Building communities – Steve Chalke at #gb40 might relate to #winchestermission

My blurred last image of Greenbelt 2013 - Duke Special and the Greenbelt Festival Orchestra were on stage.  'Colourful but very blurred' is about how well I currently see the mixture of theology and pragmatic community opportunities that ordained life is currently  looking like. I wonder, does it, will it, ever come into focus?
My blurred last image of Greenbelt 2013 – Duke Special and the Greenbelt Festival Orchestra were on stage.
‘Colourful but very blurred’ is about how well I currently see the mixture of theology and pragmatic community opportunities that ordained life is currently looking like. I wonder, does it, will it, ever come into focus?

It’s great to be told half way through ordination training, that “theological colleges are training people for the wrong things!”

I heard that gem, among others, from Steve Chalke at Greenbelt over the Bank Holiday weekend. After my issues with camping that curtailed my experience of Greenbelt 2011, this time I stayed with a dear friend in Stroud (real bed & bathroom in peaceful surroundings) and had the company of my sixteen year old son, and was thus encouraged to focus on music and poetry, rather than talks.

But Steve Chalke’s talk “The Business of Salvation: Building holistic communities in the 21st century” was one of the exceptions, and I think it may prove to have relevance to our Diocesan Conference this week “Living the Mission of Jesus” where the keynote speaker will be Tom Wright (Revd. Prof. N.T. Wright, to give him what may be his formal title).

Steve Chalke’s point about theological training was that we’re being trained as theologians to run churches, rather than what he thinks we need, which is to be trained as entrepreneurs or ‘pioneers’ (to use one of Bishop Tim’s favourite “p’s”) in social infrastructure and community building.

Making the link between the original social functions of the Jewish synagogues and the need for local Christian communities (as opposed to out-of-town mega churches) Steve said something like this:

Church groups need to become/create/found infrastructure organisations – something they can do, together with businesses, local council’s and other community organisations. We have to be in the mix so that stuff isn’t done for profit, and pragmatically to stop stuff in our post-welfare state society from not being done at all! Being are core/key part of the debate gives churches/Christians a voice in the debate and protest – because we will have “skin in the game”.

My impression is, that this is exactly the sort of collaborative partnership that we may be directed towards at conference, and which as a Anglican Diocese with hopefully still a building (or similar resource to sell or redesign) and a fellowship of Christians in every parish, we are hopefully well placed to use.

I will admit a failure here: I haven’t yet read most of Tom Wrights “How God became King” which was the ordinand’s Christmas present from +Tim last year. (To be honest, I’ve had other things to read in the meantime.) But, I think what he’s trying to say in that, and I have a hunch he will emphasise similar at conference, is that many Christian’s have become too focused on Pauline and salvation theology, forgetting that this needs to be partnered with the Kingdom theology of Christ’s mission in his lifetime, i.e. the things he did between his birth and death as told in the Gospel accounts. These are the bits that tell us God is already doing his Kingdom work, as Steve Chalke put it, and all we have to do is join in! From some reasoning like this, I’m guessing Bishop Tim get’s his vision statement for the Diocese of Winchester that we should be “living the mission of Jesus”.

To me Steve Chalke, Tom Wright and Bishop Tim seem to stating similar things, that come close to the category of “blindingly obvious”. What concerns me is whether there is really not just the aching/longing prayer, the resources (financial and human), and the will-power to do such community Kingdom building, but whether the structure and constraints of an Anglican Diocese is really enabled to make it happen? I’m hoping that I will receive and encouraging answer to this, because I need to be enthused for the year ahead, and hear some substance to the purpose of my possible future ministry.

Going back to my original Steve Chalke quotation about theological training, in my view at the end of the talk he actually partly refuted his own statement. He clearly said that as Christian’s we need both theology (articulated in clear, common language) and the business skills in our church leaders. So when, in the Diocese of Winchester we think about re-structuring our training patterns to enable this long-term living of the mission of Jesus, are we also going to encourage and enable the tools of community enterprise alongside the theological training ordinands like me are already receiving?

