he must have been just taking notes on his mobile phone during most of the hours of the day! We had indeed hit that midweek stage and by now the Conference was flying in. Wednesday was a big day, firstly and most importanly because the talks on Haggai had just got over the half way stage (which are all now available on the R.P Website with thanks to Jeff!) and also as it was the day for the trip to Edinburgh.

Once the Buses were unloaded, the crowds were pretty much given a free reign around the City, many chose to go on the pre-arranged Covenanter tour which was put together by Andrew Quigley and his Airdre team, others headed off for a shopping trip whilst some simply chose to recline in a restaurant and escape from the monotony of Campsite cooking! Despite it being wet, the trip was enjoyed by all and we all met towards the end at the Grassmarket for a Conventicle. Singing Psalms in the open air along with a gospel message provided by Rev. Quigley was a highlight for me, knowing that this was the location where many brave Christians died for their faith was moving and inspiring, however equally moving was Rev. Quigley’s call to not get caught up in the romanticism of it all as ‘we only honour them by loving Him who loved them’.

Filling up, at 'the Filling Station'

When the cat's away...

My favourite place in the City

For those left at Gartmore and those who had enough sanity not to choose the Watercolour Workshop, a Football World Cup was played…personally I think Another King is close to overflow with Football Reports, so i’m just gonna leave it at that. However, anticipation was high for past members of Boys Discovery Camp as in the evening, PMO would be blowing the dust off his Eric Liddel talk once more and chucking in the Chariots of Fire DVD for another viewing. As always, executed with perfection, an inspiring story of a man who is seen as a great role model by many, fanastically dedicated to his God, and then to his Sport.

By this stage in the week, teenages had done what teenagers do best and had put to bed any sort of arranged and organised fun in the Youth Extra and much lazing about and chatting was done. Quite a few Concert pieces were also being thrown together at this stage, with the excitement building all the time for it too…this was not merely because of the talent on show but rather every one wanted to know what Rob would do next…

Thursday

It seemed we had seen the last of the rain in Gartmore for the week as the sun was giving us a grand send off for the end of the Conference. The usual morning programme ran smoothly and I finally got to hear a proper version of Ruth Sutherland’s story in her Seminar, which was very challenging when it came to the practical applications of being a Christian in Sport, with a focus on so many vast areas and not just Sport on Sabbath, my mind was working more than usual during that lunch time.

Quite a few options were available in the afternoon, the monkeys among us went off and did their thing on some High Ropes close by, more Football was played, some paid a visit to Loch Katrine and hired bikes, a few cars went off to the nearby Zoo/Safari Park which was another highlight of my week. Despite the initial setback of myself and Abi having to pay full price compared to the rest of the “Students” around us, we had a great afternoon in the sun and saw many cool animals. Ben had his Camera out for most of the afternoon! (Too easy…) After going to both the Sea Lion show and a Birds of Prey demonstration, we made for the cars and went on the wild Safari, driving past Rhinos, Deer, Lions, Camels, Ostriches..is any one feeling jealous yet?!

Checking out the Map

One fine looking Animal

It seemed the Lemurs had all left 'Lemur Land'

Getting ready for the Sea Lion Show

Couldn't miss this opportunity at the Gift Shop

Off for a cycle around Loch Katrine

That night brought in the long awaited Concert and after numerous appeals from hosts Tim and Rob, they had a fairly lengthy but decent line up to keep the crowd entertained for the night. As predicted, the line up had a strong American influence and they didn’t disappoint, some great and very talented singing performances from Elle Duguid and Bob McFarland and his Quartet whilst Tim Duguid’s recreation of a thunderstorm was pretty brilliant! Some severe talent was shown by the Irish contingent also, with ‘the Polytechnic Crew’ scraping it through their LOTR song, a memorable Barrie Barr song and the predictably hilarious Graham Fallows.

The Concert also had an unexpected feather added to it’s cap in terms of audience participation when Brenna and Hayley ‘All Star Mr and Mrs. Winners from Camp’ had an idea to create a few signs to give encouragement to the two young hosts. This created great atmosphere for us watching and succeeded in getting a few great lines out of Rob! My personally highlight was when Rev. Wallace McCollum dandered forwards from his seat a few rows back to check out my ‘Show us a Good Time’ poster, he had a chuckle and then went back to his seat. Crazy Keith did get a slot for his Gollum impression after Supper but then the night ended on a great note when Eileen Anderson single handedly topped the boys final act when demanding that young McCaughan drop down to one knee in relation to the poster she was holding in the front row. A great night and credit must go to Tim and Rob for putting on a fantastic concert for the audience, despite a few dodgy jokes in the spaces between acts…

They loved their Chicken Feed

Our Two Hosts for the Evening

JC giving it stacks

The Leaders of the Polytechnic Crew

Effortlessly funny...

Warren provided the Post-Concert entertainment

Friday

And so the end of the week was upon us, we were left with a fantastic closing message from Uncle Robert concerning Zerubbabel, God’s servant and then the last Seminars took place. It was a week of fantastic teaching and many thought provoking discussions, once again, it seemed that as all the spiritual aspects of the Conference had worked out so well, so then every thing else seemed to fall into place nicely.

