The market town of Bakewell lies in the heart of the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, England. Being the first part of the country to be classified as a National Park it has attracted tourists and visitors for many years. Bakewell Show is one of the oldest agricultural shows in England having been founded in 1819. Over the years it has evolved from being mainly agricultural to the diverse event it is today.
In 1980 the assemblies of Christians in Bakewell and Chesterfield were exercised to have a Christian witness at the Show. Consequently on 6th and 7th August in that year the annual witness began. For the first two years the ‘Good News’ caravan with its Bible exhibition was kindly borrowed from the ‘Counties Evangelistic Work’ organization. During the second year, the Postal Bible School was promoted and this has continued ever since.
The Beighton assembly joined the outreach in 1982 and, in the following year, a small marquee was hired in which a Bible Exhibition was erected. It included Hebrew manuscripts and other scriptural exhibits that were loaned by Professor F. F. Bruce. It proved difficult to get people to go into the tent as access was through a relatively small opening with a restricted view of what was inside. However, those who did come in found the display interesting. After four years’ experience with this format it was realized that a change was needed. This happened in 1986 after the Matlock assembly had joined the witness. The whole frontage of the marquee was opened up and refreshments were offered free of charge. This proved successful in encouraging people into the tent and enabled witnessing to take place to people sitting at tables. The amount of Christian literature given out increased and more contact was made with neighbouring exhibitors. A man selling double-glazing became interested in the witness and that led to him and his wife becoming Christians.
There was much to encourage and in 1988 a 40 ft x 20 ft marquee was hired, double the size of the previous one. This enabled a bookstall to be displayed, kindly provided by a Christian from Wallasey. The Postal Bible School publicity continued and in that year forty children enrolled. Competitions and games for children have been regularly featured at the front of the tent linked to the promotion of the Postal Bible School.
Having extra space meant other exhibitions could be featured. One year a ‘Noah’s Ark’ display was loaned by Liverpool City Mission. On following years an ‘Air’ feature that had been used at Air Displays was mounted; the director of Emmaus promoted Bible Courses and, in 2014, ‘Farming Christian Link’ had a display.
To celebrate the millennium in 2000 a new banner sign ‘Good News for the 21st Century’ was displayed on the marquee and tracts distributed to celebrate the occasion. In 2012 the sign was changed again to ‘Good News for Today’.
An important element of the testimony has been to create an attractive setting in which to witness. This has included floral displays at the front of the tent; uniform white patio chairs (hired), tables and table cloths; floral table decorations and attractive tract holders, as well as appropriate scripture text posters hanging from the marquee sides. With the whole length of the frontage being open this all helps to create a friendly welcome to visitors.
The nature of the witness has developed over the years. Serving refreshments brings hundreds of people into the marquee over the two days. This gives a great opportunity to get alongside people sitting at the tables to share the gospel. People take the leaflets and this year it was noticeable that more were being read at the table than previously.
Over the years, grateful help has been given by many Christians from near and far who have been willing to give their time, gifts and expertise in enabling the witness to continue. The aim has always been to share the gospel with people who might never hear about the Saviour, and our prayer is that some will come to a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
By RAY MATHER and RICHARD TOMLINSON Bakewell, England
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