So those are my starting thoughts for the week – not much, but where I’m coming from.

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Making Connections at #gb11 and beyond

Mothers' Union staff and members at Sunday Eucharist Greenbelt 2011

Well I’ve come to the final post reflecting on what I gained from attending half of Greenbelt 2011. Basically it was all down to making connections.

Some of those connections involved styles of worship, ideas for community, and fresh theological reflections. It was also good to link up with fellow Mothers’ Union members and friends who gave me particular joy by taking in this waif at the Sunday Morning Eucharist. There were also good times shared with one or two people I already knew a bit, for which I was incredibly grateful.

But on top of them, and the Twitter friends I met for the first time, perhaps one of the best things about Greenbelt was… blogging about! Blogging my rambling reflections has started conversations with people I met, and also with some I didn’t manage to link up with in person. It has produced suggestions for future reading, and ministry, that I possibly won’t be able to use immediately, but that I can return to in future, and which may inform other areas of discussion I’m involved with.

A rainbow of connections at Eucharist Greenbelt 2011

Not long before Greenbelt I had considered stopping the blogging thing, fearing that what I shared wasn’t worth much, and that it was soaking up time that I could use more valuably in other ways – either in ministry or directed towards my family.

Instead, I’m going to keep going, and now I’m looking forward to my next new adventure in connectedness: learning how to do this social networking stuff so much better at the Christian New Media Awards and Conference in October! Roll on #cnmac11 posts!

Thoughts from hearing about ‘New Monasticism’ at #gb11

Greenbelt from the Grandstand (Jerusalem)

I had not really registered the term “new monasticism” before I went to Greenbelt.

I initially considered going to “New Monasticism: is it all hype or refriaring the church?”because I’d started reading the “The Hospitality of God” co-written by Bishop Michael Perham, and he was on the list of speakers; but somehow I didn’t quite make it, which was possibly fortunate as it was heavily over-subscribed.

Then as my physical and emotional spirits failed on Sunday lunchtime, I found myself in the Grandstand (Jerusalem) at “The parish as Abbey” listening to Karen Ward of Church of the Apostles, Seattle. Although she wasn’t the easiest person to follow (but that was partly the state I was in) I found myself intrigued by these snippets I noted down:

  • community of God’s hospitality
  • inviting community to come and own the space (of a disused church) through inviting (and not charging) bands, artists, and offering (cheap) refreshment
  • chapel and the Daily Offices operate as the engine house of the church, even whilst other things going on
  • there is no intention to coerce people into the Kingdom of God – we can only invite.

This work is apparently an example of new monasticism. I realised through other things I was reading in Michael Perham’s book, in the Greenbelt guide, and hearing around me, that there were many other examples in the UK.

But I also looked at my parish here at home. I wondered what parts of the things we do at St Peter’s, show signs of us being drawn towards a form of community that might eventually be something along the very broad lines of new monasticism. At the moment it may simply be the (cheap) hospitality of our coffee shop, the weekly toddler and children’s dance groups that operate (beyond our own church Wayfinder and Messy groups), and the art group that gather weekly mostly from outside the churched community. Things that have been going on for years. What’s missing is in fact the Daily Offices, though there’s many small groups of us who gather there to pray for something at various points through a week or month.

Then last week, my son told us he had to correct his GCSE RS teacher who suggested that Anglican churches are often only used twice a week! In fact St Peter’s so regularly has ‘stuff’ going on that it can be difficult to find time to slot in a funeral.