Following this, we had a group photo, then were witness to a slightly weird sight in the ‘Address to the Haggis’ before Lunch and finally sung Psalm 100 to all the staff at Gartmore. Informal Games or a Trip to Stirling Castle was the order of business in the afternoon, but most either spent it lazing about the tents in the sun, heading out for a wee dander to Aberfoyle or playing Football.

Following reports from the Mansion House that the Haggis’ Address clearly wasn’t good enough, we all headed into the Conference Hall for the last time, for an evening of ‘Conference Reflections’, a confusing title but it was an activity that turned out to be a fitting end to the week. Various people came forward and shared little bits and pieces of their history at Conferences past, how God had worked through them since those times, or how those particular Conferences had been blessed. A great time to look back on things and reflect, also as Graham Fallows was in charge, witty asides were a definite between each person.

Following a lovely Ice Cream Supper, the Youth Extra crew gathered on the side of the hill which led to the Campsite for an end of week Psalm Sing and Camp Fire. It was a wonderful feeling to be worshipping God after a great week of blessing with good friends and good surroundings, a memory that will stay with me for a long time. The words of Psalm 24 still are ringing in my ears as we were minded that this was only the smallest foretaste of the glory that is to come.

Our Leader!

And so the evening drew on, and soon it became the early hours of Saturday morning, the fire died down, the Folk/Pop songs ceased and people drifted off here and there either to bed or back to the warmth of the Mansion House. A hardy crew decided to head for a near hill top to watch the sun rise together, an entertaining quest, which seemed a lot harder at night, we were left kicking ourselves come day break as it had seemed we took the most indirect route of the lot.

By 9am, quite a few of the Conferees had already left, those in the House had their last cooked breakfast while the Campers tried to finish off the last of the soggy Frosties. Tired bodies all around but the clean and pack up operation was completed successfully and soon every one was saying goodbyes and heading on their way to various modes of transportation to find their way home across the water. In hindsight, these goodbyes were all short lived as most people met up with a strong contingent of R.P’s on the various sailings back that day, however it was nice to say goodbye to Gartmore and think of the memories that were made there.

Thanks to all involved who made it such a successful week, we at Another King had a thoroughly enjoyable time and we’re looking forward to it again in 4 years time.

Saying Goodbyes

Somerville Senior and Junior

Mastercard don't do Tentmates...

So long, farewell...

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11 Responses to “Covenanter International Holiday Conference 2010 – Gartmore, Scotland (The Final Cut)”

  1. Abi July 30, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    Haha this made me actually laugh out loud, love it Cromie!

    especially “Discussion turned to the local population of Jabberwocks, and their voracity at this time of year.”

    Make sure the public revelation of the true nature of this species via Switch If is reported…

  2. Hannah July 30, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    Hahaha brilliant post, loved the description of what Ben brings camping! And the link…lols.

  3. Joel July 30, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    Great stuff bruv.

    And Hannah that description of Ben’s camping equipment is probably accurate – he had a hunting knife beside his bathroom sink when i was at his house!

  4. Sarah July 31, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    I think I hurt myself laughing, hahaha. And I’ve learned a lot about Ben, which lends more weight to the “switch if Ben has ever threatened you with violence” option during that epic game. Really looking forward to the rest of the week as told by Ali!

  5. ben August 1, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    dear authours of AK,

    right, there are a few things that need straightened out:

    1. yes i brought 1 knife with me, because a knife is a useful tool when camping. andy mo also brought one for me from his house, which i had left there, but i was just getting that back so it doesnt count

    2. i borught a four man tent for me which hadnt been used in four years. this tent allowed me to have sufficent space for all my stuff and me. i brought the spare tent incase the 4 man wasnt useable, as i hadnt had a chance to put it up the week before.

    3. the only person i ever threaten is james, and thats because he deserves it.

    much love,
    ben

  6. ben August 1, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    p.s. those threats usually only involve minor levels of violence, and i have never carried out any of them.

  7. Amy August 2, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    It was almost as much fun reading that as being there, much laughter :-) Great job guys!

  8. James August 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Lol. Point 3 – Good banter ben but I seem to remember quite a few switching with me that night at YE?!

  9. Ben August 4, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

    They were wrong

  10. Mark August 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm #

    I love this. Thumbs up from me. Thanks

  11. Peter August 9, 2010 at 11:56 pm #

    “[Ninja] seems to involve Ben staring at his opponent intensely for an extended period, before attempting to strike them as hard as he can. Not so far removed from football then.”

    That’s as amusing as anything I’ve read for quite some time – excellent! :-D

    Mind you, I’m extremely disappointed that a particular photo doesn’t have the caption ‘Miniolympicswell’. Schoolboy!

    The conventicle at the Grassmarket was absolutely brilliant – well worth an afternoon without football.

    All in all, Gartmore = superb. Well played all involved.

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