This year’s theme – Rising Sun – meant that there was a lot of emphasis on both different expressions of Christianity and on national questions of spirituality. I went to a session on Irish Soul given by Gareth Higgins (which was outside and freezing!) and one on Looking for a New England? given by Lucy Pinkett.
Both were interesting reflections on how not only identities but spirituatlities are different according to nationality (something that can be sensitive but is valuable to discuss). Having just married an Irish man I relate to a lot of what Gareth Higgins had to say about Irish approaches to a Christians spirituality and the way one of its expressions is an understanding that one of our purposes is enjoying life. But, perhaps because he hails from Belfast, I think he missed the very functional element of southern Irish Catholocism that I find interesting/enervating/refreshing. There is straightforward practical nature to church attendance I’ve experienced in Cork that is a far cry from the serious spirituality of my home liturgical tradition. The form seems more important than the substance, or rather more accurately the form of the worship is so well known that your substantive engagement in the service is more important than whether you “feel” God’s presence.
Interesting Frank Schaeffer talked about this as his experience of the Greek Orthodox tradition he has adopted since distancing himself from the religious right in the US. His talk was particularly moving and humbling and you truly felt that he understood and was a peace in his relationship with God.
In complete contrast to his appreciation of the liturgical and the value of the way that ritual frees you from navel gazing in worship to be focused on the “service” you give to God in the service, Peter Rollins was highly interesting as usual, talking about emerging church movements and what their relationship should be with the wider Church (antagonistic apparently – maybe my personal jury is still out on that one and I am in the middle of one of his books so I’m not ready to comment, although I do find emerging church ideas interesting).
Totally unrelated but really useful for my ideas in this blog was a talk about sport as the new litugy , as literally taking the place of religion, by Iwan Russell-Jones. Unfortunately it looks like his talk is not available on the Greenbelt site, which is a shame as it was a cracker. However, that gives me the opportunity to reflect on it in another post at a later date as part of my nebulous thinking about sport and the Olympics etc.
There was some great music too, Jose Gonzales, Schlomo and my new favourite band The Race who I dragged all my mates along to and who didn’t disappoint (hooray I was getting bored of the current scene). They are bit like early Radiohead, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and some element of Joy Division plus some Bloc Party energy drumming and a lead singer with a voice that their album does not do justice to. And they will probably hate me for doing such a pointless thing as trying to compare them to other people so check them out for yourself you lazy bunch.
It was great just to be with other Christians, relax, have a chance to exercise my brain as well as my soul for a few days and spend some quality time in the Jesus Arms again for Beer and Hymns.
I leave you with a gem if you are having problems with the whole Dawkins things and finding plausible arguments for your friends – download out Keith Ward’s talk – Why there almost certainly is a God – here.
My work-frazzled brain feels all the better for even thinking about the place for 15 minutes…