big 5 0 celebrations for greenbelt next year. what a gift greenbelt is! here's a new greenbelt film
this is the fourth of a series of short reflections celebrating twenty years at cms
my memory of dates is somewhat hazy but greenbelt festival played significant host to creative engagement with new forms of worship and church going back quite a way. i picked up the baton from doug gay in the early 2000s round the time greenbelt landed at cheltenham racecourse and took on co-ordinating it as a volunteer with help from a host of other people - sue wallace, gayle findlay, sonia mainstone, ben edson, ian mobsby and others. doug had co-ordinated worship for the festival hitherto and was one of the pioneers of the late late service which was truly ground breaking back in the day. bear in mind alternative worship had a decade under its belt by the time i picked up the role.
it's probably worth a pause to recap how movements worked back then. if you wanted to get involved in alternative worship there was a photocopied magazine - i think it was called re:sonate with stories and articles but crucially it had a list of groups, people and phone numbers on the back so you could get in contact and go and visit them. there were a few weekend gatherings too but it meant meeting at greenbelt was very precious because it wasn't possible to just chat online and visit someone's web site. one of the first online forums i remember was an email list called postmodern christian which subsequently morphed into other things. hardly anyone had web sites or knew how to access them. it was oldish tech but there was something magical about dial up that connected you into this other world of conversation with people exploring theology and practice in postmodern culture. i can still hear that dial up sound in my head!
but back to the early 2000s and by then it had moved on a bit. cheltenham racecourse had lots of indoor rooms and as long as you could kit them out your self it was easy enough to host a venue or two. we ended up for a good run of hosting two - new forms and new forms 2. the latter was more of an installation venue where the labyrinth made its appearance.
cms were gracious enough to let me do this as part of my job in those early years. cms had been partners themselves at greenbelt for many years anyway.
i was reminded recently of new forms by paul northup, the greenbelt programme director. he interviewed nadia bolz weber for the greenbelt podcast and she said how significant new forms had been for her and others visiting from other parts of the world. he was musing on that. with the new connectivity it became host to people and groups from round the world - new zealand, germany, america, australia, ireland, scotland, england. greenbelt was the perfect host because it loved new ideas, art, theology, practice, risk taking and so on. i bumped into alex and kat at this year's greenbelt and we were remembering the cyber feminist eucharist that they led - where else would you get that?!.
steve collins site smallfire has plenty of photos of that era - this photo is from a grace service on the theme of desert where we suspended a block of ice from scaffolding as you do! he describes the move to cheltenham and what ensued as follows:
This enabled the creation of 'New Forms', a dedicated alternative worship venue with a full sound and audiovisual setup and a rolling programme of worship events and related talks. Many of the events on this site took place in New Forms. During the 2000s Greenbelt was a major showcase for creative worship and a place for practitioners from all over the world to get together.
it was a fun time for sure!
the reason it's been on my mind for a season now is that i think we could do with making visible new forms still. i don't mean the venue and those groups. but i think it would be valuable to see and hear more stories from the edges. i was thinking who i could think of and there are a quite a few in and around the edges of pioneering - new forms such as revs , sacred bean coffee, church gathered around boxing, mountain pilgrims, the table and so on. there must be lots more. i came across a new form called grace notes through chatting with jed at greenbelt this year which i did not know about (i'll blog about that another time and hope to pay it a visit). i still really like the name new forms too....
[update: since writing this i found i had listed in 6 blog posts the various worship things happening which is quite an incredible read - what a feast in one year - see greenbelt worship part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5 part 6 - that was 2004! part 2 and part 3 are the new forms venues.]
i can't wait for greenbelt. the line up looks great. i actually don't even know why i am saying that because invariably i spend the weekend catching up with people! if you are there hope to see you. if not it's not too late to book. there are a few things related to cms and pioneering - here's greenbelt's page on that and here's cms page on that. but a short summary is below
Gather – Pioneer Dreaming SessionsSat 10am at Hope and Anchor: Getting startedMon 10am at Hope and Anchor: Navigating the Powers that BeSpirituality For The Activist with Ash and Anj BarkerSat 4:30pm at Prayer Tipi (meet at Shelter)Rewilding the Soul with Johnny SertinSat 5pm at The GroveReceptionSun 7.30pm at Partner Lounge
and i hope i will be seeing harry baker, kae tempest, andrew jones, nick hayes, brian eno, magic numbers to name a few things that have caught my eye.
