As Michael Gungor recently said, “The world still brims with glory.” Despite torrential rainstorms, hackers laying waste to artists’ online details and the ever-tightening of belts, Greenbelt still brimmed with glory.
The thing about Greenbelt, for the uninitiated among you, is that the programme is so broad, that there is no way to sum up the Greenbelt experience. It’s entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that you could chat to two Greenbelt attendees who spent the weekend in the same field but saw none of the same talks, performances or discussions (but they probably drank in the same pub). So to reflect on a Greenbelt weekend with any kind of integrity I can only share my own stories. So here are some of them:
Firstly, the big things, the programmed events. The Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed by primary-aged children. Those same children then led us in communion. There was the prophetic message that: “One day we will live in peace and a little child will lead us.”
Mark Yaconelli stirrred hearts with tales of disappointment, doubt and disco dancing. The Hot 8 Brass Band got the whole site dancing on Saturday night after an afternoon of thunderstorms. Hope and Social closed the festival with a band anyone could, and did, join.
Josie Long and James Acaster, two of the country’s finest comedians, arrived straight from Edinburgh to tickle and provoke weary Monday campers. Gungor’s beautiful melodies, complete with string section delighted us. So did Harry Baker and Chris Read by bringing poetry back into the acceptable area of the mainstream.
As if all that wasn't enough, there were discussions on #BlackLivesMatter, the impact of global warming on the poorest in our world and the refugee crisis – giving voices to the Silent Stars around the world. The Greenbelt programme brimmed with glory.
Greenbelt acknowledges that an experience of the holy is bigger than our expectations
But anyone who has been to Greenbelt knows that this isn’t the true Greenbelt experience. It’s arguing about whether men can be feminists. It’s Mark Yaconelli reflecting on his time in the UK. It’s beer and hymns. It’s weird satirical cabaret. It’s getting to know people over a pint in the Jesus Arms beer tent and realising that no one is talking about Jeremy Corbyn anymore. It’s allowing Lisa and Michael Gungor to explain how the world still brims with glory in the face of ISIS, their own child’s illness and internet hackers.
Greenbelt isn’t the answer to the world’s problems. It needs more diversity. It needs to give more traditional evangelicals platforms and be honest about the failing of the emerging church (if that’s still a thing anyone talks about).
It might not have the powerful, huge worship moments of other festivals, or the shared experience of teaching, but Greenbelt acknowledges that an experience of the holy is bigger than our expectations. You can’t leave the site without feeling like somewhere in the midst of the fields, the beers and the programmes, you’ve caught a glimpse of a world that is brimming with glory.