Community, Motofest

Why Motofest isn’t just about cars

I’m not a fan of cars.

Growing up, cars never really seemed anything special. Sure, some looked nicer than others, but they got me from A to B and that was enough. I recognised my parents’ car by the number plate, and if you asked me what size engine my car has, I’d hold my hands out a couple of feet across.

So why would someone like me get involved in Motofest, year after year? Why is it one of the highlights of my yearly calendar?

For me, Motofest isn’t all about the cars, the bikes, or the noise. It’s about our city, about the people in it, and about giving them something to be proud of. It’s about fulfilling God’s command to bless and serve those around us. Okay, maybe it’s a bit about the noise as well.

As many of you will know, Coventry’s past is deeply rooted in the automotive industry. For nearly 100 years, people from Coventry could travel all over the world, point to many different cars, and say “that came from my city. I know someone who made that”. People could stand tall on the world stage and have some pride in their hometown. When the motor industry began to fail in the 70s and move away from Coventry, that hole wasn’t filled. What remained was a literally and figuratively bombed-out shell of a city, with a lot of dreams of the good old days but not much going for them right now.

Does this sound familiar? In Isaiah 61, Isaiah is talking about the Spirit of the Lord, and of God’s heart for his people. God promises to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; [to] renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Now, I don’t think that God is specifically seeking to rebuild the physical city of Coventry (although the University is certainly giving it a good go). Instead, I think he cares about the people; a people that have been longing for something to rally around, to give them a sense of belonging and joy.

While this is ultimately found in belonging to God’s family, us as a Church body helping the city to celebrate their motoring heritage (past, present and future), and to find something to give hope can help us demonstrate that we, and our God, care deeply about them and about the passions of their hearts. Elsewhere, in Jeremiah, a group of Israelites exiled into the Babylonian empire are instructed to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7).

I could go on about the idea of common grace, but summed up briefly it’s the idea that God cares about much more than bums on seats in churches. Instead, he desires for his people to be a driving force for good and prosperity to all those around them, regardless of whether that results in people giving their lives to Jesus or not. One of the symbols of Coventry, mostly adopted by the University, is that of a Phoenix, rising from the ashes to be reborn. That may be the Uni and the Council’s goal for economic and social reasons, but I believe that as the Church, we can see that as a sign of our spiritual mission for this city.

During my first or second Motofest, I was volunteering as an ambassador in Broadgate. I met an older gentleman, who was just sitting looking at some vintage cars, and seemed to be nearly in tears. I asked him what was wrong. He said that nothing was wrong, but that this line of cars (typically, I don’t have a clue which cars they were) had been what he began his career working on, and that he never thought he would be able to see an original one in such good shape again. He looked inside the bonnet, and told me all about the different parts of the car he had worked on. He had such a joy about him, and it was then that I realised that Motofest was a really powerful way to engage with the hearts of our city, and to seek its peace and prosperity.

Handing out an event guide or pointing out the nearest toilet may not feel as important as explaining the gospel to someone, but I love the opportunities I’ve had over the years to explain to people why a church is at the core of running an automotive festival. For some people, you’ll get involved in Motofest because you love cars. For me, it’s because I love a people whose language is cars, and can use the festival to show them that my God cares deeply about them.

Joe Woodruff

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