Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Home from home: post GB 2011 analysis


After four days of being in the microcosm that is Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival, I'm back home doing a bit of restorative work and asking the Big Questions - namely, what can I possibly eat, has the milk gone off, what was that all about, what can I take from that experience, and how can I get those stains out of my jeans?

And this year - did I follow the ten commandments of GB (see previous post)?

Well, I certainly saw more than I ever have done before, by the simple trick of Turning up on Time. I know, I know... not only that, but I turned up early enough to grab a good seat and so discovered that the time wasn't wasted, it was transferred into a lovely opportunity to chat with friends and strangers.

I entered a photo in the swap, and am now the proud owner of another stranger's photograph that has a lot of meaning for me. More new friends made.

I avoided any sit-at-the-back-silliness in communion by staying in bed that morning. It worked for me.

The prayer room was used, as was the Tiny Tea Tent and the Jesus Arms where time was spent with my God and with the fabulous people he gave me as my friends. And everyone seemed pleased to see me too, in a 'NORM!" from Cheers kind of fashion.

Highlights included talks from Nadia Bolz-Webber, Pete Rollins, Mark Vernon and Padraig O'Tuama (who managed to make me break a promise to my late grandmother, that I wouldn't 'turn Catholic', which I remembered as I stood and recited a modified Hail Mary..); performances from Paul Kerenza, Mark Thomas, Ockham's Razor and Will Stopha; music from The Unthanks, Billy Bragg and Get Cape. Wear Cape Fly; and a bizarre screening of the film 'Back to the Future' with comments throughout from 2 comedians (heckle from small child: 'You're ruining the film!' Answer: 'That's why we're here!')

Sadly, no salsa, as it clashed with Paul Roberts' 'Bluffers guides'; sad for me, a relief to Paul, and a lucky escape for Greenbelt. Instead, I danced and whooped and waved my arms to the great Mavis Staples (above), in a departure to my usual music listening stance (arms folded, feet steady, jaw set).

 I did however appreciate the irony that after a Greenbelt where so many talks embraced the uncertainties of a life of faith, we were all ending the festival singing together that our faith was sure and our hope was certain. Faith has a quantum quality, it seems - both seem to be true, until we open the box and examine it up close.

In other news: I managed to ignore the call of the toilet - a bit; I did engage with some slightly bonkers worship, although was sad to have missed the totally teched-up event (candles on iPads, prayers via Twitter) that realised at the last possible moment that they had forgotten the bread for the Eucharist and then had to search for an image of bread on-line (seriously, what could they do then? Take turns to lick the screen?); and largely due to close observance of commandment number ten, I engaged with everything I attended without coveting the GB experiences I had missed out on. Much.

Now, that is a miracle.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Greenbelt Commandments

It's that time of year again. Having missed our favourite Christian arts festival altogether last year, and made rather fleeting visits  that didn't quite hit the spot in the couple of years before that, we're in for the Full Monty this time (albeit in a wussy, hotel-plus-popping-home kind of fashion). Note to would-be burglars: various children, parents and cats are in and out of our house all weekend; so don't even think about it. 

This year is going to be different. This year I am determined not to spend my time flitting from the second half of one seminar to the back of the queue for something I'll never get into, only to end up first in the queue for the Ladies and thence to the beer tent where I look round for someone I know, then realise they're already talking to someone far more interesting than me. Nor will I interact with the art by spending exactly 5 seconds on each picture / sculpture / random idea presented in a visual fashion, before saying 'Hmm', nodding wisely, glancing at my watch and moving on. I will not skulk at the back of worship events refusing to enter in to something that, at first glance, resembles rather painful street theatre. No! I am a new creation! Out with the cynical, the tired, the critical, the aloof and the introverted! In with...well, with what, exactly? I feel I need a few ground rules...

SO, having perused the online Greenbelt 2011 line-up at length, I have devised the following commandments....

1. Thou shalt have no other goal but the seminar / event already circled in the programme: do not be tempted by the beer tent, the Tiny Tea Tent, the Bookstall etc etc or you will miss the queue and be left outside, where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth etc etc.
2. You shall not make for yourself any bits of clay modelling or other messy collaborative art which always frankly ends up taking much time (see point 1) and looking like a dog's breakfast. Instead, play to strengths and take a photo along to the Photo Flash Swap.
3. You shall not change the words of all the songs during the communion services to something childishly funny. Oh, right then - you shall.
4. You shall not feel obliged to see everything, and rush around until feet are sore and head is frazzled. It's a spiritual holiday, not a route march. Instead, you shall spend time in the prayer room, and focus on the Reason for it All.
5. You shall spend your time enjoying the company of all the wise and lovely people God put in your life; and not assume that the others don't want to talk to you. Who knows who will bring what to your journey, this weekend?
6. You shall embrace life; specifically, you shall honour your agreement to learn salsa with the lovely Rev Dr Paul Roberts. Two completely left-footed people dancing...we should sell tickets...or perhaps two negatives will make a positive?
7. You shall be faithful to your first loves (Billy Bragg, John Bell, David Runcorn) whilst embracing new passions / gurus (Occam's Razor, Padraig O'Tuama, Mark Vernon) and maybe even attending Something Completely Different: Goth worship, anyone?
8. You shall not become so desperate that you will steal the loo queue place of a small child. On the other hand, you shall not become so obsessed about the state of your bladder that you begin to queue 2 hours before you need to, 'just in case'.
9. You shall not pretend that you enjoyed or even understood the 'Lesser Church of Little Gidding's Jesus-ran-away-to-the-Circus' event; but you shall at least attempt to engage with at least one such happening. There was a time when you were just as bonkersly blowing up balloons, setting fire to stuff and floating rose petals down a stream; perhaps it's time to rediscover that. A bit.
10. Above all, you shall not get to the end of the weekend feeling that everyone else found the good stuff. The good stuff is wherever you are, and whatever you make it. Breath deeply. Participate. Don't carp. Perhaps even pray.

See (some of) you there?