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martin hill

Hey Jonny.

Said I would email you but thought I would blog you after the greenbelt "talk" on deconstructing the sermon. I really like your intuitive and self conscious way of putting over difficult questions. Others could learn a lot from the fact that you don't bang on like you hate the hang ups the church has about its religious past/present.

Points from a pastor/preacher (by necessity and lack of greater inventiveness in oldline church).

1) In the consumer mentality of the age both young and old, creative or substantive, choose to opt in or out with commitment to the present only. This proves a problem for any leader toward a healthy progressive difference in the communication of message.

2) I would love to see more creative involvement in the way we worship and less wordiness. But I find those who complain about sermonising complain all the more if we invite the kind of engagement creative worship demands.

3) The spectator/consumer rules the church and directs the worship. So creatives don't engage ane the substantives want to be fed without engagement.

4) If the preacher is on the ball, relational and narrative in their approach to the art of preaching interest is usually maintained. If they are simple in their appreciation of applying complex theology then people can understand. If they are inductive (just as you rightly said) then the journey of the sermon keeps fresh.

5) I might be unusual in oldline church leaders but I want diversity of form and integrity of community. My aim is to see the true extent of "body" ministry and the expression of gift from the cradle to the gates. To think of the pastor/preacher as a one person ministry today is to live outside of the integral missionality in the community of Jesus. Too often it is those who are the church within who miss the need for this. The leader can only lead the willing and too often the will is lacking because of fear of what is known. On the opposite foot the security in keeping things familiar is a great tranquilizer.

6) The "message" from any leader in the church needs to encourage the congregation to walk together and live through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. There are many ways of expressing the message and words are only part of those ways. You said we need theologians at the table but not always out front. But we need good theology at the centre no matter the worship expression. This will always need the theologian communicator who will aggitate our minds to action. This does not need to be through words alone but let us not forget that the example of Jesus is predominantly to do so through "talks".

Man this looks like a preach and that is the furthest thing from my mind I hope this says that I am engaging with you in the journey and find your uneasy questions good for my spiritual health checks.


thanks for that. I never got to greenbelt during my years in London and the more I look back on that, the more dissapointing it feels to have never gone.


martin thanks for your thoughts. great to see you at GB. where did we first meet? i was trying to remember...

thanks for your term when we chatted about preaching being 'an art form' - that was something i meant to say in the talk but forgot or was rushed. i think it really can be an art and crafted well can be amazing. it's sadly unusual to encounter preaching in that way in my experience.

you pick up on some of the challanges of consumer culture w.r.t. commitment and so on. i agree - it raises some real problems for all of us.

keep on keeping on...

and fernando see you at GB one year maybe?! hope the move and all that has gone well.


Hi Jonny, Loved the talk at GB. Also loved the fact it had: no time for QandA; single talking head; etc etc - "The message is the medium" and it reminded us preachers what effort our audiences need to put in. (Even if that wasn't your intentional intention!) To me the key point was the one about how often you preach. Most life changing, inspirational sermons are from people who have only one or two sermons in them. Brilliant preachers but you'd die of boredom if you heard them every week. Illustration: choosing the same divine dish at a Michelin restaurant each week. Or even ANY amazing dish every single week. We need the light snacks too. I really liked your 'Nuggets' idea. Any idea if a similar thing has been tried using a blog? We have a "community plumbing" website which could certainly provide the framework.
ATB, Peter

martin hill

I was at Frost and Hersch in Sheffield when you brought them around and I was amazed you remembered that at Karen Ward and Ryan Bolger in Birmingham recently. :-)

michael wild

I was in at least two minds about Ikon. Yes, it was brilliantly staged performance art. But did it constrain anarchy and dissent within an Ikon-constructed framework? Or to put it another way, what if the "demo" outside had been real and inside? Indeed, why wasn't it? What didn't happen was the audience challenging the frame, by stepping outside the bounds created by Ikon. I didn't even see anyone ripping their tape off the floor, though it might have happened. Of course all that is part of their point, but I do still wonder what would have happened.

