10 October 2007

Transcendence @ York Minster

[St Cuthbert's Cross]I took the opportunity in Sunday evening to travel to York Minster where Visions the long standing Church 'for people who don't like Church' and York Minster have formed a partnership to offer

a monthly multi-visual Eucharist which unites the traditional with the future
and advertises itself as an "Anglo Catholic fresh expression of Church"

It is the brainchild as I understand it, of Sue Wallace of the Visions and Jeremy Fletcher Canon Precentor of the Minster 

Located in the East Crypt (a stunning location within an all together remarkable building which was made all the more evocative because of the late night and contrasting quietness of the building) I thought it a remarkably celebration of the Eucharist.

Unashamedly liturgical, based wholly on the Anglican Common Worship Eucharist it made no concessions to the newcomer or the curious visitor who might be unfamiliar with the words or format - but then any such participant could not have failed to have been drawn into the beauty of the music and visuals.

It succeeded precisely because it was uncluttered with superfluous introduction or explanation - the quality of the music and visuals and the familiarity of the majority of the congregation ensured that all who wished could readily participate.

The high point of the music was the contribution of 4 male voices from the Minster choir - whose supreme 4 part skill and effective use of the acoustics of the building translated well into the setting, making pre-recorded Gregorian chant beloved of alt worship groups seem thin. But the contemporary music and singing worked well too - "be thou my vision" sung congregationally to a dance beat etc.

Two fairly major hiccups need sorting for next time ( both alt worship classics which I have fallen foul of in other situations).

Firstly there was no indication at all outside the public face of the Minster as to how to get into the building - access was through a poorly lit door in the Minster car-park which hardly seemed like public space - two car loads of participants from Leeds never found the way in and returned home disgruntled.

Secondly the stretched but crinkled sheets used for display were fine for visuals but rendered words virtually unreadable. Neither were conducive to welcoming the newcomer and gave the hint of an "insider" feel - well anyone we would expect to come would know where the door is and what the words are.

While I am sure that the intention is for this to develop as a local initiative - its venue and ethos offers a wider significance.

Firstly the resources available from the two contributing churches ( the location and liturgical experience being matched by the superb technical expertise of Vision's resident DJs and VJ) mean that it could be an "exemplary event" which could stimulate other developments elsewhere.

Secondly The Anglo-Catholic end of the Church has been slow to respond to the cultural links which its rich tradition of ritual offer - too many Anglo-Catholics preferring to simply be snotty about alt worship groups adopting the likes of incense etc . . surely here is something which could inspire the A-C networks and places such as Walsingham to offer something which values the ritual but connects culturally with the young adult age group

Thirdly the location also says something about the value that "mainstream" Church represented by the Minister places upon new patterns of worship and Church - here is a Minster/Cathedral effectively performing one of it key roles to be a centre of excellence in worship.

So it was a delight - evocative and deeply worshipful . . . .

For those who might be interested the next Transcendence
is on the first Sunday 4th of November at 8pm.

30 August 2007

The Eucharist . . .

In response to Greenbelt discussion on Saturday evening here is the full quote

Was ever another command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable human circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of earthly greatness to the refuges of fugitives in caves and the dens of the earth.

Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetish because the yams have failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner of war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the think June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc – one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundred part of them.

And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei – the holy common people of God.

The Shape of the Liturgy, (London 1945) Dom Gregory Dix,, p74.

Greenbelt 2007 - Best session: John O'Donohue

Having read some of his books it was pure delight to hear John (a level 5 Christian if ever there was one) interviewed (wonderfully) by Martin Wroe, and to hear some of his thoughts and to hear his response - not least to the level 1 question which came from the floor asking whether he had been born again ( ie are you a real Christian?). It's the kind of insightful generosity which we need in The Church.

Greenbelt 2007- Best blog tip: Karen Ward and Submergence

One of the wonderful things that blogging and Greenbelt share in common is that there is always so much more to discover - in fact they are really made for each other which leaves me a little surprised that Greenbelt does not feature blogging a little more prominently

I guess it leaves that kind of thing to "The Tank" which seems to have stalled in terms of imaginative input over the past two or so years and has become geeky rather than creative.My Photo

I am sure that there are loads of Greenbelters who have yet to discover the gift of Christian blogs in any shape or form.

