It never ceases to surprise me, despite having been at St Luke’s for very nearly 10 years, that when I get back from Greenbelt, I no longer have that sinking feeling that it’ll be 361 days before I encounter that kind of intelligent, passionate, grown-up, messy, engaging, cuddly spirituality again. It for my first few years at GB, there was a rather large disconnect between the model of church I was witnessing week in week out on a sunday, and what was happen over the August bank holiday in a field in Northamptonshire. Like it has been for so many people I know, Greenbelt was entirely integral and vital to my developing into a human being, helping me deal with increasing levels of discomfort at what was happening in the various churches I attended, and also providing me with the link between social and political activism and faith. Greenbelt has always been about the intersection of the arts, spirituality and social activism – using the arts to reflect on what our spirituality compells us to do in the face of a world of wonders that’s being fucked over in so many ways. What to do when the majority of God’s children are struggling for clean water and food, while the few are dying from fast food addiction.
Back then, it was an oasis in the year, one that would hopefully sustain me throughout the rest of the year. In 1996, I took a year off from Greenbelt, as I was booked to play bass at another big church event elsewhere in the country. I spent most evenings crying at what the hell I was doing where I was – that weekend really screwed me up for a long time, and I vowed not to miss GB again for a while…
BUT, at St Luke’s, it’s basically greenbelt all year round – a church full of thinking grown-ups, not afraid of questions, doubts, fears, or disagreements; not worried about the cultural nonsense that gets mistaken for faith, not obsessed with being ‘the only ones with the truth’, and attempting to formulate an authentic spiritual life, one that causes us to negotiate the wonder of being alive as part of the gorgeousness of creation rather than wishing for it to all go away in some ‘Left Behind’ end-times-horse-shit scenario where the world can go to hell cos, hey, I’m off to heaven and you can all fuck off.
No, it’s great, and I’m forever grateful for the community there. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best I’ve ever come across, and after a weekend in the rain-soaked, mud-covered paradise of Cheltenham Racecourse, it’s a welcome reminder that it’s no longer one weekend of the year for me.
Last night was Pat-The-Vicar’s-Secret-Weapon’s 60th birthday. Curry was eaten, wine was drunk, songs were performed (Julie and I did a handful of tunes, along with the rest of the St Luke’s Cabaret) and people danced into the small hours. Many a smiling hung-over reveler was seen in church this morning. Life in all its fullness indeed.
Happy Birthday, Pat – a party well deserved.by