I meant to post more about Greenbelt a while ago, but life keeps catching up with me, and now the first fervour is over I’m not sure that I really have much to contribute to the many words afloat in the blogosphere…
You know it was lovely, and that you all ought to come next year, don’t you?
However, I was interested when looking back at the Festival to see that I’d plumped for a very “churchy” range of talks. I’m not sure if this is a professional hazard or whether, when confronted by the amazing variety of seminars available, I simply went for those I knew I’d probably end up using directly. Strange things do seem to have happened to my brain since ordination: I was startled that I viewed each ancient Norfolk church as a potential venue for a family Eucharist when we had our mini-holiday back in May,- but I do hope it won’t mean that I’m condemned to see the world through a pair of ecclesiastical spectacles forever more.
Having said which, though, there were some very interesting things to hear about the church at GB…I’ve undoubtedly lost track of lots of good stuff, but came home with plenty to mull over…..One thought was that the Church existed as a trellis to support our faith as it grows and blossoms, but we are all too prone to turning it into a cage. My current congregation is more trapped by hardening of the oughteries in their worship than anybody I’ve encountered anywhere before, so this spoke loud and clear to me. It might not have been an entirely helpful , but fortunately the 3 seminars by Richard (Repitching the Tent/ Creating Uncommon Worship) Giles provided help with the question of how we might begin to open the cage door and step out.
The thing that struck me with the most force, though, was a contribution from my friend Roger Morris, who was part of the panel for the Monday night Holy Joe’s debate on the church. Steve had invited us to say what we felt about our current church context, and there was, perhaps not surprisingly, a rising tide of disappointment and frustration. Then Steve asked why we all stayed with our churches if they were such unhelpful places (by this stage, many had agreed that they tended to exist from Greenbelt to Greenbelt…this was the only way that their faith survived at all). Roger made the point that, if we were really living out our calling to BE signs of the Kingdom we would hang on with the church because we truly needed the support that would come from gathering with our fellow Christians…Because we tend, for the most part, to live fairly half heartedly, we allow the church to limp on as the unsatisfactory institution it so often is….we don’t need it, so we don’t care when it is substandard.
This, coupled with the 8 challenges for the church which my fab Bishop delivered on the Sunday, gave me much to think about….He and Richard Giles agreed that while worship should be the sort of experience which regularly sweeps us off our feet, (at least one of them quoted Annie Dillard’s words about the need for hard hats to be issued as standard on Sunday mornings), we rarely behave as if we have any expectations of it at all.
Returning home tonight after a worship planning meeting, I’m forced to agree…the one thing we never ever plan for is the mind-blowing reality of God. the vicar is away this week, so I’m contemplating a truly terrifying series of funerals (3 on Friday) Eucharists, Weddings, Baptisms and one solitary, reflective Evensong…I’m not sure if I could COPE if we were blown away by God’s presence…but it would certainly reduce the pressure to produce an inspiring sermon!