Anyway the new blog that I discovered (thanks Karl) is Karen Ward's Submergence which is particularly interesting because of its Missional/Anglican roots - so I am busy back-reading what she has written.

Greenbelt 2007 - Music Award: Coldcut

2007 was blessed with perhaps the strongest music line-up for some years.

So my music award could have gone to:

Lies Dammed Lies - fresh from a year of touring living rooms near you, they offered a wonderfully intimate set in The Cabaret on Saturday night.

Kathryn Williams - offered a robustly tender dose of nu-folk on Fridays mainstage which impressed me no end

Steve Lawson - bass player extra-ordinary was here there and everywhere as sidesman (musically speaking rather than ecclesiastically), collective leader (if that's not an contradiction), late night purveyor of cool sounds, and performer of the last musical note of the Festival at Monday's Late Night Extra.

Coldcut with Ofra Haza on screen

But Coldcut were just something else in terms of music, and most importantly the integration of visuals and music. Simply superb - as funny, challenging, and evocative visuals brought familiar material to life, and introduced new ideas and concepts.

Greenbelt 2007: Rant award: The Tank and the "Electronic worship" session

The only downside to the brilliance of Coldcut is that it makes me despair about how far we have to go in creating worship for the visual generation. 

The Tank session on "electronic worship" the next day was a depressingly small minded presentation on how to display song lyrics via a video projector (with the inevitable "smear snear" at Churches which are still using OHPs).

(What was so wonderfully ironic and (typically Churchy) was that the incredibly "stable and easy- to - use" software that was being advocated, crashed several times, and displayed a remarkable reluctance to display on a big screen.)

Does no-one in the techy world realise that the gap between video projector lyrics and OHPs is minor compared with the gap between anything else at Greenbelt and what Coldcut offered visual  - and yet we ought as a Church to be putting the financial resources in the stained glass of the 21st century - what a gift to us!

The only visuals which I saw during the weekend which came close to Coldcut was the exciting material which accompanied DJ Joel's session in The Arena - see separate post here

Greenbelt 2007 - Arena Award: DJ Joel

For the second year I have been intrigued to observe how hard it is to develop any sense of occasion or event in The Arena area.

With so much going on around in terms of noise and people movement it too easily becomes a place of distraction and dis-interested passing by. 

Although the films worked to an extent, the only live event which I saw which really "conquered" the space and attracted the attention of passers by was a simply stonking DJ set from the youngster DJ Joel which combined intelligent funky music with some simply amazing visuals which actually related to the themes and rhythms.

Having seen several other DJ's "die" during the weekend it was a classic creative performance.

(Sorry couldn't find any visual illustrations - but I'll add them later if anyone wants to send me or point me towards some)

Greenbelt 2007 - Worship award: Sunday Communion


Sunday Communion was just great - and as we worshipped and enjoyed ourselves in two locations it was good that Ben Edson and the Sanctus team had understood the occasion and its worship needs:

1. visuals and symbols need to be "large scale and simple" to work with such a large crowd

2. there is a common structure which has stood the Church well for several centuries - so it is perhaps as well not to try and re-invent it just for a couple of hours at Greenbelt ~ it helps people settle and know where they are going

3. the mass participation was carefully prepared and simply explained ( I remember one Communion where the instructions took almost as long as the Ministry of the Word)

4. the small groups work well and have become a valued part of the Communion, offering something more personal at the most personal part of the Eucharistic structure.

5. the varied music was great

So thanks to all how planned, prepared, performed, presided and participated.

Which is not to say that there many other inspiring worship moments - Taize and The Quakers in particular for me.

29 August 2007

Greenbelt 2007 - Damp squib: Climate change "vigil" ?

The 23:00 Climate Change vigil was an odd affair attracting a tiny crowd to the Main Arena for a pressingly unimaginative and poorly presented presentation by Christian Aid(?).