And so I thought of new monasticism again, and realised that others were too (like Revd Claire.) So I listened via MP3 download to the discussion I’d missed at Greenbelt (see link above) and here are my further thoughts:

  • The “new” of new monasticism isn’t the rhythm or love or prayer shown by monastic life patterns, but the new contexts into which they are being placed – God is making things new through the creative obedience of those that enable him to be seen, either in new places, or in old places in a new way;
  • Many expressions of new monasticism are being located in desert places, but the participants in the discussion seem to suggest these are mostly urban places. (Except for Tessa ? of Contemplative Fire but that seems a mixed dispersed community.) Why are urban areas any more of a desert than the rural communities of England where people live lives isolated by their wealth (both too much wealth, and too little wealth)?
  • Physical (geographic) community seems to be important in the majority of cases. I liked the idea about communities being built on three types of people, the remainers (who have stayed, sometimes against the odds), returners (who want to be part of the resurrection), and relocators (who move in missionally for the purpose). Yet with a largish ex-Romany/settled-traveller community, within and around us here in Yateley how would, or could, a loosely monastic community work among them? Would it need to come from within – someone more friar, than monk?
  • I liked the emphasis on “exegeting” your neighbourhood; learning and understanding it’s struggles and history, what makes it distinct or discrete from others. My own birthplace in the New Forest is very distinct, particularly through it’s commoning and forestry heritage, tinged as that is now by tourism.

I don’t like label’s very much, but I think “new monasticism” has more appeal than most. I think it’s because it describes a very lose collective of different ways of trying to extend God’s Kingdom, rather than trying to define clearly what people should be thinking or doing.

I’m not sure if, when, or how, such small reflections may bear fruit, or feed my ministry. But I have a sneaking suspicion that they will.

Chiming or clanging bell? Rob Bell at #gb11

Rob Bell addresses the crowd at 'Jerusalem' Greenbelt 2011

Rob Bell was the speaker at Greenbelt who I though I ‘ought’ to go and listen to. I seemed to remember he’d written something controversial not that long ago, but I couldn’t remember what. I still can’t.

In the end, I heard him twice. On Saturday I followed the crowd, sheeplike, to the Main Stage. There I had my first “tweet-up” with a very nice tweeting vicar from the outskirts of London – but that’s beside the point!

Apparently ‘the Good News is better than that‘! Better than twitter, and talking about interesting stuff with fascinating people? Well yes, obviously – in the nicest possible way.

Actually, I spent the first half hour of his talk wondering what on earth I was doing wasting my time listening. He simply talked about himself – I have to say, he seems to do that rather a lot.

Then he got my attention, or rather, God did. For reasons I’m not currently at liberty to discuss on the web, his message “Be yourself, and take the next step”, was something I needed to be reminded just then. The same went for “don’t constantly worry about what you’re not – other people don’t need to hear it”! By the time he said something along the lines of “be patient about the next step and don’t worry about the one after that” I’d decided he’d been talking to my spiritual director. She too, I’ve since discovered, was also there, but I don’t think they’d met 🙂  I went away knowing God had spoken to me through some of what he said, but still not sure what I thought of him.

“Pure undiluted slog” was Rob Bell’s not a very inspiring talk title in the afternoon, but it was the one I was more interested in. Learning to find the things in ministry that set the creative juices running (courtesy of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit), and balancing them with the more ‘run of the mill’ stuff, is sort of part of where I’m at.

Again, the content of the Rob Bell’s talk wasn’t really that startlingly new. Again, there were quite a lot of amusing stories about himself; or at least amusing if you ‘get’ some of the jokes – I’ve never been to America, and I fear some of them were lost on me.

But there were some things that Rob Bell said, that chimed with me:

  • when we are creative we are being hypersensitive to God in the ‘place’ we’re in – which is a good thing;
  • we need to move slow enough to ‘see’ God in a place/experience etc;
  • collect things like photo’s, ideas, conversations; (that’s why I love my camera, and twitter!)
  • the reward for the effort of creating something is if it happens to resonate with someone – yes, that is a good feeling, but you created it first and foremost because God put it in you, so you need to be extra-ordinarily grateful for it;
  • creative things can be exhausting, because part of you, or your relationship with God, got dragged up and spilled out; (that’s how we grow in faith and discipleship to my mind);
  • the one I like most was that the cost of being creative, is part of a”Eucharist reality”. Well it’s certainly sacrificial in time, energy, and sometimes money, so OK I can buy that! Is being creative also sacramental; an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace? Well yes, thinking about it now, of course it is. Surely that is what our priests should make the Eucharist: a creative, incarnational experience, for them, and for those who receive it? In fact to my mind, all worship should to mind be a creative space for God to work in people’s lives, which is probably why I got so excited about my “Blessed” and “Molten” experiences.

