was the unintentionally ironic theme for this year's Greenbelt...Ironic, because it was the wettest festival we've had since moving to Cheltenham, I think. On Sunday afternoon, as we gathered for Communion, the heavens opened and we clustered under umbrellas and groundsheets to sing "Here comes the sun".
In some ways, this year was a festival of near misses for me. I failed to get to two worship experiences offered by friends...I forgot to go to another...I made a wrong call or two in terms of choices...I missed some friends completely, despite our best efforts, - and I really didn't enjoy the experience of driving half an hour home in the small hours to nurture the convalescent cat, despite the obvious pleasure of a real bed and as many showers as I wanted.
In the past few years, when not camping I have had a house full of Greenbelt friends so that the festival continued at home. This year, I felt much more detached - so I guess that means cat sitters and campsite in 2009 if I'm to really make the most of the festival.
Despite this, there was much to celebrate!
My first Greenbelt moment occurred on the Saturday when I turned a corner in the festival village and found myself face to face with Prem, the Indian priest who had taken me to see elephants in the Bhannergatta National Park almost two years ago.He heads up A Rocha India, and was a major speaker at this year's Greenbelt - but I'd somehow missed the news that he was coming, and clearly he hadn't expected to bump into me among 20,000 assorted punters. Great delight on both sides, though I was dismayed as I heard his talks to realise that despite the all I had learned during my stay in India, I've done so very little to work for change - either on behalf of those oppressed by the caste system, or indeed on behalf of the poor, benighted elephants.
To have two important bits of my life collide was an interesting experience...For my children to be able to hear Prem for themselves a joy. Vintage Greenbelt stuff!
Sara Miles was predictably splendid...Coming hard on my ponderings on abundance inspired by the lectionary last time I preached, her story of "eating Jesus" and the changes that brought about for her was hugely inspiring. I'm certain that eating together is the way to create community, and that offering radical hospitality is a huge part of our calling. Recently, some of my congregation from the valley have been thinking about ways we might connect with our community. Some sort of drop-in cafe is very high up the list,- finally making sense of a visit I made two years ago...
It would be lovely if this were the way forward for us...I wonder if there's a way we could make it free?
Of course, to welcome people unlike ourselves widens our experience of the God whose image we bear...It also changes us in ways we might never imagine.
John Swinton's talk "The Body of Christ has Down's Syndrome" took me further along the road of looking for God's likeness in everyone.
What does it mean for our theology if we believe that those with disabilities will be healed in heaven?
If we believe that someone with Down's is fully human and completely beloved of God as they are, what does this tell us about full humanity and about living in God's image
Clearly I need to revisit the work of John Hull
whose input on sight and blindness was one of the most compelling experiences of vicar school.
I wonder if he's ever spoken at Greenbelt?
Brian McLaren was fab - though the panel that included him alongside other emerging theologians and leaders was frustrating - too many exciting people, which meant that none of them had enough space to talk. I barely heard Karen Ward at all, - maddening! At the moment the emerging theology which I find so exciting seems quite remote from the reality of my parishes - but we clearly need to find new ways of being church here as much as anywhere...It's just that there's so much to assimilate for the moment, in learning the way traditional church happens...But I needed the cold water wake-up call, that's for sure
The Breathing Space Yurt was a treasure - a lovely place to be...On the last evening, I spent almost an hour in there, listening to the sound of stalls being taken down, the beginning of the end of the Festival, - which might have been sad, but wasn't. The peace was so solid that you could almost cut slices and take them away with you...
Personal highlight? -a close call, but I think it has to be blessed's Mass on Monday night. I was bowled over by the experience of the Sacrament being brought to me sprawled on a beanbag...very much just as I was...and Jesus came to me.
I know that I spent the rest of the evening wandering around with a silly grin - but then, that's rather the effect that meeting God has on me, specially at Greenbelt!