What was slightly galling was that a wonderful evening performance by Lies Damned Lies was cut-short cos everything on site had to stop for the Vigil.

I hope that the lessons have been learned that Greenbelt as a whole should only stop for The Communion, and that the Arena is not a good venue for a vigil - with much too many people passing in the main thoroughfares etc.

In fact The Arena is a very difficult space to "fill" effectively and creatively and I have another award to follow for the most effective and creative use of the location - who was the only person I saw to really conquer the spaces limitations?

Greenbelt 2007 - Ethos Award: Cole Moreton and The Devil

It is always hugely difficult to explain Greenbelt to people who have not been, - and even harder to those who have heard the (ill-founded) rumours of previous years.

Greenbelt is remarkably diverse in reflecting our belief in God who is ultimately beyond human definition, and predominately it attracts people who are able to revel in that diversity

Let us all thank God as we read the many varied reflections on blog sites, that we may at seem at times to have been a quite different Festivals - for each persons experience of Greenbelt is unique to that individual.

I drove home across my native Shropshire (I have been predominately "treating" myself to A roads during my sabbatical) trying to think which event/session I attended at GB07 most epitomised the ethos of Greenbelt as I have experienced it over many years.

In the end I decided that this year it was

Cole Moreton's Saturday session on "The Devil." 

It was classic "Greenbelt":

- it was offered with an entertaining mixture of humour and insight (and dear Lord how we need that combination of virtues in the Church) 

- it set the scene from the very beginning with a straw poll of those present about how they understood " The Devil" which made clear to people that there is not one single understanding or proper ( The Bible says) definition

- it was erudite in its literary references

- irreproachably knowledgeable but not to heavy on the theological basis

- very powerful in CM's honest description of his own teenage personal experience of deliverance ministry ~ rendered all the more telling by his inability to this day to fully understand/explain what happened

- and best of all there was no questions and answers at the end - it was offered without rancor or the need to put others down and then left as a gift for people's further reflection

and all done in such away as to quietly bury the red creature with the horns and to take us all into a more serious appreciation of our experience of evil.

Cole Moreton and Greenbelt - thank you.

Greenbelt 07 - Most exciting development Award: Greenbelt Plus

Having had some time to reflect on Greenbelt I want to offer a series of "Awards" which reflect my experience this year. I am not claiming them as the "Best of", simply what I think had particular merit.

Firstly without doubt the most exciting development ( which was announced at Last Orders on Monday night) will happen at Greenbelt 2008 when for the first time you will not have to miss any clashing events. 

Greenbelt is planning Greenbelt Plus where key sessions will be repeated an hour and half later in a parallel universe set aside on the Racecourse - so no more agonising about whether to go to John O'Donohue on Divine Love or Speed Dating  at 2pm on Saturday.

A brilliant and very simple idea!

25 August 2007

Greenbelt in the sunshine

Greenbelt is blessed with beautiful weather and one of the strongest programmes for a some years.

I staying in the pod-like accommodation on the Pitsville Campus this year - which is fun at 6' 2" in a bed designed for someone of considerably shorter statue. But is convenient and the excellent breakfast sets one up for the day.

For the first two days I am concentrating on programme and getting to sessions I want to go to, so I have seen relatively few people as I move between venues.

Much enjoyed Steve Stockman's late session last night, with Lies Damned Lies and Over the Rhine providing some vintage Greenbelt unplugged music, and Billy Bragg this afternoon was better than I expected - but I have this easy feeling that he is becoming the left wing equivalent of of charismatic when it comes to song writing since too many of his songs consist of just two verses and then a repeated chorus.

Good session today from Graham Cray on Arcade Fire with his customary breadth of visions and insight. Wasn't so easy with his metaphorical interpretation of "family" in the title "working for the Church while your family dies" - when the band have said that the challenge comes from friendships with the children of clergy and ministers and that the Church has little to say about the value of family life if it professionals can't model what is needed- if we are to take the challenge seriously then roll on the five day week for clergy and sensible provision and training for maintaining family life.

