Thursday 21 August 2014

On Going to Greenbelt

So they're all packing up, those Beaker Folk preparing for their short trip up the old 509 to Kettering (handy for the Doc Martins shop at Wollaston, by the way).

It kind of makes me proud, seeing them all going off, so excited and wide-eyed. And I think back to my own experiences at Greenbelt, not least that famous occasion in 1986 when we were hit by a hurricane.

I only normally use the word in advertising material, but the thing about Greenbelt is, it's holistic. What I mean is, the experience is about mind, body, sprit. Once again I hear about the latest utterances from theism's favourite useful idiot, Richard Dawkins, and I figure if all you've got is "logic" then it lets you go off in all sorts of bizarre directions, all logical from the place you started from. The void that yawns under his latest utterance/ "apology" seems to open wider ever time he gains control of the Twitter apparatus. I presume most of the time his wife beats him off it with a sonic screwdriver, but the poor woman's bound to lose concentration occasionally.

But if you accept the religious traditions you're given uncritically, without letting them engage with your mind, without letting in the learning this modern world has, you're surely also stranded in a make-believe world. We can't live in the 1st Century, or even the 16th. We live here and now. Our deposit of faith is constantly re-examined, renewed, revitalised by what comes from the world, our thinking, our experience.

And Greenbelt does that.  It brings in Art, and new insights, and new angles to view things. While allowing you to understand more about your body - for it is holistic,  remember - by allowing you to struggle through four feet of mud while reflecting on a new understanding of the Trinity through the medium of chainsaw juggling.

Have a good Greenbelt, if you're going. Cling onto that valuable place where logic and spirit kiss. Worship, wonder, wobble, pray. And don't come back wondering why your own Church can't be that good all the time.

Unless, that is; you're prepared to make it like that yourself.


  1. I think that Greenbelt is a bit like going to Butlins or Pontins in the sixties. The conditions pretty basic with outdoor toilets, a bath once a week (if you're lucky) and plenty of beer and fags behind the club house, where Billy Fury and Adam Faith played loud on the Juke box and the Nuns (we were in care at the time) socialised with the brothers (we were a boy and girl institution) with cups of tea and their Breviary's on the table between them.

    Meanwhile us smoking our single woodbines, mingled behind the club house, reading a shared copy of the News of the Screws, illicitly obtained and smuggled into Camp by a friendly housekeeper.

    We would be visited by the Parish Priest once a week to say Mass and those of us who were altar servers would try to remember the latin responses and not to choke on the incense, given it's more toxic than woodbine directly inhaled.

    Happy days, but having so ill spent a youth, doesn't encourage me to repeat the experience among ipads and blackberries and such, not enough excitement, latin or real presences. #catholicperspectiveongreenbelt

  2. My Greenbelt days are long behind me, but my daughter still remembers the events of 1986. Greenbelt was enormously important to her as a teenager struggling to reconcile faith, the church and the world she was growing up in.

  3. I am going, will give you a wave on my way past


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