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Friday, 28 August 2015

Why I don't Do Festivals (Seminar talk at #NotGB15)

I'd like to thank Graham Hartland for inviting me to give this seminar. Not least because nobody else ever invites me. Greenbelt? Forget it. I'm too Tory. Spring Harvest? I'm not middle-class enough. New Wine? Too liberal. Not GB 15 is my only chance, really.

So you may ask what I'm complaining about, regarding Christian Festivals. And, to quote James Dean, what have you got?

First up there's the weather. Here's today's weather forecast for the East Midlands...


I mean - that's what Christian Festivals do. I went to Spring Harvest once. It snowed. Went to Greenbelt, got hit by a hurricane. You know you'll traipse home, personally soaked, with soaked tent, soaked sleeping bags, the car covered in mud to the roof where you drove straight into a 6 foot deep puddle and had to be hauled out before you drowned.

And then there's the false expectations raised. The minions go off to Spring Harvest, they come back "why can't you lead worship like Vicky Beeching? Why aren't you as mystical as the Northumbria Community? Why aren't you as left-wing yet oddly authoritarian as Bishop Pete?" Never do they show the self-awareness to realise that the problem is not that I'm not as good a leader or preacher as at Spring Harvest -  it's that they're not such a good congregation. Spring Harvest congregation is full of enthusiasm, they'll have read the Bible for the only week this year, they're ready to apply the teaching to their lives. At least until they go home, when they have to do their jobs and clean their houses and mow the lawns and pay the mortgage. And then they have to drag themselves to regular services in the morning and, I'll be frank, they're a bit of a let-down. I'd much rather have a Spring Harvest congregation. They're relaxed, they're listening, they've had the day off. It's not me, it's very definitely them.

And what about the music? First up, the Beaker Quire come home and insist on playing "this great song that we learnt." The first three weeks, nobody knows it. All a bit quiet. Then the next three weeks everyone's got it and loves it. 46 weeks on of singing "10,000 reasons" and frankly that seems like enough. We're gonna sing it for 10,000 years and then forever more? Grief, Is there any way of not going?

And finally there's the teaching. People who've been to conferences have opened their minds, had a think. They're ready to challenge, ready to be challenged, ready to change the world. Frankly, it's a bit of a relief when mediocrity sets back in a few weeks later.

When I started the Beaker Folk I figured it would be like an all-year Greenbelt, full of challenge, art and interest. 10 years in, it's more like a theological college - a place where we protect the inmates from the outside world, while hoping that one day we have divorced them from reality enough that, if they ever go back out there, they'll just float above it thinking it doesn't apply to them. But, whatever else may be its flaws, the Moot House is watertight, warm and comfortable. If anyone buys a souvenir, it's me that gets the profit. And if anyone starts singing Rend Collective songs at half past 11 at night, we'll switch the sprinklers on in their room until they stop. Don't go to a festival. Come to the Beaker Folk.

Now, I'm happy to accept questions. But if they're fatuous or self-aggrandizing, or making points rather than asking genuine questions, Hnaef will come and kick you in the shins with his walking boots. No-one? Great. I'm off to the Hen's Wings, then.

1 comment :

  1. https://www.justgiving.com/NotGB15/ just like the #HensWings is always open for contributions

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