Looking forward to tonight with a full set from Lies Damned Lies followed by Steve Lawson and the Recylcle Collective - all bass players should be prioritising the latter but not too many please.

Continue reading "Greenbelt in the sunshine" »

22 August 2007


I set off for Greenbelt tomorrow with a couple of other really pleasurable commitments on route from the North:

Firstly it will be great to visit Courtney Nichol and see his newly opened recording studio near Tewksbury. Having seen it earlier in the year when the builders where (still)in and the acoustic specialist had just been delayed a further fortnight, and the bills were mounting it has very much been an act of faith and commitment.

The design includes some very interesting features including a double control room onto the main recording area which includes "mezzanine" drum and vocal booths. The smaller of the two control rooms can be used as a mixing suite and will come on line in that role early in 2008.

It is great to see that his perseverance has paid off with Studio 1 now solidly booked until October 2008 purely by word of mouth and with an encouraging portfolio of clients. They will not only benefit from the wonderful facilities but Courtney's gifts and Joan's wonderful hospitality.

Then on Friday I am visiting Street in Somerset to plan some retreat sessions for 2008, and my hosts Peter and Helen have promised to show me around Glastonbury town and Abbey which I have long wanted to visit - so that will have something of a sense of pilgrimage about it.

Then on to Greenbelt which is perhaps the strongest musically for some years - weather forecast is promising - not too many clashes in the programme - and Aqualung have been moved to mainstage ( from the overcrowded Centaur)

Look forward to seeing and meeting you there . . .

18 July 2007

Guilfest - festival shambles


Not sure what I expected from the Festival organisers - but I had read their blurb about being a family friendly festival

So what was wrong:

1. The site is a poor one - much too crowded and some very basic layout errors such as the main backstage vehicle road running right across the main pedestrian entrance - just a feeling being ill-thought out.

2. Felt sorrow for the stewards - mainly late teens and early twenties - but working well beyond their abilities - and often being called to do unpopular things without really understanding "why" they were doing it so unable to deal with questions. This is simply poor management.

3. Toilets were a complete disaster - and good toilets are vital to a festival - ran out of water and with a tiny amount of rain the entrances turned into a quagmire.

4. The mainstage area was a disaster bordering on the unsafe when filled with people to see Madness - no restrictions on chairs or huge (we are here for a picnic) ground sheets and most seriously of all no designated access route from the front to the back - so it took and eternity for an ambulance crew to get through to an injured person. According to the Forum on the website lots of people with children left during Madness cos it really did get quite scary in a big crowd - and the stewards lost control of the front of the crowd - ( credit Suggs for trying to regain control)

5. There was actually very little there for people with families - no properly designated family camping area so teenage groups filled the space - very limited or expensive children's facilities in the village - and the amount of alcohol around meant that the atmosphere did get a little hostile.(they won an Family Friendly Festival Award in 2006 apparently but the judges haven't been to Greenbelt or several other festivals is all I can say).

6. Apart from the stages ( the quality  was very limited from 3 downwards) there was actually very little to give it a sense of festival - rather predictable stalls and that was about it

So dear readers if it manages to happen next year ( I am sure that the H and S people will have lots to say) I would recommend that you think long and hard before camping - or perhaps even taking the kids to the late nights.

What puzzles me is that there is so much good practice around at other festivals - Greenbelt, End of the Road, etc that I can only assume that Guilfest planners exist in a kind of bubble with best practice passing them by - which is a shame cos with some real planning and effective management it has potential and there was some great music.

There is some feedback at the Guilfest Forum if you are interested:

Guilfest - good music


Back from Guilfest with Sprog 2 (ska and reggae lover that he is), and generally had an excellent time with the weather behaving apart from one brisk shower.

Music that we enjoyed included despite the poor main stage sound on Saturday (midrange was a complete mash)

Morcheeba - have always loved their music, but they are a rare "dance" act in that it works really well live - Ross Godfrey is a ground breaking guitarist who matched the country sound of the Telecaster into trip-hop dance music - it was great to hear first hand the cool sounds of one of my guitar heroes.

