It has been ‘equipping and empowering the Church’ for more than 30 years and giving visitors lots of fun like ‘Vicars on the Catwalk’ and also an ‘Inflatable Church’
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
SWINDON, UK (ANS – September 16, 2016) – It looks like the end of the road for the Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE), a popular fixture on the UK Christian calendar for more than three decades.
Around 8,000-plus visitors have been flocking to their exhibitions and have been able to see booth’s featuring everything from furniture to films, pulpits to puppets, ways to worship and what to wear. In addition, CRE has provided inspiration, teaching and encouragement through a wide program of seminars and arts performances.
CRE was acquired by Bible Society in 2008 and has recently been looking for a buyer, but it says that no one has yet been found.
Mow, according to a statement from Derek C. Hill, Director of CRE, it looks like finally this popular event is about to come to an end.
“Despite great efforts over recent months, we have been unsuccessful in our attempts to find a new owner for CRE. Therefore, we have no plans for future exhibitions after CRE South East at Maidstone (October 12/13),” said Hill.
“It has been a great pleasure working with so many organizations over the past nine years. We recall many significant events, speakers, presentations, seminars, product launches and conversations that have played a part in helping thousands of Christians find important resources for the maintenance and mission of the local church.
“If you are interested in acquiring the CRE brand and database please contact us.” (firstname.lastname@example.org).
He went on to say, “Needless to say, such a momentous decision has a profound and personal impact on CRE staff. We have been in consultation with the team to explore suitable roles for them within Bible Society, to try and avoid redundancies where possible. Do please keep the team and the future of the event in your prayers.
“We are enormously grateful for your support over the years. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.”
CRE was started by British Christian businessman, Gospatric Home, who was in hospital in the early 1980s, and the idea for it began to take place. “I had been in charge of a series of secular shows and my wife Diana had a vision of my running a great Christian ‘Barnum and Bailey’ of an event,” he explained in an interview.
Laid up for days on end, and with not much to occupy his active mind, Home glanced through the UK Christian Handbook and realized there were some 5,000 organizations — including publishers, church suppliers, charities, architects, missions and newspapers — without an exhibition of their own.
In February 1985, CRE was born at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster, London. Shows have been held throughout the UK in major cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Exeter and Bristol, and also at Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, Surrey.
CRE celebrated its 30th year in 2014, and has held multiple events every year throughout the UK. The largest was the annual event, CRE International, held in 2015 at ExCeL, London with around 8,000 visitors and over 300 exhibitors.
I was able to join my two sons, Andrew and Peter at the Sandown Park CRE event, and was able to review friendships with so many old friends, such as Cindy Kent, the pop-singer-turned vicar, Gospatric Home, and CRE PR man, Steve Goddard, who entertained the crowds that night by dressing up as “Beltin’ John” (Elton John), and performing many of Sir Elton’s hits.
Dog collars hit the catwalk
That was the headline in a Birmingham Mail story about another Steve Goddard’s ideas which occurred at October 2013 CRE exhibition at the NEC, in Birmingham.
The paper reported, “Dog collars made an appearance on the catwalk at a religious-themed fashion show in Birmingham yesterday. Vicars rebelled against the traditional, dull garb of the church and inspired designers to come up with more colorful clothing.”
Goddard explained to the newspaper that clerical clothing began changing after women were ordained into the Church of England, then some 20 years ago.
“Lots of women don’t want to wear black or three shades of grey all the time,” he said.
Inflatable Church Welcomes Worshippers
Each year, Goddard would come up with a unique idea like having an Inflatable Church at CRE 2003.
Goddard wrote for ANS, “The launch of the first inflatable church at the recent National Christian Resources Exhibition in the UK has made headlines worldwide.”
He said that the church – 47ft. high from ground to steeple, 47ft. long and 25ft. wide, with a blow-up organ, altar, pulpit, pews, candles and ‘stained glass’ windows – was dedicated by Fr. Mick Elfred, Vicar of Good Shepherd, Tadworth, Surrey on Tuesday, May 13th.
“Local churches are often perceived by outsiders as holy clubs. We must change this perception,’ said Fr. Elfred. “In the Old Testament we read that God’s ancient people worshipped in a tent. When King Solomon built his temple he admitted, at its dedication, that God does not live in a building made with hands.”
Fr. Elfred told a bank of film crews and photographers at Sandown Park Exhibition Centre just outside of London, how, over the past 20 years, he had helped run many holiday play schemes for children – and an inflatable church would have been a Godsend.
“God is on the move,” he declared, “and this church challenges us not to get stuck and side-tracked by our buildings.”
But sadly, it looks like all of this genuine fun and excitement is soon to be gone. Let’s hope and pray that someone reading this will come forward and buy CRE, so that this wonderful event can continue not only in the UK, but in other parts of the world.
Photo captions: 1) Scene from a CRE event. 2) CRE founder, Gospatric Home. 3) On the catwalk: (From left) Rev Deseta Davis, Rev Dave Bishop, Rev Jemima Strain, Rev P.J. Jackson and Rev Tom Macmeekin on the catwalk at The Christian Resources Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. (Birmingham Mail). 4) Steve Goddard. 5) Inside the Inflatable Church. 5) Cindy Kent with Dan Wooding at CRE at Sandown Park in England.
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About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. Dan has a weekly radio show and two TV shows in Southern California.
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