Last weekend was Greenbelt Festival. In spiritual terms, for me at least, a time to stretch, to get up and be enriched once again. Not because I attended a long list of learned talks by significant theologians. I didn’t. And certainly not because I made a note of everything honourable that was said and done in order to create engaging worship. (I didn’t.) Far more than such trivial matters, it was the once a year visit to a gathering which was once suggested by Greenbelt regular the late Mike Yackonelli to be a glimpse of heaven. Not because it is perfect. It wasn’t. Not because the weather is always fine. It was what it was. Not because everyone there agreed. They didn’t. Not because everyone there is a ‘christian’ (whatever that means) they weren’t. But because for one weekend a year a huge spectrum of life was represented before us in one place on one or two fields in Northants. The before festival inevitable banter between those who believe it should be such and such a gathering and those who would like it to go away because it doesn’t fit their understanding of God and Christianity and those for whom it is too difficult a place to be at because it challenges their assumptions and ways of life. Between those who would like it to be like it was twenty years ago and those who would like it to be more like it was four years ago and those who wanted it to be more anglican and those who would have liked it to be less anglican. Those who don’t know what it is to be anglican. Higher, lower, lefter or righter. Those who wanted it to be less ‘churchy’ and those who don’t do church anyway. However, there were those who just went with an open mind not caring what it was supposed to be, knowing that being there in the midst of Greenbelt folk is an experience that affects you in ways that many beers could not have reached. What Do I Mean? Good Question. It can be summed up in yet another question which is often close to the surface for some when discussing the merits of such gatherings: To whom does God belong? For we often try to brand ourselves as owning some sort of copyright on God. Or if not a copyright as such, then doing it right. And if we are doing it right then there must be those down the road who are doing it wrong upon whom we must look down. I am reminded of Greenbelt Regular Dave Walker (With whom (really sorry Dave, not sure what came over me – must have been the ‘Bad Christian’ – (that’s a beer!) I got a selfie this year)) and his cartoon of the same idea. That can’t be what it is about, it just doesn’t make any sense. Richard Rohr has described Christianity as competitive firms trying to outdo each other in correctness. And I despair. If we need to do anything it is to be ready to love. To be Eager to Love as Richard Rohr would have us understand the way of St. Francis. Who said very little and did a great deal. People followed him for what he did, not what he said. It was the same with Jesus. And I would hope that is what we are about here in our part of the world wherever we may have returned to. I’m not eager to be right, I hope you are not either. But I am eager to love and to be loved in turn. If there is one place a year that this is all brought together into the general mish-mash that is our crazy world it is at the Greenbelt Festival. If we are going to begin to understand, let alone solve the issues of this world, then we need to all be sat at the same table, and be in conversation and begin to make friends with those with whom we might profoundly disagree. And we need to be eager to walk with them and to love them. At this point, we ought not say ‘until next year’. – For our task is to keep this alive throughout the year, each month and every day.
Dutifully looking up the readings for my last Sunday in the current parish, (Luke 13: 31-35) I was astonished to read the short passage – how apt for one leaving… The I noticed I was in John, not Luke. Uncanny though, how appropriate some of the words from John were!!
Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.”
On a related subject, this came in the post!