Was the theme for this year’s Greenbelt.
What a theme for those of us caught up in feverish activity, in dreaming of 6 impossible things before breakfast and struggling to achieve them.
What a theme for a culture that still seems intent on instant gratification.
One of this year’s festival tee shirts reminded us “Now is all we have” so perhaps I was more conscious that usual of the need to take the festival gently,to savour the moment rather than hurtling with too much determination from seminar to seminar.
Whatever the reason, it worked for me.
I know that I missed some real gems.…
Somehow I failed to get to hear Nadia Bolz-Weber; doubly annoying as not only did she get rave reviews from all those who attended her sessions, but she really inspired Hattie Gandhi, - who normally claims that GB speakers are not for her, that she’s only there for the music and the festival vibe.
I queued fruitlessly for Rob Bell (once – then decided that life and Greenbelt were both too short), for Ikon and for Stephen Cotterel (deep deep fury, as his session was not recorded, but sounded particularly apt as I continue to struggle to achieve balance in my life and in my diary)
Indeed, Sunday was for me the day of standing in the long queues…and of discovering unexpected compensation.
After the service (which I'll hope to blog later) I waited for nearly 90 minutes outside, Centaur, the huge indoor venue where Rob Bell was to speak. It was fine. I had things to read, a spinach pancake to eat, and it wasn’t raining…but alas, when the doors were opened something really un Greenbelty happened as the crowd surged forward rather than proceeding decently and in order. In no time the venue had reached capacity – so I turned disconsolate away and headed for the Tiny Tea Tent to regroup.
As many of you will know, while the speakers, the music, the theatre, the whole Festival atmosphere is very close to heaven, it’s the people above all that make Greenbelt heaven on earth…Every year, there are some wonderful meetings and happy reunions, and the days before the festival see many exchanges of mobile numbers, to enable these to happen.
Sometimes, though, it’s a bit harder -for example, when the person you are longing to see is coming from the States, with a phone that doesn’t work in the UK at all….
There are 20,000 people at the festival so it’s horribly possible not to glimpse people whom you DO know and recognise irl., still less find someone whom you only know via their blog.
Lilly Lewin and I have been blog friends for around 4 years now, and I was very excited when she wrote that she’d be at Greenbelt. We agreed that we must meet at the Tiny Tea Tent…We have a mutual friend who has my mobile number, - so I assumed we’d be able to fix something up relatively easily.
I’d failed to take into account the extreme busyness that overtakes this friend once the Festival gets going… He has Very Important Jobs to do and a scarily full agenda. A text to him yielded no results, and I was beginning to worry
Silly, really. I should have known.
Lilly is someone who prays – and isn’t ashamed of including some very practical requests along the way. She was as intent on our need to meet as I was and had reminded God of this that very Sunday morning so perhaps it’s not that surprising that I, who find it almost impossible to initiate a conversation with strangers unless I am in role as a priest, dared to ask the vaguely familiar American woman (does anyone actually look like their profile picture?) just leaving a likely table in the Tiny Tea Tent
“Excuse me, but are you Lilly…?”
and received the answer “YES”!
So, my grumpy failure to get what I thought I wanted led instead to an encounter that was exactly what I needed – friendship confirmed, exciting conversation, and some wise thoughts about a particular situation.
So often a “Greenbelt moment” is very much a God thing, and this one certainly was.
Another came later that same day, when yet again I was too late to make it into a venue – this time the beer tent for Beer & Hymns. I’m hopeless at estimating numbers, but there were surely a couple of hundred of us left sadly outside the picket fence, while the empty “beer garden” recalled the great gulf fixed between Dives and Lazarus, dividing us from the happy souls within, who could both drink and sing.
After a rather sadly ironic interlude during which a man near me decided to lay into the steward about the madness of the restrictions, and the unreasonableness of a festival that was trying to protect the safety of its visitor, while all around him the crowd sang “Praise my soul the king of heaven”, things looked up.
We might be beerless, but nothing could stop us singing. I was surrounded by good voices, who were quick to pick up parts and we had the time of our lives.
At one point a learning impaired adult left the crowd in the beer tent to leap on a table and conduct us
At another we sang my desert island hymn “And can it be”
That hymn has been part of so many important events for me – my farewell service at my sending parish, my first Mass, my licensing here – but singing it with all that I had, as I stood beneath the sign of the Jesus Arms, was maybe the best of all.
In case you hadn't noticed - I do so love Greenbelt!