next year greenbelt will be 50!
thanks to anyone who came to the session in the long barn at greenbelt's prospect farm. here's some follow up info.
imagining mission with john taylor is here - i loved working on it. john taylor really sparked my imagination and we have tried to write in the same creative vein and i hope it will spark your imagination if you dive into it. each chapter ends with exercises on creativity you can try out.
pioneer practice is here - this is a mix of stories and very short practical articles - ideal if you have an idea to work on, and ideal for a group to use together to dream up something. it's full colour - there are sample pages on the web site. the discount code i gave out will work until friday. if you have forgotten or weren't there and want to know get in touch.
thanks to jo howie for taking part in the session and telling the story of sacred bean. go look at their web site and order some coffee! and as i said in the session we have added the wonderful sacred bean eucharist to getsidetracked - simply click on the page spread that says sacred bean eucharist which is in pioneer practice. i am sure jo would love to hear how you get on with that so do message me or her about it. i am making that a worship trick - remember those? it would be about 86 in series 4....
jo wrote that liturgy as part of a worship module at cms on the pioneer training essentially thinking how you might create a ritual/liturgy that reflected the culture of the community gathered around sacred bean. the training is wonderful - do have a look at the pioneer mission leadership training web site here. it's quite late for this year! but we have certificate, diploma, BA, MA, DTh options as well as simply picking modules to do. there are now quite a few options online as well. if you are interested for this year get in touch immediately! we also have hubs round the country offering training which is not accredited - again see the web site for those.
and thanks to ali for coming and sharing about the social supermarket and other adventures getting going in rotherham.
above all i hope it sparked your imagination around what you might be able to participate in or catalyse.
prospect farm is a camping weekend on greenbelt's site. it's not a festival as such - a much smaller affair but i am really looking forward to it. i am doing a talk in the long barn at 3pm on saturday. it's been billed in one place as pioneer practice and in another as imagining mission so i'll try and cover both or something! jo howie and ali middleton are going to join me to talk about the sacred bean and the social supermarket. afterwards we will head to the tiny tea tent for 4pm - so do come and say hi. it will be a chance to catch uo with other pioneers and if you are interested in finding anything out about pioneering and training come and find me there.
greenbelt festival is simply part of my life's flow. i have probably attended it around 40 years of my life which is really quite an extraordinary thing. i guess it must be good :)
this year of course like other festivals it can't happen which is a sadness and i will miss being there, the inspiration and bumping into so many friends. but the good news is that greenbelt are running wild at home and you can get a ticket for £10 with a programme on staurday 29 and sunday 30 august that you can then access through the next month too. so get yourself a ticket and it is also a good way to support the festival.
"true north for the believers" - yes that is what it says on the top of this northern monk beer can. they make great beer by the way! at greenbelt this weekend i was there both having fun in sweltering heat with family and friends but also working with cms around pioneering. this time round we had a table in the exchange venue to hold conversations about business for good. i hosted three panels with three stories in each. i also helped proost put at an event and the bit i did was playing with the idea of true north and false norths inspired by the labyrinth from 2000. we also celebrated the northern centre and i just felt we had to get some northern monk beers to do so! it felt like it was meant to be.
true north is a metaphor i have played with around pioneering - i wrote a reflection on it about 5 years ago. true north is like a pull or an orientation towards joining in with god's mission - that is the healing of all things. and i reflected on various characteristics of it for pioneers - i guess what the charism or gift is of pioneering as we see it at cms. so now we have a partnership in the north it seems even more apt!
i love this photo of richard passmore who has been the catalyst for the northern centre - he is looking very happy (maybe that's the northern monk!). we have been friends a long time now. he was appointed to develop fresh expressions and mission for carlisle diocese in late 2015 and in less than 4 years there are over 100 fresh expressions and their research shows that 1 in 4 people in the diocese of carlisle who go to church are in one of these new expressions - that is mind blowing. you can get details on that from the diocese i am sure. and it's why we are partnering together so we can support with some of our training and experience. well done to you richard - you should feel good.
