We were at Greenbelt for the weekend, it was a fascinating experience, especially when comparing it with my memories from about 16 years ago. It is now much bigger than it was then, and a lot slicker, not that these are necessarily bad things.
The good points:
Fantastic music and just vast amounts of talks and seminars to choose from, my favourites were:
Alastair McIntosh… such a good speaker, love hearing what he has to say.
His talk on ‘The violence of our times’ was a good one, and it reminded me of the real need for us to address our theology of attonement, the redemptive violence thing is very problematic.
The Apples… better live than on record which are already a very high standard, they really are a great band.
Ikon… I went to see their ‘pyro theology’ which was great, I really liked it.
Pete Rollins… I also went to hear Pete speak, he was very good indeed.
Meeting up with friends was just a huge part of the weekend for me, and meeting people who I dont know so well too, including the good mr Mark Berry, who was camped a mere few meters from us. Should have made more of an effort to have a good chat really, my bad. Andrew Jones was good to meet, again not much of a chance for a chat, but good to say hi. Bex Tomlinson is a top person, brilliant to see her again, the friends we went with were of course on brilliant form – you know who you are.
Lots of missed opportunities mainly due to family commitments, many things I would have liked to have seen or done which werent possible.
That brings me on to the downsides of the festival:
Childrens work: I perhaps have rather high expectations of kids work at events of this kind, but I thought the kids work was a bit too ad hoc, not as well organised as I would have liked, and lacked some substance. More annoyingly, my children didnt really like it. I’m sure this is institutional rather than down to the kids workers themselves, all the guys I met were great.
But the problems do go hand in hand with my other main greenbelt gripe:
Queues. Flippin everywhere, for everything, all the time, miles long. Ahhhhh! Did my head in in a serious way, the only thing for which there was no queue was the mainstage which is open on two sides, thank heavens for that.
I personally think the festival is a bit on the large side, I prefer the smaller and more intimate feeling of a less enormous event. I estimate about 20,000 people were there over the weekend, which is quite a lot whichever way you look at it.
The overall feeling of the event is an interesting one, it certainly has a very liberal feel, and there is no overt God bothering kind of point to it, which is both good and bad. I like the fact that people from all kinds of backgrounds can contribute on an equal platform, from the Gay Bishop Gene Robinson, to the Quaker Universalist Alastair McIntosh, there wasnt much by way of conservative representation there I thought, not that I’m bothered by that as such, but I think all groups have their strengths, and one thing the conservatives bring is a focus on the God of the Bible without the existentialist lens of some more ‘out there’ theologians. Possibly the class politics of the festival have something to do with all this, there was a definite upper middle class vibe in my opinion.
However, this is not a complaint, more of an observation. I have rarely been somewhere where there were talks I actually wanted to hear, that is a real novelty. I enjoyed it immensely, despite the wretched queueing.