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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, August 21, 2002
    Greenbelt - the year starts here
    Something of the end-of-year feel today; start of year too. My life has been turned around inside-out, upside-down, all over the place since starting training for ministry a few years ago. ItÕs perhaps gradually beginning to sift and settle again. And the strongest old themes are re-emerging. One of these being the annual visit to Greenbelt which remains for me a source of enormous strength, encouragement, energy, etc, without which I may have given up on the Christian faith, certainly on the church anyway, many years ago.

    I've missed it only once since 17 - while on Iona in 1999 - and it wasn't till I managed a cursory one-day visit the following year that I realised just how much I missed it. It's the programme of music and various arts that thrills, the innovative worship which energises and reawakens my flagging faith, the seminars and workshops that make me realise that God has a future and that I'm in it. It's the irreverence which goes deeper than any piety that energises me. But overall its the people that make it, because we're a sort-of community who've formed around this thing for the past 20-odd years. Bruce Cockburn is one of them and his song sums it up: its a festival of friends.

    Too much conversation is usually difficult for an introvert like me but it's manageable at GB. And so I look forward to four days of virtually non-stop interaction with various goths, punks, drunks, druids (yes, Rowan Williams is coming), queers, straights, ministers of the faith and faithless mysteries, peaceniks and techies, monastics, scholastics, guitarists, clowns, men in gowns, men in shorts, short men in big cars, journalists, optimists, soroptimists, children with painted faces, adults with painted faces, opera divas, comedians, community workers, advertising copywriters, young ladies, actors (on and off-the-stage), holy women, poets, protesters, storytellers, shopkeepers, each of them unique, each drawn by the open accepting nature of a Christian event where no-one's judging you, where whatever your faith or no-faith, you are very welcome.

    It saddens me that a good artist with a vibrant spirituality, who I enjoy, has such a down on the religion which he feels has done nothing but harm to us and our culture, and to him: "She walks up to me, makes the sign of the cross, she says, 'Julian H. Cope you're a real dead loss'." I can understand why he feels that way, sadly; that's why it's so good when folks like Cope experience Greenbelt and find instead of being ostracised for being different, they're accepted, in the immortal words of top Greenbelter Pip Wilson, as beautiful human people.