Highlights from Greenbelt 2013

This year Greenbelt clashed with Momentum. There was some (mostly) friendly rivalry on Twitter between folks who had chosen one event over the other. My response was straightforward - Only at Greenbelt would I get Mass every day & be invited to speak on Being Anglo-Catholic Charismatic. The way the programme worked this year I didn't quite make that the first part, but it was a fantastic festival.

Greenbelt changes year by year, yet this years festival was very much influenced by last years. Not only in the normal sense that successful worship groups tend to carry over from year to the next, but in the size of the event and layout of the site. Due to the heavy rain last year the area normally reserved for Big Top, Jesus Arms and lots more was out of action - the ground still had not fully recovered. The more compressed site plan however had a number of advantages - shorter journey times between talks and events, and most importantly the ability to sit in the Jesus Arms with a pint and listen to Main Stage or Big Top acts, depending on which was louder.

The worship schedule also felt pared down. There were certainly some groups missing, and slightly more breathing room. Talking to a lot of the groups the message was that everyone running the venues were more relaxed and extremely helpful.  A whole range of Earth Tradition groups were based at the Grove, which was on the way to the main camp site (not the volunteers), and unfortunately I didn't get there.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and enjoyed an evening with camping friends. The nature of Greenbelt is that you and your friends or partner are unlikely to see each other as you go to different places, between 9am and Midnight! Yet through the four days you bump into people, make new friends and catch up with old ones. Topics of conversation included how Greenbelt could engage more intentionally with the Charismatic / experiential especially future venues for Anglo-Catholic Charismatic worship and fellowship, and how Christian couples can encourage each other in being more pro-sex. I am not sure Greenbelt is ready for Grove like areas for either!

This year there was no Big Top opening worship event on Wednesday Night. The Main Stage had Folk On, who make me really uncomfortable in the same way that any act that lampoons a particular tradition and social grouping. Would Greenbelt really cheer for Chav On? There is a related concern that came out of some of my conversations with folks relating to the Earth Traditions. Having lived and served in the countryside for the last 8 years I am convinced the natural cycle and rhythms of the year are in the blood of many country people and churches. Those living in urban and suburban areas need to respect and learn from those who already live the land.

Friday night also was the beginning of GTV's program. In a smaller venue called the Tree House, many of the sessions were based on the idea of four small talks in an hour, from very different perspectives and on very different topics. I particularly enjoyed Dave Walker on How to be a Cartoonist. They will be released in time - worth a watch and using in small groups.

Saturday Morning I managed to get in to (Right Wing) Libertarian Conservative Evangelical James Carey on Why Does The Left have all the Best Jokes. James writes with Milton Jones and is genuinely funny. I found it very difficult however to get past either his concept of the left or of freedom. However his argument was sound - there are simply not enough targets on the left to make fun of. Following this talk I missed Simon Mouatt on What Can Marx Teach us About Money as the venue was full. Perhaps one to download. James and other Evangelical's presence at the festival is vital, and I made some effort to thank speakers from the Evangelical traditions.

Blessed returned to the Big Top Saturday afternoon with Metanoia. The prayers worked especially well as we formed a single chain of cloth from out knotted prayers. This year after Mass we took the Sacrament in procession to the Main Stage to join the Worship Pageant, where Fr. Simon ended the gathering with Benediction. The Pageant worked well this year, as groups supported and worked well with one another.

Because Greenbelt is not streamed, being a part of Blessed meant that I could not see Bp. Graham Cray speak on the future of Fresh Expressions. I did catch up with Graham later in the day and had a very positive conversation about Sacramental Fresh Expressions and how they were going to be represented on a national level in the future. Graham then returned to Momentum!

Later in the Big Top it was a pleasure to see Graham Kendrick. Graham gently and humbly led some of his well known material, and spoke about Greenbelt's contribution to issues in social justice at times when other events were silent. Of course now that other events have stepped up I felt there was a prophetic question about where Greenbelt goes next. I spoke to Graham about this later in the day - and he said it wasn't intentional - but we had an interesting conversation together with Vicky Beeching touching on charismatic liturgical worship - or perhaps I just rehearsed my talk.

On social justice,Greenbelt had a huge range of groups and organisations. The result being that walking through G-Source was like navigating a high-street packed with Chuggers. Admittedly folks just wanted to talk, or encourage you to do something with an iPad, rather than squeeze you for Credit Card details, but it was still unpleasant.

Saturday evening was another Goth Eucharist, drawing from the Four Elements of creation and renewing our baptismal vows. N-Chant were brilliant, although I am not sure we as clergy did the liturgy justice. But I have had enough feedback to know that people met with God. The Goth Eucharist is a brilliant opportunity for us to share elements of alternative culture with a wider range of people, bringing people together and dissolving suspicion.

On Sunday I got to delivery my short talk. It's on the Blog. I have no idea how the video will come out! In the afternoon I finally got some peace in the form of Exposition, having the opportunity to explain the presence to a questioning family. The day's central act of worship for me was the U2Charist, this year in the bigger venue of Centaur. In many ways a straightforward communion with some interesting music that worked well.

Monday was Political and I hoped to catch Maurice Glasman in the morning, but he got lost in Birmingham. His re-scheduled slot clashed with Fuzz Kitto in the afternoon talking about a new project bring different voices together, in action, storytelling and vision. I asked Fuzz in session and in person about how we ensure practitioners and theorists continue to speak and work together, and he was positive with ideas. Worth a download and find out more at

I finally got my politics fix with What is the Point of the Welfare State, a panel of Alexandra Swan - a libertarian from UKIP, Jane Corbett, Niall Cooper, and Maurice Glasman. Maurice was something in a class of his own as his explored the ideas around Blue Labour. I am not sure if Greenbelt will swing in that direction, but he got a very warm response.

Obviously that is just a taste of all that was happening at Greenbelt. As always so much at Greenbelt that compliments also clashes in terms of time slots. There was plenty for those who are sacrament and mission minded,  and looking for more contemporary ways of worshipping. Greenbelt is unique in offering this space.

Someone else (in their 20's) remarked that the festival felt increasingly old. Greenbelt is perhaps a festival supported by Volunteers in Teens to Thirties, Curated by Thirties to Fifties and Attended & Paid For by people in their Fifties plus. Son's and Daughters do need to be encouraged to Prophesy, alongside the valued Vision Carriers and Dreamers of Dreams.

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