I could ramble on for hours and hours about how amazing Greenbelt Festival was this weekend. It was as colourful, creative and captivating as ever, with the added bonus of glorious sunshine and clear blue skies.
There was food, cider and family a-plenty. Friendships were deepened, renewed and Nathan and I spent lots of time with our energetic 2 year old Goddaughter!
I heard people talk about imagination, grace, preaching, the environment, spirituality and prayer.
I listened to lots of music: loud, quiet, protest, funny, folk and worship.
I saw all manner of things, such as 14 feet tall model animals called Ghost Caribou, unicycles, a protest march with a coffin, huge bee people, a mini bus carved into the shape of trees, mirror balls and, as usual, miles and miles of bunting!
It was just wonderful. But to limit myself, I’ve come up with my top 10 moments of Greenbelt: Wit & Wisdom.
1. Lying on the grass.
‘But Poppy!’ I hear you cry, ‘You could lie on the grass anywhere!’
Not so. I would never have the time or inclination to spend so much time just relaxing outside. Greenbelt takes place in the most beautiful surroundings, and with such great weather, it gave me the opportunity to relax, connect with God’s creation and just be.
2. Mark Oakley: Preacher as prophet, poet and protestor
This was one of the best talks I have ever heard at Greenbelt. It was encouraging, challenging and exciting in equal measure. I am looking forward to hearing more from Mark at the Festival of Preaching in Oxford next month, and I can’t wait to get writing next time I am down to preach!
3. Beer & Hymns
This is always a highlight for me. Although I was initially a bit disappointed that Beer and Hymns was not scheduled to be in the Jesus Arms Beer Tent as in previous years, in the heat, I was very pleased that thousands of people could gather under the shade of the trees to sing hymns, drink beer and worship God!
4. Contemplative Prayer Session
I stumbled across Contemplative Fire when wandering around the festival. I am really interested in learning how people use the practice of mindfulness in their faith. I found out that there would be a session by the lake later on, and I decided to go. I am pleased that I did! This experience ties into number 1, because we looked closely at the natural things around us and thought about what had brought us to that time and place.
5. Christmas Communion
On Sunday morning thousands gathered at the main stage, spreading out into the sunshine.
Naturally, to have a Christmas themed communion service, was one of the best ideas that Greenbelt has ever had. The handout was laid out like a Christmas card and the service featured roman soldiers, camels, Nadia Boltz-Weber as the Queen and a shepherd from Little Dribblepatch, which leads me nicely to number 6…
6. Folk On!
Folk On are a hilarious and very talented folk band who are a firm Greenbelt favourite. This year, they played a mix of old and new songs and, for me, standing, dancing, laughing and singing for an hour was just what I needed!
7. Spontaneous Cranmer gathering & cell group catch up
Greenbelt has fed me in many ways over the years, but recently it has become an important place to catch up with the people I trained with at Vicar School. Whether it was waving at people across a tent, or having a chat over a pint, it was so good to see many people from Cranmer. It was especially good this year because Jenny, Ben and Ross, my cell group, were all there!
8. Russell Brand
I’ll admit, I was sceptical. I wasn’t even necessarily planning to go and hear Russel Brand. But as Nathan and I were getting an iced coffee from the Tiny Tea Tent, we heard the words of Amazing Grace resounding from the Main Stage. As we walked onto the field, we heard the host say that he was sorry for the delay, and asked if Russell Brand had ever been greeted by a crowd singing hymns before! We were intrigued, and so we lay down on the grass and had a listen.
Although he was, I think, nervous to begin with, I really enjoyed listening to what he had to say. It was interesting to hear more about his journey and his spirituality, and I admire his passion to challenge the status quo. He seems to like Jesus quite a bit and I loved what he had to say about redemption: The freedom from fear is that we are redeemed and belong to something else now*.
Top marks, Greenbelt, for inviting him!
9. John Bell: Hidden humour in the Holy Scripture
John Bell, another Greenbelt favourite and part of the Greenbelt furniture, spoke about occasions where there is laughter in the Bible. He said that Jesus’ life would have had much laughter in it, especially in the 30 years before he was written about in the Gospels! It was just one of those painfully obvious things that made me go: doh!
10. Having a shower
In such heat, my shower was an utter delight. Although I was regularly pouring a bottle of water over my head to cool off, there is nothing quite like a proper shower!
So that’s my top 10 moments of Greenbelt 2019!
I always reach a point at Greenbelt, usually about Sunday afternoon, when I lament that I cannot just stay there.
I’m like Peter up the mountain with Jesus, saying, ‘Lord, it is so good to be here! Let me build you a house that we can all stay!’
But the answer is, and will always be, ‘no, this is temporary. Go back down the mountain, we’ve got work to do’.
So, I am back home, back down the mountain. But the trick is to enjoy the mountain top views while you have them, and treasure them in your heart.
Thank you, yet again, Greenbelt.
*Paraphrased from my notes