Some of what he said helped me understand why some of us blog, twitter and generally dump stuff out onto the web – the web has made it so much easier than pencil and paper! Yes, I suppose it’s sort of healthy to just “get it out”, and not worry about how weird it is till later – but on reflection shouldn’t we be more aware of what we are doing than that? We should be able to discern in ourselves what is good and bad, that is why there are edit, preview and delete buttons! Yes, if we’re writing a book, then trust friends and the more experienced to edit it, but we should surely be able to get rid of some of the rubbish ourselves, before it gets to them. If we don’t, perhaps that’s why there’s some serious rubbish out there on the internet!

Of course, as Rob Bell rightly pointed out, especially with the web, but also with a book, you don’t have control over how what you publish is perceived. That is the risk we take. But surely when we’re writing about our faith, or how God could be active in the lives of others, those are the things we should be ultra careful about? Then once committed, we have to rely on God’s strength and insight to live with, and/or respond to the flack that follows?

I think the thing that I found most difficult was some of Rob Bell’s images, and the connections he made with some Biblical passages. It might be my poor memory or bad telling, but when I got home and recounted his ‘gorilla-man’ story to my husband, it clanged with him, and it clanged with me. Surely you give your money to the ‘street-act’ that is the best, whose talent and obvious commitment of time most deserves your respect, rather than too the buffoon who really didn’t have a clue?

In a similar way I didn’t get the link between Jacob’s (creative?) use of a stone for a pillow in Genesis 28, and the importance of his dream. Surely the dream was God’s free gift, his grace to Jacob, and didn’t result from any creativity on Jacob’s part? Perhaps I’m missing something.

So, for me the chiming bits of Rob Bell probably just outweighed the clanging sounds. But I’m still not completely sure to make of him, and I still don’t know why he’s meant to be controversial. To be honest, I’m not sure that I’m that bothered!


Beyond the grave at #gb11

Part of the graveyard at St Peter's Yateley

I’ve spent much of my ministry as a Reader in the last 12 months focusing on the funeral ministry here at St Peter’s, developing my ministry in this field alongside helping to nurture the parish’s during our recent vacancy.

Though I’ve been involved in a wide range of funerals in that year, and I’d previously had the day of training offered by the Diocese of Winchester, I’ve been more than aware that I’ve only scratched the surface of connecting with different people’s reactions to the death of a loved one.

So listening to Paula Gooder talk on ‘Beyond the grave: what happens after we die’ was another ‘must’ for me at Greenbelt.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Paula speak before – she covered the Gospel of Mark about three years ago at the Bishop of Winchester’s Lent Lecture, and of course she’s almost a regular on BBC Radio now! I knew therefore that what she said would be very focused on what the Bible actually tells us, but that I’d need my brain to be fully engaged – along with my notebook! I wasn’t disappointed.

Paula emphasised above all that the Biblical narrative may have a variety of views on life after death, but what it definitely and repeatedly states is that it believes in the resurrection of the body. At some future point the dead will rise to a new physical existence in a new created reality.

This made me jealous. Jealous of those that saw the resurrected Jesus, that could talk about first hand; those that walked the road to Emmaus; jealous even of dear old Thomas. Thomas above all others might be able to report to the rest of us the idea of Jesus’ continuous (people could touch him) and discontinuous (people who knew him didn’t always realise who he was) as Paula described it.

You see I struggle to visualise what a resurrected body might be like; my own, or anyone elses. I know, that’s why we have this thing called faith.

Among the funerals, and attendant pastoral visits that I’ve done in the last year, no-one has asked me about the resurrection, nor have they asked me the even more difficult question that Paula focused on, that is what happens between death and resurrection?

For me the theology of God’s new Kingdom being ‘now and not yet’ tends to lead me to agree with the third of the options that Paula identified as being believable from the Biblical narrative: that is, that we are judged at the point of our death, and that we are then held somewhere waiting for the resurrection to take place – you are in heaven if you are not in hell, but you are still awaiting the resurrection.

