It was Saturday, September 25, 1971. Tens of thousands of people, young and old met together on London’s Trafalgar Square for the largest ever open-air gathering of Christians in British history.
Nights before September 25, bonfires blazed over hilltops right across the nation. An estimated 100,000 Christians at 300 sites were involved in creating this ‘ring of fire’. In Somerset, a youth groups lit a beacon and in Sheffield, Cliff Richard did the same during the interval in a concert he was giving.
What made the festival so historic, was it came after a season of apathy within the evangelical church especially about public morality. In the 1950s and 60s, laws were repealed, and new ones passed which represented a fundamental shift in the culture away from a Judeo-Christian heritage and towards a more promiscuous and liberal society. Of course, not all the changes of the 50s and 60s were negative. But with divorce made easier and abortion legalised in 1967, core values were rapidly changing. The NFoL sought to challenge this silence and encourage the church to speak out.
In 1972, Lyndon Bowring, one-time Associate Minister at Kensington Temple was getting more involved and became the NFoL’s Chairman on 26 September 1981. At the same time, the NFoL was also being encouraged to take up new issues, like abortion, and play its part in influencing politicians to have a deeper respect for the value of life. In 1983, the NFoL changed its name to CARE, which stands for Christian Action Research and Education.
In God’s goodness, there’s been success: especially in relation to protecting people from gambling related harms and seeing anti-human trafficking laws passed in every part of the United Kingdom. CARE has also been heavily involved in campaigns to stop the legalisation of assisted suicide and producing annual reports that helped persuade the Coalition Government to re-introduce a marriage tax break.
At the same time, there has also been times of deep sadness, especially in relation to increasingly liberal abortion laws and fresh attempts to police freedom of speech. This is the ongoing challenge, to be faithful and speak out, even at a cost and to also seek to serve Christians in Parliament, through prayer and through briefings and research.
Throughout the highs and lows, we can say that our supporters have been faithful and committed to the vision of CARE. We want to say a huge Thank You, for your prayers, your giving and for standing with us. Here's to the next season standing together to tell a better story for our nation.
We have created a 35 minute film with Lyndon, Nola and Celia reminiscing on the Nationwide Festival of Light, the birth of CARE and the future we have ahead of us to bring God's truth and transformation to our laws and culture. You can watch this special film below which celebrates all that God has done and is still doing in and through Christians all accross the nation.