80 young people from across the Diocese had an early start on Saturday morning, as we boarded coaches travelling down to Wembley Arena for Flame 2019. Flame is a national gathering of thousands of young people from all over the country, who come together to celebrate their faith and be inspired by guest speakers.
The theme of this year’s event was ‘Significance’, a reminder to every young person there (and reading this!) that you are significant, because you are individually willed and created by God.
We arrived at Wembley at around 10am, and as we entered the arena were able to say hi and have a quick catch-up with all sorts of friends who we had met through other events around the country. One of my favourite things about Castlerigg and youth ministry is that you get to meet so many other like-minded people, and events like Flame mean you all get to meet up even when you work at opposite ends of the country.
The live music in the arena was awesome. There was something for everyone with rap from Guvna B, praise and worship (including some of the Castlerigg classics), a Gospel choir who sang a crossover of Amazing Grace and Stormzy’s Blinded by Your Grace, and a spontaneous but beautiful unaccompanied version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ led by Archbishop Eamon Martin from Armagh (Ireland). But there were equally beautiful moments of silence, as the speakers led us in prayer. It was incredible just how silent 8,500 people could be, you could really feel the faith in the room.
There was a huge variety of guest speakers. We watched a recorded interview with Jean Vanier, who at 90 years old was too frail to travel from France to be with us. Nevertheless, his testimony was humbling and inspirational. Jean Vanier set up the L’Arche movement, which establishes homes where adults with learning difficulties live in community with those who care for them. Founded with one house in France in 1964, L’Arche now operates in 35 countries and supports over 3,500 adults with learning difficulties. Jean spoke about ‘discovering the secret God has put in our hearts’ and how those with disabilities teach us how to be human, they seek to love and be loved above all else.
For many people, Robert Madu was the highlight of the day. From Texas, he had travelled over specially to speak to us at Flame. He spoke to us with amazing energy and conviction, about how we should not compare ourselves to others - such an important message! He reminded us that we are all created just as we are, by God, for a reason. We should recognise all the blessings God has given us in our own lives, and not worry about what others have that we might not. God has given us everything we need! So, we should just stay in our own lane of the race and keep our eyes on Jesus. The roar of agreement and applause at the end of his talk showed just how important his message is for young people today.
The event finished with a time of adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls joined us and led us in prayer before Jesus. While Jesus was maybe 50 metres away from us, up on the stage, I was in awe again of the prayerful silence of 8,500 people, and just how awesome it was to be surrounded by so many other young people, united with them in faith.
When the day finished at 6pm, we headed out to our coach and back up north. As with so many of the events I have attended with Castlerigg, be it Flame or Lourdes or retreats, they seem to fill you with so much spirit and energy despite robbing you of many hours sleep! It was a truly inspirational day.