If I were asked, as I guess one day I will be, where someone’s loved-one is after they have died, I think I am comfortable with saying that they are somewhere awaiting the resurrection when God’s Kingdom is fully revealed.

What I might say if the deceased might not have been a particularly ‘nice’ person, would probably have to dwell on the fact that it is not our place to judge people, but God’s, and that we have to trust that they are in his hands. Or is that too namby pamby?

Paula didn’t really touch on the pastoral issues of what we ministers might say at these times, but she did give us “5 minutes in hell” as she called it. It was basically a debunking of the idea that “hell” is Biblical, whereas in fact she described it as a word used by translators to explain a serious of difficult Hebrew and Greek words.

Three final ideas really struck me about what Paula said:

  • She struggles to use the word ‘spirituality; in it’s common modern usage as fuzzy feelings towards God, as her understanding of the importance of belief in physical resurrection requires her to think in life of our physical body as part of our spiritual relationship with God, and that because of this she thinks we have to take our worship of God with body and with soul seriously (something that the guys at Molten Meditation have I suspect picked up on given their use of space and action – see my previous post);
  • That an essential part of the God who loves us, is that he will punish people; that is, he will pass judgement on the lives we’ve lived – however uncomfortable I find that idea;
  • That actually, at the bedside of a dying friend or parishioner, or comforting the bereaved, it may not matter what our answers to these big questions are; but instead we must hold before ourselves and those we minister to, the words of faith written by St Paul in Romans 8:

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The full talk by Paula Gooder can be downloaded, or bought on CD, here. Paula also has a new book on the subject ‘Heaven’.

If you have experience of taking funerals, bereavement visits, or other expertise in this field, I’d welcome your thoughts and reflections if you don’t mind sharing.

 

Blessed Eucharist and Molten Meditation – wonderful worship at #gb11

One of the things that meant that Greenbelt has for the last 25 years been the one Christian mega-gathering that I REALLY wanted to experience ‘one-day’, is the fact that it is a really inclusive event, which seems to have always wanted to engage people in ideas and new, or emerging forms of worship.

God's forgiveness can fill any space!

So, it seemed right that I started my Greenbelt experience, with something “Blessed” shared by Fr Simon Rundell of St. Thomas the Apostle, Gosport and Robb of ‘Changing Worship’ and ‘Metanoia’ (both of whom are a great follow on Twitter and their blogs!) – a Eucharist that was really designed to “Wake me up inside.”

It did just what it said on the the label!

The full liturgy is here, and the video is here – and I really would encourage you to take a look, especially if you like rock music, blowing bubbles, and really meaningful liturgy.

Without wishing to repeat a blow by blow account of the whole thing, what was it that meant the most to me?

The theme for Greenbelt this year was ‘Dreams of Home’ and two things struck me particularly about the way Fr Simon had designed the liturgy and visuals to fit this theme:

  • The use of different rooms of the home as elements of the Eucharistic celebration enabled us to really engage with the movement that lies with in this most poignant of sacraments. For the ‘Penitential Rite’ (Confession and Absolution) we were in the Bathroom, including the bubbles of God’s forgiveness that were able to fill the space of a Big Top.
  • The use of images from glamorous, expensive home magazines contrasted nicely with the state of the world today, where so many are homeless, either through poverty, war/insurrection, or a society that simply wont understand.

The other piece of liturgy that I found particularly moving, and made me feel more than a little bit uncomfortable, was the Lord’s Prayer – first prayed together and then followed up with a series of “Don’t say… if you…’s”. The pace was also just right – it stopped you getting comfortable. It reminded my that I can not pray, without understanding the consequences of those prayers!

There was also something really, really special about sharing The Peace with complete strangers – I had truly come home to Greenbelt, in God’s presence.

Later on Friday evening, I experienced true Greenbelt serendipity. There I was, up in the Grandstand, having checked out The Tank (so I knew what to do when the phone needed charging) and wondering as the rain came down what on earth to do before I trekked back to my tent.