Richard Thompson - perhaps the greatest living British acoustic guitarist - Sprog 2 who had never heard of him before was simply opened- mouth that this sound was coming out of one guitar

Jimmy Cliff - was just wonderful fun - who else could dance a stage aged 64 in a orange suit and bright red shoes and hat - but the band and the songs were just classics as well.

Ghosts - offered a good set of proggish rock

Toots and the Maytals  - pure delight and one of those musical experiences which it is simply wonderful to share in - and brilliant to be able to say that you have "seen" one of the all classics live - alongside BB King Bob Dylan etc.

Madness closed the final night with a simply romping set of all time classics - a kind of ultimate party band - and great to see Suggs in such great form - made me realise how old we all are when they invited the bands children on for the encore - about 20 or so in total.

Duke Special - saw the last few minutes of the set ( atrocious sound) so looking forward to catching him at Greenbelt

and last but not least the best and the worst:

Cherry Ghost  were everything that could have been hoped for as they closed the second stage on Saturday night. There is a huge depth to the songs, and they prepared live versions which cleverly varied the pace and offered different interpretations - they are surely a future all time great - see previous post

 The Icicle Works  were very sadly the worst set I have seen at a Festival for a very long time - I loved their music, but this revival was something of a disaster - poor set largely made up of second-rate covers - and then Ian Mcnabb proceeds to abuse the audience for not singing along. Very sad to offer such a poor performance and re-enforced a few southern stereotypes about Liverpudlians. Guess he might take a tip from Seve Ballesteros and call it a day.

08 June 2007

Greenbelt Music 2007

Had look a look at the updated Greenbelt music line-up which is perhaps one of the strongest and most interesting for some years.

Beyond the predictable and Christian (Delirious) and the fading crowd pleasers (Chas and Dave)and the righteously earnest ( Billy Bragg yet again - please God he does not become a fixture!) there will be some who may be unfamiliar but certainly worth exploring.

image Soweto Kinch with his superb mix of jazz and African influenced music played out on his alto-sax and quasi-rap mix

NU:tone features the remarkable music of Dan Gresham whose musical background includes the chapel choir at Jesus College. If you have never quite got into drum and bass then this is one to explore this very creative DJ medium

My personal favourite which has filled me with delight is Monk - fuller post to follow on this remarkable guitarist.

07 October 2006

Blog anniversary

Four years ago today I started blogging - at a local internet cafe - to a closed group of 6 friends - on an archaic piece of unstable software which I recall as netway2 - strictly words only and it took 24 hours to post what was written - but we thought it wonderful and had little idea that it would lead to today's reality.

What is amazing (given how widely blogging has developed) is how it remains either a closed or misunderstood world.

As one computer savvy person said to me some weeks back " you don't seem the sort of person that would keep a diary" - after some prompting he googled "Bigbulkyanglican" - commented that he thought he had to have the blog software himself to access a blog - and a whole new world was opened up.

Nigel Wright has offered a great post on what blogging has meant to him here

and just for fun have a look at this little rant about blogging/googling at the Daily Mail there is a wonderful comment about the dangers of blogging

"Thank God for one brave and fearless voice speaking out against the tide of mediocre thinking and blatant pornography. that is the so-called "world-wide-web". My grandaughter was convinced to try this "googling" of which you speak by a schoolfriend and now she is pregnant. What I want to know is, what is this Government going to do about this nonsense, especially now foppish young Cameron has revealed it to be one of his unseemly passions? In my day, such an admission would have been a resignation matter. I'm disgusted.
- Nordelius, Bristol, UK"

I think I must sum it up by saying " I thank God for blogging" and I have yet to try "googling" and am obviously missing out on the chance of getting pregnant!

18 September 2006

Greenbelt 12 - final thoughts

So I have achieved what I said I would and offered reflections on Greenbelt 2006 ( click on the Greenbelt category to see what).

