Where to start – well August Bank Holiday and four days of wall to wall sunshine in the company of 11,000 fellow Christians in the grounds of Boughton House the home of the Duke of Buccleugh in Northants. A Christian festival of music, comedy, ideas and exploration around the theme “The Common Good” with time to reflect together about who we are and where we are heading, as a people, nation and world. Time and space to consider matters of justice, equality, race, climate change and investment for a fairer world. If that sounds over serious and worthy- it wasn’t. The events were as much about play and laughter; friendship and building hope; Taize style worship and opportunities for prayer; and of course, many food outlets and stalls to suit all tastes.
The festival is made up of partners including Christian Aid and The Church Times, and associates include, Citizens UK, the YMCA, Embrace the Middle East, the Iona Community and the URC.
Three of our grandchildren (8-13 years), sang and worshipped, listened to “finding the sacred in Harry Potter”, played Quidditch, limbo danced, made new friends, chatted a lot and want to go back next year.
We, that is Kath, Helen and I joined the Christian Aid campaign “The Big Shift” to persuade the big UK Banks to take more note of climate change in their investment strategies and move away from investing in fossil fuels.( www.christianaid.org.uk/campaigns/climate-change/the-big-shift ). We listened to Charles Handy on the environmental and political changes facing us all; to John Bell on “Rampant Heterosexualism” and subsequently on “Trumping and Brexiting”; to Sister Teresa Forcades I Villa, Europe’s most radical Nun. We sang hymns with a beer in the Jesus Arms; we visited the URC tent to see their theme “The Big Banquet” displayed with many examples from local URC congregations of knitted food items, including a complete afternoon tea table. There was also a series of conversations at “The Big Table” over the weekend exploring who is missing from the banquet and how the church could make them and us all more than welcome.
It was great to be with so many folk- diversity at its best with all accepted for who you are, recognition that all are made in the image of God. There was a high focus on livability supporting those with disability. For example, the Sunday communion service was led by folk with ME, agoraphobia and cerebral palsy, each from their own home transmitted live on big screens, enabling us all to worship together as one. Nearly 5,000 folk attended this outdoor service in the sunshine and the collection raised over £40,000.
The weekend felt very safe, we lost two mobile phones, a jacket and a five-pound note, all found and returned even with crowds of this size.
So much happening all weekend, more than you could get involved with, if you would like to know more please visit www.greenbelt.org.uk or ask us. We are planning to go again next year but will end this article with the affirmation from one of the worship services.
We believe that God is present
in the darkness before dawn,
in the waiting and uncertainty,
where fear and courage join hands,
conflict and caring link arms,
and the sun rises over barbed wire.
We believe in a with us God
who sits down in our midst to share our humanity.
We affirm a faith that takes us beyond a safe place
Into action, into vulnerability
and into the streets.
We commit ourselves to work for change,
and put ourselves on the line,
to bear responsibility, take risks,
live powerfully and face humiliation;
to stand with those on the edge,
to choose life
to be used by the Spirit
for God’s new community of hope.
Kath and Sandy Ogilvie.