Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Greenbelt Festival

Greenbelt, the Christian arts and music festival, is in its 36th year and takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse every August Bank Holiday weekend. It now attracts up to 20,000 people, many of whom camp on the site throughout the 4 days of the festival.

As usual there was an amazingly varied mix of stimulating talks, music to suit all tastes, worship of all styles, performing arts, comedy and film. The central part of the racecourse is taken up with stands and displays by a large number of organisations.

Christian Aid is a major partner of Greenbelt and had a large tent with an imaginative display using piles of rice to represent the number of people in the world who, for instance may be receiving food aid, be vulnerable to flooding because of climate change, seeking asylum or even the number who eat a MacDonald’s meal every day.

The picture shows the outgoing director of Christian Aid, Daleep Murkaji being interviewed.

It’s always hard to choose who to go and listen to, and the Greenbelt queues can leave you a little frustrated when the venue can't hold all that want to get in, but highlights for me included Alistair McGrath discussing how we can engage the new atheism and with Richard Dawkins in particular, Bishop Gene Robinson talking about sexuality and spirituality, John Bell of the Iona Community encouraging us to see the concept of sabbath as a time for both us and the whole of creation to rest and recover, and Royksopp, the Norwegian electro/pop group who headlined the main stage on Saturday night.

There was also a strong theme about the situation in Israel and Palestine, with many powerful speakers who had a first hand experience to tell. The Sunday morning service also focused on this, and whilst those leading it could benefit from a few Methodists to lead the signing, praying in silence in the open air with 15,000 people was quite moving.

I spent time each day working alongside those on the Methodist Church stall. A prayer tree was drawn on the wall next to the stall which was well received and rapidly acquired many prayer-leaves as the weekend progressed. It gave me an opportunity to talk to those interested in what the Methodist Church was doing, and to meet two past Vice-Presidents who are regulars at Greenbelt.

I’m surprised that more Methodists are not aware of or have never come to Greenbelt. There is a real opportunity for churches to bring not just youth groups but members of all ages to an event that will offer plenty of mental and spiritual stimulation, as well as being a great deal of fun.


Olive Morgan said...

Thank you for such a good description of Grenbelt, especially for those who don't fancy the camping. As for the Methodist singing, it's a pity that you and the President will not be able to sample the Methodist singing at the ECG Event 2010 at Easter led by the worship band YFriday because you will be in the Channel islands.

Jon Miller said...

It was great to see you there Richard. You are right, more Methodists should come to Greenbelt, it's great fun, you learn stuff and you get a great sense of how God call to everyone

ken said...

Just been to the Methodist Chapel near work Hinde Street London to hear some classical music words in German and Italian!.

By chance I saw an article on the Spirituality of Greenbelt by Derek Collins. who has been going for their last 35 years. He is now seen as a "grumpy old man.

I was there in the 70s and 80s but left for the teenagers to restage the battles. I see the talks in 2009 were fairly similar but wonder
if people like me an aged punk with young kids will find it a good place to be or just a trip down memory lane.