My name is Jonathan, and I have three boys aged 12, 10 and 8. Every year we attend the Aber conference, and this is a typical day in their life…
We have accommodation on the seafront. I wake every morning to the sound of the boys putting on their beach shoes, slamming the front door and running down the prom to meet their nana, who has been staying in a more upmarket establishment! They have breakfast at the hotel and then go for hot drinks at one of the town’s many coffee shops.
Around 10:15 they go up to the Great Hall for the morning session. Nana waves them off at the Bible Club where they meet their cousins for a morning of songs, stories and memory verses with Alan Rees and the team.
At lunchtime, the dads take over. Dads, sons, uncles, nieces and nephews pile into a various combination of cars, and we drive back down to the front of the castle grounds. When they were younger, they would have played pitch and putt, gone up the funicular railway or played on the beach (and this year perhaps we’ll do that again) but in the main, we’ll go to the castle for a picnic and then to play cricket and football. At the beginning of the week that might just be our family but of course as the week goes on more and more friends, old and new join in. Can the dads resist joining them? What do you think?!
Teatime is time for chips or pizzas on the front with nana and grandpa, and then it’s back into the cars and up to the hall for the evening service where whoever arrives first books out a block of seats on the balcony. As the week goes on, and the children make more friends, the block gets bigger and bigger, so that by Thursday or Friday they need more and more packets of sweets to pass up and down the row.
During the service the older children studiously make notes, the younger ones play on iPads, read books and giggle together. They might not look like they’re listening, but they are. Every so often their heads bob up to listen to an illustration or to smile at the preacher’s joke (ok, perhaps to ask what was funny about the minister’s ‘joke’— children can be a tough crowd!) but there they are in the midst of this Christian community worshipping their heavenly Father.
As their dad, I’m delighted to have them there soaking up the same atmosphere I did as a boy thirty years ago. I’m pleased that their mum, grandma, auntie and uncle are there too as are lots of family members added in by marriage, and friends picked up over the years.
I’m aware that not everyone has the joy of a big Christian family and I’m thankful to God that he has been gracious to us. And I hope that in years to come Aber will be something my children remember fondly. A place where they looked down from the balcony and saw family, friends and God’s people enjoying a week of worship together.
And I hope that if you’re bringing your children to Aber for the first time this year that you too will have a great time as a family, worshipping together and enjoying God at the seaside.