I have seen many Greenbelts in my time (the faith-inspired arts and social action festival) but last summer’s was definitely my best ever! It may seem strange to write about it just now but it’s my wee antidote to all the winter weather and I am aware too that it’s when folks start planning for what to do this coming year. Maybe I can even influence that…
Here’s why it was the best:
- Wall-to-wall sunshine: For an outdoor festival, past weather has been mixed, but this was my first year of good throughout. Halfway through, I remember thinking “What shoes shall I wear today?” then realising that I had never asked myself that before by then. Normally its sometime showers have softened the way for squelches of mud dotted around the site, and I have resorted to trusty welly boots for the duration. How resplendent it all appeared!
- Inclusive communion: the communion service is always a highlight, but this year especially so, with its theme of inclusion and disability. Becky Tyler spoke, a young lady with cerebral palsy, using a voice synthesiser like Stephen Hawkings but “much nicer” she said (very true!) She told of coping with a disability that was due to someone else’s mistake and of reading Daniel 7v9 about God also having wheels, realising God loved her just as much as anyone else. Very moving and deserving of its long ovation.
- Charles Handy: the 87-year old former business guru encouraged us all to consider “The Second Curve”, to have courage to make change in our lives. This
was pretty much my situation over the past 2 years, coming to a head the day after the festival when I started my new role in interfaith training in Southall. His book was top seller at Greenbelt, no surprise given his great wisdom. I was all ears for it.
- Art and the Bible: a new course from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, covering the
story of the Bible using 22 paintings selected in partnership with their Trafalgar Square London neighbours, the National Gallery. Sometimes church is a very word-based experience, what a relief for us visual learners to think through the stories with pictures for a change. Something I want to try in future somewhere.
- Muslim artistry and discussion: a whole area of Greenbelt dedicated to story-telling, music and dance, on offer throughout the weekend. But why were Muslims at Greenbelt? Again this fitted so well with my forthcoming interfaith role: whatever interactions we have with other faiths need to be built on good understanding and respect – after all, early Christians were thought of as cannibals due to misunderstandings around the Eucharist.
I don’t agree with everything I hear at Greenbelt but I like to hear new perspectives and to think things through for myself. Surprises this year won’t be the same as last year (the first one above is highly unlikely!) But it is sure that there will be surprises!