So here are some random thoughts which I won't have time now to develop into full scale posts:

Visited the Angels Stall in the Resources Tent, and among other interesting things picked up a Angels mailing which contained the Greenbelt Accounts which made fairly gobsmacking reading ( positively so!). Having been had access to the accounts of another major secular festival it was interesting to compare just how much Greenbelt manages on so little with some pertinent comparisons between income and expenditure. So for example the gate income equates almost precisely to the site fee - so in essence everything that happens at Greenbelt (the whole programme etc) has to be covered from other sources. The Angels generosity produces a fairly staggering 14% of gross income - resolved to join and contribute.

I was impressed this year with the quality of the theological input at the festival - far less rather self-conscious ecclessiology than in previous years - and two excellent sessions were from

  • Kester Brewin spoke about The Dirty Christ - exploring Jesus attitudes to boundaries with connection to ideas about Tricksters (which was a fascinating connection with the previous evenings conversation with JJ and others about a music producer having the Trickster role in contemporary music production.)MP3 of talk here
  • and I also attended Nicola Slee's session on Mary - where she explored different perceptions of Mary's place in the Gospels, noted with interest what the Gospels don't reveal about Mary.

Musical technological changes have also had a huge impact on Greenbelt making it possible for the talented and creative ( and not just the financially supported) to put their audiences in touch with their music through my-space etc.

Did you notice the increasingly desperate plugs for the ICC Soundhouse, which was as dull and musically bland as it has always been and only seemed to have people in the shop when some musical Christian luminary of the past was signing autographs. I found it quite astonishing that they did not have the facility to download music - rendering themselves almost irrelevant in the face of MP3 players and internet sites.

Best thing that I found at Greenbelt was free self-publishing through  Lulu - which has already spark several ideas since returning from Greenbelt. I am just glad I am not running a vanity publisher or a religious publisher in this day an age - they are becoming an irrlevance too. Still haven't really worked out how Lulu manage to cover their costs. But thanks to Martin Wroe for the information and explanation - see his Lulu published book of poetry here

Finally thanks to the 1000 or so volunteers and to the staff team who together made Greenbelt 2006 possible

04 September 2006

Greenbelt 11 - hymn singing

One of the wonderful features of Greenbelt is that unlikely events "take off" and give the Festival a new and unexpected dimension - and you do not have to be there to sense the impact.

Paul Roberts writes on the impact of beer tent hymn singing here which took place each nightBeer_tent with thanks to John Davies for this excellent photo of the event - click on it to make it bigger

03 September 2006

Greenbelt 10 - and The Church Times

Tazie_pet_shop_boysFront cover of the Church Times and this edition features Greenbelt of which they are a somewhat surreal "sponsor".

This year CT produced much the worst guide to the Festival imaginable (design was the usual disaster and content was pretty bland) camped out in a Yurt in a kind of no-mans land in front of the main stand. Much I as I would support Greenbelt I would have thought that CT would have been better spending their money on a professional layout designer.

The cover picture (above) of the Taize worship at Greenbelt is a great photo which initially made me think that Neil Tennant had led the worship - now there's a thought The Pet Shop Boys do Taize? [Click on the photo to enlarge it]

31 August 2006

Greenbelt 9 - surreal/special moment

Each day around lunchtime I retreated to Soul Space the quiet space situated on the top floor of the main stand. In normal life it is the press area with spectacular views across the race-course and surrounding countryside. During Greenbelt it becomes an oasis of serenity enjoyed by all ages, offering spiritual direction to those who request it, some gentle workshops, but otherwise just a place to be or enjoy the view.  It was really great this year to see it inhabited by under 6-11 year olds.

To the left of the main area quiet music was playing of suitable spiritually soothing nature - of the kind that helps the atmosphere but does not demand attention.

Dove On Sunday ( ?) I was sitting reflecting on the view as clouds and showers blew over, when subconsciously I was aware that the latest piece of music was an instrumental form of " O for the wings of a dove" and at that precise moment a previously unnoticed lorry released a huge group of racing pigeons who proceeded to loop the loop spectacularly over the Greenbelt site before heading off over the hills - somehow it seemed to express a sense of Blessing on the whole event.

PS I have subsequently discovered that Cheltenham is actually bigger for racing pidgeons than it is for horses - being the UK HQ for racing pidgeons, and the release I had seen was of French pidgeons who were heading for somewhere south of Paris!