There was something called ‘Homebound – Molten Choral Medititation” in a venue called Hebron. I hesitated, totally ignorant of what it might involve (I’d not yet had time to read the Greenbelt Guide). Then the rain came down harder, and I heard some rather wonderfully harmonious choral singing, so I took the plunge. One of the best spur of the moment decisions I made in the time I spent at Greenbelt.

Accord, a group of 6 singers who I can’t find anywhere on the internet except at Greenbelt, created a beautiful blend of a capella choral music that drew recognisably from contemporary worship songs, traditional choral music (a lovely kyrie) and then completed the worship with something that I can only describe as choral beat-box! (If anyone can point me in the right web-direction of this group I’d be delighted.)

Molten Meditation who led the meditation in a full venue, asked us to consider the three steps (which we turned into 3 simple actions, and repeated twice during the ‘service’) we expected to make during our journey ‘home’ during Greenbelt. Their use of pace, and action, and what I’ve learnt is called ‘ambient’ music was excellent. It held our attention brilliantly in short bursts, including using some Charles Spurgeon quotes. I was so engaged that I remained so in the spaces filled by Accord’s music.

But what caught my attention, imagination and made me sit up and think the most was a story. They called it “There is such a thing as forgiveness”. Presented as what I hope might be termed a video/audio montage, I am really, really grateful that they released it on their YouTube site (click the link above) It used part of this (I think) Radio 4 interview recorded in March 2010, to explain how one man was asked to pray for another, and for the forgiveness that is being found through those prayers, not just for those two men but for a whole community. I have never, ever been so startled to see the face of Ian Paisley.

So, you see, despite the problems I encountered in myself and with camping, Greenbelt was definitely not a wasted experience! Just from that first evenings worship, I have been given much to think about, and many ideas to try in my own worship contexts in future.

Why I ‘failed’ Greenbelt #gb11 but know it’s not the end!

Dawn over Cleve Hill, Greenbelt 27th Aug 2011
Dawn over Cleve Hill, Greenbelt 27th Aug 2011

Well I’ve been back from Greenbelt for a couple of days, in fact for 30 hours longer than orginally planned!

First I must emphasise that there was nothing wrong with Greenbelt. It is a wonderful event. It brings Christians of all flavours, as well as agnostics and athiests, together, to grappel with some of the big issues of faith, culture, society and world affairs, through the media of music, speech, comedy, and good old fashioned conversation. And it does so very successfully.

I’ve been told however, that to really experience Greenbelt you have to camp. So, for my first ever visit, I felt I had to camp. OK, it was slightly glamping, as I hired the tent and such like, but as the previous post shows – it was hardly all mod cons! I had never camped before and knew that I was pushing myself beyond my ‘comfort’ zone on this one, but felt I’d let myself down if I didn’t try.

But, perhaps I knew myself better than I was willing to admit in my efforts to conform to the stereotype of ‘festival goer’. Perhaps I should have been more honest, more humble even.

You see the first night, despite plenty of pre-planning and kit, I was frozen. I barely slept a wink even though I had a second sleeping bag to cover the first, a blanket, ear plugs, eye shade… even my socks on! It meant I was able to photograph the dawn over Cleve Hill, but it had little else to recommend it as a nights sleep! I was only thankful that the air mattress provided by Tangerine Fields was a great comfort to my notoriously dodgy back.

The second night, I doubled the layers – more clothes, one sleeping bag in side the other, a woolly hat – and yes, I was a little warmer, more comfortable. It was just that even ear plugs don’t help when teenagers race around a campsite (that isn’t their patch) at 2am+ screaming, shouting and falling onto my tent!

Apparently, that’s what teenagers do at festivals, but I’m afraid I thought it simply selfish – and I wasn’t alone. Most of my fellow TF campers were older than me, and/or visiting the UK and taking in Greenbelt as part of their holiday – and their reactions weren’t always as calm as mine.

