Over the August Bank Holiday weekend we went to The Greenbelt Festival. This is an annual event for us; one of the highlights in our calendar, having attended as a family for many years. The festival has for the past few years been held in the beautiful grounds of Boughton Hall, a country estate near Kettering, which becomes a campsite for the weekend.
Greenbelt is a great festival offering arts of all types (music, theatre, visual art, film, spoken word, literature, comedy, storytelling, etc.) together with a programme of talks and workshops on a diverse range of topics, including refugees, consumer activism, computer/video games, etc., which you can dip in or out of as you wish. The performers and speakers come from secular and faith communities (of all kinds) but there is an underlying Christian theme which is, generally, subtly present except during worship sessions and the Sunday morning communion service attended by around 10,000 people of all denominations! Greenbelt aptly describes itself as a collision of the arts, faith and justice.
So, why do we keep going to this event?
Well, the range of talks and entertainment makes for a varied and enjoyable weekend. This year we sat open-mouthed through an acrobatic theatre show; jiggled to some amazing live music; listened to some passionate teenagers talk about penal reform, autism in girls, and the importance of theatre. We heard talks on dementia; on what Muslims really believe and on supporting local businesses. We also laughed and cried as the Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed by The Revd Kate Bottley (from Channel 4s Gogglebox). But most importantly, we appreciated the fact that Greenbelt is a great place for spiritual refreshment, for listening to the experiences of others, for being gently challenged about our views on local and world issues. It is a place where each person is accepted regardless of their background, age, faith, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. This year the Sunday morning Holy Communion service was led, entirely, by children.
Every year, we return home relaxed, enthused and determined to make a difference in our society (even if just a small one).
Last month I wrote about the need to be as well as to do, and I hope you have managed to have some time to do that over the summer. But we also need to make space, sometimes, to allow ourselves to be challenged by listening to the views and experiences of others, because it is by being challenged that we grow in our own faith.