Obviously that answers the deconstructing preaching question too. There was force in Ikon deconstructing fundamentalism in the form of a worship service, framed so that audience challenge / participation was hard. I'd supposed your purpose in deconstructing preaching in the form of a talk was pretty much the same. Complete with stroppy churchwarden! (the fire officer)


It was all wonderful..thanks for your part in it, Jonny. Communion by Numbers was obviously fab (WHY does GB always involve so many hard choices...?) and was hugely helpful to a rather fragile parishioner of mine who attended. I'm so grateful for that.

phil goodacre

re: ikon service, i wonder how much people will go away talking about the service itself, and how many people will go away talking about the theme of fundamentalism?

not necessarily saying that the former is a bad thing, perhaps there needs to be some thought about how such issues could tackled in a 'worship service' context.

re: hand grenade in the fruitbowl. it's always going to be difficult to tackle an issue like that in one hour, especially if using 'informal education' techniques, discussion groups etc. but surely the very point you were making (or this is how i interpreted it anyway) was that sermons/formal education are not bad and to be avoided at all costs, rather creative, participative (informal education) methods should be given a higher priority. therefore a straight talk (as you gave) on such an issue is not necessarily bad/hypocritical etc, so long as it is not the only place provided for learning on this particular issue to occur. imho, when the festival as a whole is considered, plenty of opportunity is given for learning on this kind of issue to occur in a number of different ways.


Thanks Jonny. The move is going well and we do hope to one day move back to London, which would included a visiti to GB this time round. BTW, I blogged a little today bouncing off your paper on preaching.

Timothy Wright

Here is a totally prejudiced view of Greenbelt that I hear from friends of mine. I have never been to Greenbelt. Please correct me: I know I may be wrong on some of these issues, but which ones I am not sure.

Greenbelt is for people who take the arts, music, lietrature, more seriously than Jesus. They just use the name of Jesus so they can surf the other issues and play at being disciples of Jesus while using the words, spirituality, etc........

Greenbelt is for universalists because they Jesus as being warm and fuzzy and would never want to hurt anyone feelings and allow them to go to Hell. If they are not universalists, they believe that most people go to heaven, except mean people who start wars, and don't recycle, etc....

Greenbelt is pro gay and anti family, pro abortion, anti war, etc.....

Greenbelt is more about the journey than the destination.

Greenbelt is for tree huggers

Greenbelt is a place for people without any theology to reign.

Greenbelt is ...... this is only a partial list!!!!!!!!

Please correct me. Challenge me. Insult me. I am open to dialogue.


David Derbyshire

Will the panel you did on mission and emerging spiritualities be available as mp3/cd? I can't see it on the greenbelt downloads...yet? In fact I can't see any of the sessions from the new forms cafe. Hopefully they'll be there soon unless someone forgot to set the cafe up to record!


Tim, I wonder if the friends who have given you that view of Greenbelt have been to the festival either? People say all kinds of things about Greenbelt but I don't recognise the festival that I'm a part of and love in your description! You should come next year and see for yourself

Timothy Wright

Hi Jen,

Some of the people I know have actually spoke there and a few went there. I do need to find out for myself. I need to look at next years schedule to see if I can make it.

Would you see your self in any of my descriptions of Greenbelt?


Dan Wilt

As one who also coordinates worship for big events, well done, Jonny. It used to tire me; so many logistics and people to care for. Then I had an epiphany: "Events are important, because people are important, and events are important to people."

Be encouraged. Your summer sounds as if it has been well spent, on an eternal scale. If I can get ahold of any of your talks for use in our Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies at SSU, I'd love to.

Go git 'em.


the sessions from the new forms cafe were not recorded - sorry! i guess that's something we should try and change next year if it happens in the same way...

w.r.t. the opinions of greenbelt tim, i don't know where to begin. like jen i don't recognise it. it sounds like prejudice rather than opinion...

michael wild

OK let's experiment. In tim's statements, try switching "greenbelt" for "Spring Harvest" and making other consequential changes. E.g. "Spring Harvest is for people who take rules and literal interpretation of texts more seriously than Jesus. They just use the name of Jesus so they can tell other people how to live their lives, and play at being disciples of Jesus while using his words in a way he can never have intended". Would the resulting statements be true of SH? No, of course not. Draw your own conclusions.

On recording, given all the gear in new forms and that there was no official recording, I'm a bit surprised no-one had brought one of these http://www.edirol.net/products/en/R-09/ or similar.


nice switch michael...

i think technically recording wouldn't have been difficult. it was just outside of GB's system for recording because it's a venue we (alt worship groups) kit out ourselves as GB hasn't got the budget for that high spec a venue and the talks in there are booked via a different route to the other ones - internal points i realise. but it's a point we'll pick up for next year


Timothy Wright

I think SH harvest sucks also. Its the other diabetic end of the ghetto.


