2,000 clergy get down to some serious business

Andrew Brown
Wednesday 22 May 1996 23:02

More than 100 million communion wafers are eaten in England every year; and 30 million of them are made by the firm of FA Dumont, in Folkestone, Kent. They are available in individual sizes, and in larger versions, pre-scored to break into bite-sized pieces, and with sealed edges to avoid crumbs.

This year's marketing development is to package the wafers in rolls of only 100 each, instead of packets of 250, according to David Pead, a director of the firm at this year's Christian Resources Exhibition, held at Esher in Surrey.

It is the right place to advertise his services: the exhibition expects to attract around 2,000 clergy and 10,000 lay visitors over the next week, eager to sample everything necessary for professional Christians. There are embroiderers and tailors of vestments. There were bookstalls, a software shop; sellers of Christian holidays and special Christian T-shirts, called Majestees. Numerous firms competed to make church furniture, and, one, Pew Corner, to buy it: they sell on old pews and benches to wine bars.

Evangelical organisations promoted tales of revival in Israel, in prison, and in Siberia. One stall gamely handed out leaflets prophesying a coming war between Russia and Israel, a staple of millennial enthusiasts in the days before the end of communism. But the show is becoming more and more mainstream from its evangelical beginnings. This year it was opened by the Roman Catholic bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Crispian Hollis; and wished well by all the mainstream churches.

There was every sort of musical instrument on sale, from fish-shaped tambourines to full-scale organs. Chris Wright, a woodworker from Yorkshire, alsodisplayed a monitor with map of the Diocese of Bradford on it. He is a founder of Christians on the Internet.

God is very big in cyberspace. A recent search of the World Wide Web found 1.2 million mentions of His name there, and the computers connected to the Internet drew the biggest crowds of any exhibit, patiently waiting their turn, and promoting one of the organisers to remark: "They also surf who only stand and wait."

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