which makes me slightly twitchy.
No matter that ours mostly take place at Cheltenham Racecourse (which feels very much like home territory, as it's where Greenbelt happens)
No matter that I love meeting up with friends and colleagues from right across the diocese
No matter that the subjects under discussion are nearly always both engaging and challenging.
There is something about concentrating all of us in one place that makes me very very nervous...no idea why...
So, today's offerings were mainly a response to last summer's flooding...a theological response, that sought to remind us of our mutual dependence and responsibility for the earth and her resources...an (excellen) account by the Chief Executive of the County Council of what had happened last year and what might come next... stories from city and countryside about how the church was involved...lots of good material, things to celebrate and to reflect on.
Someone wondered whether, in the light of our responsibility for the earth and her resources, the current economic crisis might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.Who knows?
If it helps us to reconnect with our communities, to explore the simple life more determinedly, then maybe that might just be so, though there aren't many places in which it would currently feel safe to float that idea.
But I was very conscious of the things we weren't talking about...the people in our parishes who are trying to work out how ends might be made to meet in the months ahead, and (issues touched on by our first speaker but then largely set aside)the impact of climate change on the poorest of the poor.
I'm glad, truly, that in our local floods the churches were visible and active in making a difference....but I worry that we can get so focussed on local responses we run the risk of forgetting that we are part of something far far bigger.
So, for me the best line of the day came from our social responsibility officer, who was asked what the church's response to the credit crunch should be
"Well" he said "we have the choice when it comes to penny pinching. We can abandon W****r*s* in favour of A*d*...and then go home and give more to Christian Aid."
He's so right.
We have the choice..."Cutting back" means something so different for most of us, even those parishioners I encounter looking worriedly at the contents of their purses while doing frantic calculations at the supermarket checkout are unlikely to actually go hungry...We need that reminder that for so many of our brothers and sisters it is, truly, a matter of life and death...and we belong together...we are responsible for their well-being under God.
There were also some silly one-liners that cheered up the day no end. You had to feel for the Chief Exec, who after a run of techie glitsches reacted to the next one with an entirely natural
"Oh, for God's sake...."
and then paused as he realised just who his audience were. It brought the house down...
And I'm still giggling over the pictures conjured up by my own slip of the tongue while discussing future job possibilities with a friend over lunch
"After all" I said "The Church of Oyster is your England."
So there you have it! Happy Wednesday, peoples.