Paul Walker

Many thanks for the New Forms Cafe. It was my first time at GB for very many years, and a LOT has changed! I pitched up at the New Forms Cafe on Friday night, and ended up there for most of the weekend...just so many great sessions, talks, worship etc.

It was a pity that it was in such a small venue, I know that many people were turned away from sessions. I missed out on one talk myself because I went out to get a bite to eat between sessions and came back to find a queue of about 200 in line! Is it possible to see about getting one of the larger spaces for what is, after all, a key area of engagement for the Church. And, as an aside from a friend who was thinking of coming to one session, somewhere with better disabled access too.

But overall, just a fantastic venue and New Forms simply has to be there in 2007.


Athough Tims comments are somewhat tongue in cheek I recognise some resemblances.

If anybody at Greenbelt ever talked about justification by faith, foregiveness of sins, eternal judgement,hell, the importance of the Nicene creed or had a good word to say about the church I would die of shock! Also supporters of George Bush, Zionism, the conservative party or the Iraq war would not really find a welcome either.



I found : "someone asked me why i had presented the content which was deconstructing preaching as a talk" so funny I downloaded the pdf and read it. Lot's of interesting stuff in there. I particularly liked the "nuggets" idea.


i went to greenbelt... i'm a little bewildered by Rodney and Tim's comments. like jonny and jen, i don't know how to begin responding, because simply saying 'i don't recognise greenbelt in your description' is obviously not enough.

i was challenged in my discipleship, i found a new depth to God's grace, i worshipped with heart, soul, mind and body, i confessed (though i still haven't got that text message back... i'm a little worried it went to the wrong number...), i heard of deep commitment and love for the church, i watched families play and pray together. i even heard someone say - while leading worship - 'I believe in the Nicene Creed, every word of it'...

i am so grateful for greenbelt, for its complexity and subtlety and diversity which means no collection of blanket statements can ever describe it. thanks jonny and jen for all your energy and work that go into making it happen. it's an extraordinary gift for the church and the world.

michael wild

I'd endorse paul w's comments. Plus you can't really run a cafe in a venue that (but only sometimes, apparently) has to be cleared between events. Part of the point of a cafe style is that you can go and chill out whilst stuff you're interested in happens around.

Getting chucked out and told to come back really gets in the way of this. I know H&S is important, but it can't be impossible to count the people already there! The perfcaf had this problem for the Ben Okafor set, and it's practically impossible to clear. I assume they just declared it full at some point and imposed 1-in 1-out.

The issue of fairness between those already there and those wanting to come in for the next thing is also troubling, and not just for nf. Anywhere at GB it's practically impossible to go to a popular event if you also want to go the the previous one in the same venue, unless you leave early to join the anticipated queue, which seems a bit silly (and rude to the speaker).

back to nf ... the cafe is a nice idea, but only if you can hang out indefinitely. The current venue has what look like permanently mounted projectors which in theory is good, but in practice not much would have been lost without them imho, mainly because their screens were quite small and in odd places.

The best alternative might be the current stage 2, which has a capacity of 400, presumably because it's ground-floor with good exits. Is there some reason why Stage 2 couldn't move to the former Stage 1 area (the skateboard park) now there's a new mainstage? Or is the "club" atmosphere with 400 people all bouncing quite indispensable?

Simon Thompson


At Greenbelt this year, I heard Jim Wallis talk about the importance of Christian faith and how vital the Christian Church is in making a difference. As far as I understand him, his evangelical faith drives his justice work. He was talking about revival at Greenbelt with a good response.

I also met at least one conservative evangelical who was there for the worship and had no interest in politics. I heard the Nicene creed mentioned positively, even though I personally think that it is a fudged compromise document.

Plenty of the speakers speak from out of an orthodox Christian faith. I do think that Greenbelt is short of supporters of Bush, Zionism and the Iraq war, but it shares this characteristic with the rest of the world. I would expect people who thought Bush was right to be welcome and to be challenged.

I would agree that Greenbelt is generally left-leaning, but then that is because Christians tend to share a concern for the poor with the left. It is hard to follow Christ without siding with the poor and oppressed. However, I did hear a few positive statements about David Cameron.

If tree-hugging means concern for the environment, then you are right about Greenbelt. If it means sentimental idiocy, then you are dead wrong.

