I suddenly realised that whilst I'd enjoyed Greenbelt and deliberately listened to and interacted with quite a variety of topics and artforms, could I say I was touched by God through it?My first response was negative. We didn't land up getting to the worship events we'd hoped to, except Aradhna, and that felt to me more like a concert as the words were all in Hindi or Punjabi. We deliberately stayed away from the huge communion service this year, having felt more frustration than blessing by it over the years. Though I slightly regret that now; I now remember feeling God's touch both through the simple act of holding it outdoors, and by being just 1 amongst 10,000 others. Like the rest of Greenbelt it reminds me of the multitude of believers out there, that very few of them look or think just like me, and this again points me to how good God is. So, whilst sharing communion with complete strangers feels partly wrong -- and James Cary goes further to say its a mis-use of its original purpose -- I think occasionally it can be a good thing. (Incidentally, follow-up comments on his blog make similar points, and James does back down slightly.)Paul Vallely as ever makes an interesting thought in his Church Times piece looking back on Greenbelt:

Camping undoubtedly adds to the spirituality of the experience, I thought as I lay awake at 3am one morning, with the wild wind whipping at the tent above me.

OK, but I do like the home comforts as well!Possibly the most interesting conversation over the weekend was one I'd not mentioned before: sitting in CMS' Blah... tent being part of a Spirited Exchange. Honestly, I wasn't sure what the purpose was until after the session had started, but it then became clear that was for those experiencing faith and its struggles at the edges of or beyond Church. Last year I'd read and was much struck by A Churchless Faith, exploring the unreported phenomenon of the people leaving churches (notably evangelical and charismatic ones) that haven't lost (all) their faith. The conversation was very much on this topic, with people in all sorts of places on the spectrum. One lady describe how she'd left her church, deliberately not found another, but after 3 years of deconstructing and reconstructing her faith, was able to become part of a church again. Most remarkably she rejoined the same one! The Exchange was designed to let people find support during an often very painful time of their lives. This whole topic is one that few churches take seriously, but more should. Another small cheer, then, to Greenbelt for being the environment in which people felt safe enough to be honest ...

AuthorJonathan Clark