It had been ‘equipping and empowering the Church’ for more than 30 years and giving visitors lots of fun like ‘Vicars on the Catwalk,’ and an ‘Inflatable Church’
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
SWINDON, UK (ANS – November 11, 2016) – Following news that it looked 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, comes the good news that it has been saved by new, yet old, owners.
CRE was acquired by Bible Society in 2008 and had recently been looking for a buyer, and it originally said that that no one has yet been found, but now two veterans of the event, Stephen Goddard, and Gospatric Home, have teamed up to save and continue CRE.
Derek C. Hill, Director of CRE, based at Bible Society headquarters in Swindon, UK, said in a message monitored by the ASSIST News Service, “We are pleased to announce that new owners have been found for Christian Resources Exhibitions (CRE).
“It will continue under the management of a company led by Stephen Goddard who has been involved in CRE since 1987. A new team is being assembled who have worked on various aspects of the event for many years, including Gospatric Home as President (the founder of the exhibition).
“The first CRE under new management will be held at the ExCel Events Centre in London’s Royal Docks from May 16, 2017.”
He added, “As owners of CRE, Bible Society is grateful for the part it has been able to play in helping thousands of Christians and churches find important resources for the maintenance and mission of the local church.
“Bible Society’s mission is to offer the Bible to the world and, whilst CRE helped to achieve this, the exhibition was always much broader than Bible alone. We wish the new owners every success and would like to thank you for all your support.”
Around 8,000-plus visitors had been flocking to their exhibitions and were able to see booth’s featuring everything from furniture to films, pulpits to puppets, ways to worship and what to wear. In addition, CRE had been providing inspiration, teaching and encouragement through a wide program of seminars and arts performances.
How it began
CRE was started by British Christian businessman, Gospatric Home, who was in hospital in the early 1980s, when 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.
So, 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 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.
In 2014, I joined 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 (now retired), Gospatric Home, and CRE PR man, Stephen 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, England.
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.
At the time, Goddard wrote for ANS, “The launch of the first inflatable church at the recent 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.”
With this latest news, many British Christians will be heaving a huge sigh of relief that all of this fellowship and fun will continue and will be in the safe hands of two veterans of the event.
Photo captions: 1) 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). 2) CRE founder, Gospatric Home. 3) Steve Goddard. 4) 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. While still living in London, Dan was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest circulation newspapers, and also did interviews for both BBC1 radio and LBC, the capital’s largest talk station.
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