Simon Thompson

Whoops. Just noticed it was Tim who mentioned tree huggers. My apologies.


simon - i love the quote about the nicene creed 'a fudged compromise document' - even i wouldn't have had the cheek to say that ;-)

thanks everyone for all your comments - the feedback is helpful. one of the challenges with GB is the venues - there are huge (centaur) but then down to sizes like the cafe - not much inbetween.

and those of us organising GB are in danger of resigning most weeks because of red tape/health and safety etc which seems such a pain... ! it leads to soe very frustrating moments (many of which are unnecessary imho).

Tom Allen

Jonny (plus all who worked and contributed and made New Forms possible)
New Forms was great and the best of its kind so far but actually it was "too good" - it was really frustrating not to be able to get to four talks which were full - and then to be in two others only to realise that people were sitting around not listening to the talks - for next year then how about a bigger venue - or seperating out access to the talks from the leisure of the cafe with seperate head counts? Blessings to you all for what you offered hospitality, worship and talks. PS I have sent this to Greenbelt feedback and commented on my blog

And to Tim - Brother please don't come to GB 2007 - you wouldn't get anything from it if you seriously believe what your friends tell - stick with Spring Harvest etc they will keep you happy I am sure - and it will free the space for some-one for whom following Jesus is about faith and challenge and imagination etc


Simon Thompson

Hey yeah, good point. Keep it small enough for me to get into things.

Greenbelt is rubbish! Pass it on.



I think they are many Christians who might be tory in political outlook but who do have a concern for the poor and are involved in financal support, child sponsorship etc - this is not an exclusive preserve of the left.

I work for the MOD and was involved in doing admin work to mobilise reserve forces for the Iraq war. During my 3 year involvement with the EC community I have been accused of the sin of militarism, told I should resign my job etc - I have somtimes felt like a pariah with 666 tattooed on my forehead!

I wish there could be a joint Spring Harvest/Greenbelt festival that would cater for a wide range of people from within the christian tradition and be truely ecumenical in character - I realise this is probably an idealistic pipe dream.

I lived through the shepherding version of the charismatic renewal in the 1970's when we had an arrogant elistist attitude that we were the answer to the churches problems and the restoration of the New Testament church and saw it crumble into dust- I can only hope the EC community which is so much a part of Greenbelt will not go the same way.


there may be a few misconceptions about GB. i help plan the worship and this was the sort of diversity on offer:
pentecostal - muyiwa and a gospel choir from liverpool (whose name i forget)
taize - brother paulo from taize
alt worship (lots)
andy flan with DJ - charismatic/songs mixed with DJing
vineyard band
Fuse factory - VJing and electronic music
catholic mass
anglicanish communion
iona/wild goose
sanctuary - pall singh leading christian meditations in eastern form with visuals and rituals
orthodox services
contemplative worship (whole venue running stuff)
godly play
interactive art installations round site
bible studies on slavery aong with blank canvas (group from st marys bryanston square (spelling?) - charismatic anglicacn church meets new media)
deaf worship - i.e. worship led for the deaf community
ska worship - choruses etc but witha ska band
dwell - band from youth congregation leading singing youth stylee
fransiscans offering daily liturgy on camp site
and i could go on...
name me any other festival that has so many traditions of worship in one place?! if yiu are into evangelical/charismatic worship there was loads on offer for you....
some of the comments on here seem related to a caricature rather than the real thing.
i will pass on the feedback on here to GB by the way w.r.t. new forms etc



I guess your last comment was aimed at me!

My comments relate to the whole ethos of
Greenbelt and the nature of the people it attracts.

However before Tims and my comments attract any more ire/snide comments I promise I will not post again!


Tom Allen

Interesting in Rodney's views of Greenbelt- odd this year that during the Festival I met an army captain, and ex squadron leader, and that the Army Chaplains had a stall in the marketplace and report that they had one of their best ever exhibitions. What of course is key to Greenbelt is that in the same tent as the Army chaplains were various peace groups. Strange that there were talks which covered the links between hell and faith, and there were so many good words about the Church - others covered who is in and who is out (and it wasn't all universalist from the front or floor)- the difference is of course who is allowed to speak - Spring Harvest used to have "statements of faith" which speakers had to subscribe to. Sadly Rodney your perception of the "whole ethos" and the "nature of the people" is just an ill-informed generalisation - its ethos is diversity and the nature of participants varies hugely. If you want safe and clear then go elsewhere with the blessing of most who attend Greenbelt - IF you believe that Tim's friends are right and informed then don't come cos you will be a fish out of water - where are the snide comments or ire - I read humour and bafflement. May God bless you whatever you decide


Went to both Spring Harvest and Greenbelt this year for the first time in years and as a lefty, emerging, tree hugging, banjo playing weirdo I can tell you they are both pretty straight. Full of people with bad jumpers and numbered t-shirts. Main difference being that the Greenbelt crowd have more ipods, spikey hair and designer glasses - and everyone has been breeding like there's no tomorrow.

