TSCF staff and students created and hosted two venues at Festival One—the Student Lounge and a space for prayer and reflection called the Sanctuary. The annual event, which celebrates music, art and Christian community, took place 26–29 January just outside of Hamilton. Otago Staff worker Rosie Sim gives us a glimpse behind the Sanctuary’s stained-glass-coloured entrance.

Festival One, on a good day, brings the words “vibrant, community, and colourful” to mind. On a more cynical day, the words are “hot, loud and tiring.”

I was mainly based in the incredibly crafted Sanctuary, where I spent 6 to 8 hours each day approaching strangers with a smile (which would fluctuate from genuine to fixed depending on how far into the 30s the temperature in the tent reached). Conversations always started the same: “Welcome to the Sanctuary…”

Exchange pleasantries, comment on the heat, comment on the music that occasionally threatened to drown us out, point out the various stations for prayer and reflection.

But then would come the time to take a risk, to dig a little deeper, to find out why they decided to walk through the door.

Sometimes I’d ask if they wanted me to pray with them, sometimes I would ask if they had anything on their heart they wanted to talk about. Sometimes it was clear they needed solitude with God.

There were polite and indifferent “No thank yous,” equally polite and indifferent “Okay, sures,” but far more often than I would have thought, someone took a seat and began to share something of their life. There was the girl overwhelmed by school, trying to be the best she could be. The woman struggling with her eating disorder. The man who was so lonely in his church that he had stopped going. There were also the passionate sisters looking to encourage young Maori in their faith through Kapahaka. The young couple who weren’t Christians but said they were seeking. Even a boy who wanted me to pray for his three pet goats.

Yes, the Sanctuary was vibrant, it was a community, it was full of colourful characters. And yes the days were too hot, and loud and tiring.

But I got to see a glimpse of God’s heart for these people, his people: the hurt and healing, the lost and found. And we got to be part of that, providing a little space for sanctuary in the heat and noise of the festival.

Rosie Sim is an Otago Staff Worker.