Greenbelt 2011 sitemap

In many ways the position of the Tangerine Fields site (see site map) was ideal. We were very near the field of activity, had toilets and running drinking water very close to hand. This convenience was added to by the fact that I could enjoy acts like “Duke Special” in the ‘Big Top’ and ‘Performance Cafe’ from the comfort of the air mattress in the tent!

It was just that it seems that it also provided an easy shortcut through to the main ‘Big Top’ entrance and these facilities, for young volunteers and I presume teenagers who’d been put in “early curfew” perhaps a little against their will?! During Festival hours this was understandable, and bearable. After midnight, it was a huge nuisance.

I know I need a lot of sleep, so all this sleep deprivation started to take it’s toll on what I could take in of the talks and the music I wanted to hear at the Festival. But it also exacerbated another problem, that I hadn’t expected.

This might sound a little soppy, but I missed my man! I went to Greenbelt alone, knowing that I would meet a few people there I already knew a bit, and hoped I would meet more people (mostly ministers) that I only knew via Twitter. This proved the case, but somehow it wasn’t enough. Most of the people I saw, were either part of a group, there as a couple, or had a large group of pre-existing friends to connect with. In particular they were able to chat through their experiences or the ideas they’d heard, together afterwards.

Some of the rainbow of flags on the Grandstand at Greenbelt 2011

Without someone close there, this wasn’t possible for me, despite my poor attempts at Twitter conversation after talks. Added to which, there’s the simple fact that my husband has been my ‘soul-mate’ for the last 20+ years and it just wasn’t the same without him to share it with! (The main reasons he didn’t come were doggy logistics, and expense, since I had the privilege of being there on a First Time Christian Leader ticket that was greatly reduced in price.)

Rob Bell (and as I work through my responses to the talks I went to, his name will crop up again) spoke on Saturday morning about “knowing oneself”, about not moaning about what you’re not, owning who you are, and living the life that God has equipped you for accordingly.

It was this idea, which was hardly knew, but perhaps something I needed to hear this weekend afresh, that eventually drove me to get my husband to come and collect me on Sunday afternoon, long before I had intended. The theme of the whole weekend was ‘Dreams of Home’ and I’m afraid the theological depth of this became rather lost for me, as all I could do was to dream of home – warmth, and peace to sleep! I know I have missed out on a lot as a result, but at least I am not a total physical wreck, and am now emotionally quite happy with the decision I made.

So, sorry Greenbelt I failed to make the most of all you offered this year, but you successfully emphasised stuff I should have known better about myself. I will be back another year – but I’m afraid, I won’t be camping!

As the week progresses, I shall write a little more about what I saw and heard and thought in the 2 days I was at Greenbelt, now I’m in the warmth and comfort of my own home! At least I know, as Rob Bell put it, that “failure is not the end”!

Dreams of Home at Greenbelt #gb11 #fb

image

Well, our holiday is over and my husband has dropped me off at Cheltenham Racecourse for my first experience of Festival life – Greenbelt style!

Thanks to my booking with Tangerine Fields (TF) I have made myself at home (no 38 – next to a jump) by proving I can use the stove to make a cup of tea!

The TF site is handy to the Big Top (where I hope to worship later with Blessed) and most of the goings on so I shall be able to wander backwards & forwards with ease. There are also toilets very adjacant!

After worship tonight I’m looking forward to hearing the source of my phone’s ring-tone on the mainstage: Show of Hands!

I think the only mistake I’ve made is coming without my husband, but doggy logistics would have made that tricky. So, rather than sit here gazing at the mist over Cleve Hill I’m off on a wander…

What do I need to get the best from Greenbelt? #gb11

I am being abandoned at the gates of Cheltenham Racecourse this month by my family, clutching only a rucksack, a cool bag and a pair of wellies!

Because we have a family adventure to have before we get there, I need to pack now – two whole weeks before Greenbelt starts!

I’m waiting with bated breath for the Daily Diary to be published on Friday just before I leave ‘internet-land’. My tent, mattress, sleeping bag and stove are organised already, courtesy of Tangerine Fields!