At both events i revelled in the awesome diversity, honesty and challenging nature of the seminars, worship and teaching. Especially with Greenbelt you cannot categorise, it's impossible to label it or paint it with any particular political, social or ecclesiastical brush. There's so much there and it's a wonderful demonstration of how we can all come together for the glory of god, where no opinion or expression of faith or worship is silenced.

Just to comment on Tim's list i would fully embrace the idea that the journey is every bit as important as the destination and i want to enjoy every moment.

GB feedback - better signage! I'm stuck between two doors, both with no entry signs - arrrggg!

Simon Thompson

Hi Rodney,

I understand what you are saying. As I live in the nearest town to Faslane nuclear submarine base, I have had a number of friends who are associated with the MOD, including a senior safety officer, an MOD policeman and the base commanders wife, as well as a number of non-military staff: all Christians. I have managed to remain friends with them despite challenging them to think some things through and being challenged by them.

I acknowledge that they are working out their faith in that environment, and I would rather a nuclear submarine's safety was the responsibility of someone with moral backbone than otherwise. I think that some of them are missing something, but I am too and so are we all.

I went through the same movement as you and I see a lot of emerging theology as addressing just that problem, but thanks for the warning to be vigilant. It is so easy for the same nonsense to arise in a different form. A lot of the reason why I am attracted to EC is that I see the ideas that I working out for myself after that experience as already in place there.

As far as I am concerned, the kingdom of God transcends left or right. The old dogmas centre around economics as the solution to our woes, the gospel brings in far more dimensions. Of course political parties are also more multi-dimensional than just economics, but the left-right axis is really economics. I would still tend to see the right as giving at arms length and the left as getting involved, however.

Maybe your experience with the EC is more real than mine. I have tended to have conversations with people who are attempting to move things along, leaders if you like, whereas it sounds as if you are in the thick of church life, with people who maybe 'don't get it yet'. I experience exactly the same nonsense in EPC churches, which is why I got out and I think that being squeezed into a mould is an inherent part of EPC faith than EC. Maybe the mould just fits you better. I certainly hope that the EC does live up to it's potential of embracing diversity, mystery and tolerance for open-ended spiritual journeys.

Finally let me say that I am a white, middle class, middle aged male, who is balding, has no pony tail, does not wear cool clothes, usually wears a suit at work, uses a PC and does not understand why any one would want an Apple, uses an Ipaq as an MP3 player, never went to a club past 1980, only learned about chillout rooms from others.

I have never hugged a tree. I respect their personal space.


I did hug a tree once (which will probably confirm everyone's worst fears about Greenbelt ;-) ). It was a weird experience and made me realise that reciprocity is essential to a satisfying embrace. Trees don't hug you back.


I am sorry I am breaking my promise but just one more post - I realise that I have been monopolising this comment section and I will end it here!

I left the evangelical/charismatic church for 10 years as a disillusioned ex-believer but had a major renewal of faith experience 3 years ago.
I have been to Greenbelt for the last 3 years. I am involved in IKON, also a charismatic church, been to some conferences/meetings/retreats in EC community both in NI and England and avidly followed the EC conversation - my sowewhat ill expressed comments are based my own purely subjective experiences. I appreciate all the positive endorsements of Greenbelt from Robin, Tom etc - there will always be a variety of perspectives on any subject !!

I too appreciate all the hard work, effort and self sacrifice that goes into organising such a big event - I have enjoyed some things at Greenbelt and firmly hope the EC community can play its part to help bring renewal to a dying church.

Simon - thank you for your post.

I have wittered on far too long. It is Murphys law that I will meet some of you in the flesh in the future - I too will be the middle -aged white middle class bloke with that strange NI accent! I hope we can shake hands and have a good chat

(sorry for the ire/snide comment remark - I was feeling cranky last night)


Simon Thompson

You're welcome!

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