Greenbelt 2011 was definitely a good year, hearing new people, and seeing quite a few old friends.  (Incidentally check out the Greenbelt website and the flickr stream for some great photos from @PhotoGlow and others.)

The music line-up is getting broader and broader, with many acts I've never heard of.  But thankfully the Friday night started with the excellent Show of Hands and Martyn Joseph, who we loved despite the pouring rain. Nothing beats singing along with the artist and crowd at the top of your voice, and this time it was to "What if God was one of us", which Martyn has pretty much made his own.  I tried Duke Special again, and wasn't thrilled, possibly because he picked downbeat material. Iain Archer seemed more engaging, but our find was definitely American import Gungor.  I couldn't see what all the fuss was about with The Unthanks (particularly the, err, clog dancing), and even Kate Rusby had some jolly tunes, but the performance felt flat.  Maybe I was tired to enjoy it properly at the end of the weekend?

The two acts I should have got to, it seems, were Hope and Social and spoof act Folk On, both of which had people very excited.  Maybe next year … though the team try not to invite the same people several years running.
On the talks side, I enjoyed Paula Gooder on Beyond the grave: what happens after we die?, where she explained in a very accessible way just how much of what we think about heaven and hell isn't Biblical. Brian McLaren was usefully provocative on how the church should find a way of working with other faiths/worldviews, rather than generally treating them as "the enemy".  Rob Bell obviously decided to be simpler and completely un-provocative this year, giving a simple talk of encouragement to keep going.  But disappointingly, like many American speakers (but not Brian), he took a long time over saying little.

I'm obviously out of touch as I'd never heard of the "Bread Church", which Methodist worker Barbara Glasson landed up founding in Liverpool, bringing purpose to many without hope.  She took us on a surprising journey on how fresh expressions have similar journeys of growth and pain to abuse survivors and homosexuals who have come out to family and friends. insightful.

As ever you can't get to all the talks you want, with some of the most popular ones deliberately timetabled at the same time, to avoid even worse crowding problems.  So I'm looking forward to listening to Nadia Bolz-Weber on "Preacher Girl: The peril and promise of proclamation", and several from John Bell.  And, probably not as fun to listen to, but Joanna Collicutt on Ageing and Death: Approaching the threshold of the age to come sounds important.
AuthorJonathan Clark