But I’m a first timer; a Greenbelt ‘virgin’ if you will.
What do I need, for me to get the best from Greenbelt? This could be things I need to take, or things I should try and do. So far I’ve been told the following:

  • If you need time out from the crowds try the  “silent” pemanent chill-out space
  • Something to sit on as a lot of the talks are in tents and the grandstand has hard seats – I’ve got a tiny 3 legged stool on a shoulder strap that should do the trick, and a squishy cushion thing we use for the cricket. Hopefully that will do.

I’m also planning to take:

  • A notebook and a pen – I’m guessing there will be interesting people, things, ideas etc that I will want to note down;
  • My trusty Android phone (and charger) so I can contact all my lovely Twurch of England and other friends and work out where we can meet up – especially important since I don’t know what most of them look like!

But the question is, what else do I need to take?

I’ve posted some of my initial plans here, but what else do I need to plan to do whilst I’m there that will make Greenbelt special?

If you’re a Greenbelt-pro, please post a comment here or Tweet me. I’d love your suggestions as to what else I should take with me, or what it is that I should plan to do whilst I’m there!

And perhaps we could pray it doesn’t rain?

Why I’m going to Greenbelt #GB11

Today I received my first ever Festival wristband in the post!

I’ve only ever spent two nights under canvas (in a friends field), and don’t own a tent. I have spinal issues which cause me pain, especially if I stand a lot, or get cold. I’m not that keen on large crowds and like space for thinking in peace and quiet. So… why, oh why, am I going to Greenbelt?!

I am what you might call a ‘Greenbelt virgin’… though officially I’m known as a First Time Christian Leader. I was persuaded to explore the idea via various folk who have been really supportive of me during our recent vacancy; folk like Good In Parts, the Fibre Fairy and Laurence Gamlen. The offer a discount (a Reader it seems is in ‘Christian Leadership’ – which is actually an encouragement in itself) helped a lot – my ticket for the whole weekend is costing me £25! The fact that Tangerine Fields provide a pre-set tent with AIR mattress, sleeping bag, stove and kettle, also made it rather attractive to a rooky participant who will be abandoned by her family with rucksack and cooly box at the gate on Friday to fend for myself over the weekend. The plan is that I will be claimed by my lovely placement vicar from All Saints, Basingstoke, on the Monday and brought back to Hampshire; she’s been telling me for two years that I really ought to go!

But why make all the effort? Well in no particular order:

  • I want to meet some of the people I’ve made friends with on Twitter;
  • I’d like to experience some alternative forms of worship. The iMass appeals because of what I think will be mix of sacramental worship and rock music partly hosted by Blessed; I would love to experience the Jazz Church, Grace is something I heard about when I first started blogging , and to calm down after all that I guess I’ll find the folk of Taize!
  • Mothers’ Union are focusing on their efforts on the Family Life Programme in Uganda, the only MU project overseas I’ve had the privilege to visit, and our great Chief Exec, Reg Bailey is speaking – I’d like to support both;
  • If I can get my brain to work, I’d also like to hear Paula Gooder again (having heard her talk 3 years ago at a Diocesan Lent Lecture), as well as John Bell, Margaret Sentamu, and Nadia Bolz-Weber whose skin tells the story!
  • I love folk music, and have particularly wanted to hear Kate Rusby and Show of Hands (whose ‘Roots’ is my mobile ring-tone) live for several years – both are appearing at Greenbelt, along with the Unthanks!
  • Mostly I want to be part of a ‘coming together’ of all those people that call themselves ‘Christian’, aren’t so worried about the other labels we tend to attach to ourselves, and are willing to listen to each other and those of no faith at all, in an effort to make the world a better place!

What I need to work out is what, among all this and plenty more, will most feed my development as a minister, and help me preach and create worship that might help the people of a ‘Middle England’ parish to be touched by God.

If I manage to achieve even half of that, and sleep, I shall be impressed! What I’m just waiting for now is my ticket to turn up, and the programme to be published (hopefully next week) so I can start planning how it’s all going to fit together. It just leaves you to let me know if you’re going to be there too 🙂