Greenbelt 8 - unadulterated envy

The Greenbelt part of the universal Church encourages us Anglicans to be honest about our feelings knowing that we will still be accepted ( I guess that is another form of Freedom) and each Greenbelt I have been to I have recognised and acknowledged pure unadulterated envy about something or some-one.

Some years it has been a classic guitar, or the ability to sing like bird, or the gift of being calm and relaxed in the minutes before going on stage

OK what was your envy for 2006 - what would you really want to own or be - what skill do you long for?

My 2006 is below - please Lord can I have one!!

Continue reading "Greenbelt 8 - unadulterated envy" »

Greenbelt 6 - gracious freedom

One of the things that struck me during the weekend is that mobile phones have given a new kind of freedom to Greenbelt - allowing people to communite and liase without difficulty - so none of the directions flags at the main gate anymore " folow pink flags for Phil and Casandra's camping place".

Child_stained In a particularly gracious way I think this has given a new freedom to the "pre-betweenies" say the 9-11s age group to go about the site independently but still be in contact with parents - I guess that for many parents even at Greenbelt this would not be so relaxed without the mobile support - and for some kids it would have a first real taste of such freedom with the opportunity to make real choices about what next as there was no longer any need to be at particular times or places or to pre agree what they were going to.

Of course it doesn't always work out as you think it might - so Rattie (10 year old daughter of a former colleague plus her friend) decided that main stage might be the place to be and asked whether they could stand with me waiting for Blindside to come on - (it was Ratties friends first real experience of mainstage live music) and after ten minutes they left cos it was too loud.

Mark H and I shared a lunch time table in the Performance cafe with two siblings ( 10/11 year old girl and 9 year old brother) who spent their entire picnic time arguing about what they were going to go next - debating whether they should their Dad to sort out the original argument, reminding each other that the deal with parents was that they had to stay together - and the lad eventually getting his way with a neat bargaining point - he threaten to tell their Mum that his sister had kissed a boy on the Christian holiday which they had just come back from - a pink faced sister quickly agreed to head for the pottery making!

The other consequence of mobiles ( and Ipods) is they need charging so as the weekend progressed any available 13 amp socket soon became a venue for groups of teenagers - particularly on the staircases on the main stands. Will we see safety "blocked" plugs next year >>>>?

Greenbelt 5 -acting your age

I guess that one of things that has worried me in recent years about Greenbelt is whether I would simply grow out of it and this has added to the sense of it being for other people. This year I think I found the answer and faced up to a few demons:

I guess I found the answer in deliberately treating Greenbelt as a "selfish pilgrimage" - ie being there for myself rather than other people - and receving affirmation from people to do just that. I am not suggesting that I will have to do this every year, but it was important and worked this year

It was good to sense that other contemporaries were facing similar issues - but actually living Greenbelt as a fortysomething or soon to fifty something - and to see some of the contributers still finding a role which did not hark back to former days )

Snippets of humour which say "well its not just me"

- such as Andy Thornton struggling with the controls on his electro-acoustic guitar without his glasses -( I need two pairs of glasses to change a string now!)

Steve Butler (Lies Dammed Lies) rather wistful comment that "now that they are all in the late forties they tend to write songs which have waltz rythmns" -

Steve Butler again facing the dilemna of "musician priesthood" which led him to spontaneously say to the late night audience/congregation " The Lord be with you" provoking the amused but instant and unselfconcious response of " and also with you"

So affirmation that I don't have to be young and I think I can go to Greenbelt 2007  as a fifty something.

30 August 2006

Greenbelt 4 - Books bought

This year I thought I would be good and support the onsite bookshop (rather than writing down interesting titles and ordering from Amazon) and ended up with the following:

Runcorn_spiriutality David Runcorn's 'Spirituality Workbook' - a guide for explorers, pilgrims and seekers will I think become one my major loan books - just a skip read during several meal breaks leads me to think it could be a classic - published by SPCK

Ruth Burgess's 'Friends and Enemies' - a book of short poems and some ways to write your own reaplaces a missing loan copy - if anyone has the original could you please return it - Wild Goose Publishing and also her Book of Blessings and how to write your own from the same publisher

Judy Hirst 'Struggling to be Holy' -  what a great tltle  and bought because Claire said it was good and everything else she has recommended has been great

Stephen Cottrell "From the abundance of the heart" - Stephen is the Bishop of Reading and one of the leading young progressive Catholics in the Church of England - research for some stuff that I am writing under the working title of " reclaiming faith sharing - challenging the evangelical cartel on evangelism"

Greenbelt 3 - Theology

Jb One of the best things this year was some really excellent theology being done in the talks - not least because a more adequate language seems to be created which moves beyond casual talk of the " post-modern" found on a supeficial reading of largely secular authors.

I am finding myself increasingly drawn to the language of "post-christendom" as an intellectual framework for daily experience in my role as a mission priest outside the structures of the Church. As promised to various folk this article is an accessible introduction to what we might mean.

Greenbelt 2 - Music

One of the wonderful things about Greenbelt is that there is so much going on musically that simply cannot even think of seeing everything that you might want to see - but it also means that you can stumble on something completely new as an alternative when your choice is full.

So here's my pick for music in 2006

Most enjoyed:
Ldl_1 Lies Dammed Lies featured their new album in a wonderful late night set in  Foxhunter - just gourgoes ego free brilliance - well attended by Anglican clergy it has to be said - and I will be posting on being 40 something in another post. Their website has been updated overnight to include the new CD - so order post free folks. Glad there was no lasting damage when on Monday their Sticky Music tent blew away.

Lawson First time experience:
Stumbled by accident on bass player Steve Lawson in the Winged OX (one of many occassions when New Forms was full GRRR!!) and his wonderful music.

If a solo bass player sounds dull have a listen to this music - basically he plays a six string bass like one would guitar and live he uses loops to wonderful effect, and works with an array of other musicians in a loose collaberation called " The Recycle Collective". Apart from a tendency to over-complicated introductions it was a delight - as was the Foxhunter concert by The Collective.

Biggest dissapointment
I am very surprised to say that my biggest dissapointment was Michael Franti and Spearhead - not altogether sure why? since I love some of his music but I just thought it was dull and rather overblown.

A Yorkshire cynic  (Hi Max!) who was stood next to me thought he had to be a charismatic, cos just when you thought he had finished a song and you thought it OK, he would start singing the first verse again. While the mix of genres works well on CD, on stage it just seemed to lack a certain credibility - and please let people dance and jump up and down in response to the music rather than earnestly encouraging then to do so - it turns it into an aerobics class brother!!

Biggest surprise
- yes them of the awful JCB song which they might live to regret getting to No 1 - cos the rest of the music is nothing like it and was both skilful, perceptive and entertaining.

29 August 2006

Greenbelt 1st post

So I am back from Greenbelt - it takes a little longer to drive to Yorkshire - and having got into trouble two years back for promising Greenbelt posts and then not doing them I have been a little more systematic this year and made some blogging notes as the weekend progressed - so there will be some posts of avarying nature during the next week or so.

So two brief first thoughts:

1. This year I "re-discovered" Greenbelt for myself which is really wonderful - I always enjoy it but in recent years the enjoyment has been somewhat vacarious - enjoyment gained from seeing others learn, grow and enjoy the event. This year its was really for me - and in some ways it was cos I was disciplined and went to loads of music and seminars - which I realise was at times at the cost of being with people - so sorry if I seemed abrupt in leaving good conversations for events etc and for not picking up on pre Greenbelt messages.

2. I think Greenbelt had its best music for many many years - and I will offer some thoughts later but it was summed up by the Ukulele Orchestra of GB - a wonderful set which set toddlers dancing, teenagers snogging (well the couple in front of me where hard at anyway) families laughing,  and I guess most people finding "delight in the unexpected".

If you fancy a bit more Ukulele wizardary have a listen to this -ironically "While my guitar gently weeps" here .

And if you fancy playing one but think they are not "cool" as an instrument enough how about one of these