it was also amazing again to see harry and chris pack the big top with thousands of people off the back of edinburgh festival. i also really loved harry's solo show - he is so brilliant! he and chris must be soooo tired - have a well deserved rest guys! they are on tour in the autumn so do go and see them.
apparently according to my older brother i first went to greenbelt in 1981 so it turns out i have been quite a lot of times now. i have missed a couple of years when kids were young.
we're gearing up for a new term in oxford. we will have about 76 students across everything including 6 on the new doctoral programme. because the pioneering work is growing and expanding in other hubs and centres round the country, i have rejigged my role to free me up to give time to that developmental work. and cathy ross is now the lead for the oxford centre. she is amazing and already leads our masters programme so i am very happy about that. a few people have assumed i will be disappearing - i won't! i am still a cms director and i will still be around teaching modules, tutoring and so on but doing less there overall and handing on the lead of oxford centre. it feels like a good change. and i am sure there are plenty of adventures ahead.
[thanks to mark kensett for the top two photos - there are some more and a bit more info here. the last is at a strange angle but i was sat at the front at harry's feet for his poetry show]
every bank holiday in august i look forward to greenbelt festival. i have been more years in my life than i care to count. it's a beautiful blend of hanging out at a festival with friends, exploring ideas around issues of justice and faith, enjoying music and arts, and these days even hanging out with grandchildren and nephews and nieces! i love to take part too and have done talks, photography exhibition, led the main communion service, lots of alternative worship events, run labyrinths, chaired panels, and co-ordinated the worship programme for several years. this year i am excited to be involved in the exchange venue which is about social transformation and i'll be chairing three sessions talking to pioneers who have turned a crazy idea into a project to contribute to good in the world - see this post on the pioneer site for details.
i'll also be hanging around that venue wanting to talk to anyone who is interested in turning an idea into reality and trying to persuade them to come on the amazing make good week which is so great. and i'll be chatting to anyone interested in talking about pioneer mission who might be interested in training with us on the cms pioneer course. honestly those of us there from our team would love to hang out and talk pioneering mission with anyone who wants to. if you are interested, have ideas, are struggling or having a great time come and say hi.we are going to be with richard passmore and others from the northern centre which we are partnering in so if you are from the north and interested in pioneering come and say hi and find out what's happening there.
and i will be helping proost with a creative worship service on sat evening.
and of course i'll be answering politely all the people who ask me if i am harry baker's dad - yes i am! looking forward to seeing his show off the back of an amazing run at edinburgh festival and chris' show and harry and chris's show! it's going to be busy... it's going to be fun... and oh yes i am soooo happy to say the weather forecast looks great!!!!
i love greenbelt - i must have been to about 40 festivals now i reckon which is quite a scary thought. but it always evolves and changes and moves with the times and questions in the wider culture. i always tend to be working at it one way or another but it's also a great time for catching up with friends and family (and camping with grandkids which will be a highlight).
the last few years it has been really good to meet and chat with people around pioneering mission - and i have contributed various seminars, conversations and even had a book launch of the pioneer gift there a few years back. here's a couple of things i am involved in this year -
alt worship fri evening 6:30 - grace and proost are combining to lead an alt worship service riffing on greenbelt's theme of acts of imagination. this will be a great way to kick off the festival. that's in the shelter venue
future present - really excited that future present is now out and we are seeing greenbelt as it's public launch in that it will be available in the bookshop. and we have a panel at 9:30am on monday in the leaves venue which i will be chairing and steve collins, anna ruddick, and rachel griffiths who have contributed to it will be joining me to explore the ideas
then if you are a pioneer or interested in talking about pioneering and if you are interested in finding out about the pioneer training at cms then i'd love to meet you. go to the cms stand and they can get hold of me or come along to one of the following:
jesus arms pub 8pm fri night i.e. after the alt worship service above
tiny tea tent saturday 4pm
jesus arms pub 8pm sunday night
tiny tea tent 11am monday i.e. after the future present panel we'll head over there
greenbelt has a free app which has all the programme on it which if you haven't looked at is really worth downloading. hope to bump into you there. i'll also be proudly cheering on joel baker in the silent disco as he is djing and cheering on harry baker who will doing spoken word and harry and chris show stuff.
and the weather is looking pretty reasonable - maybe a shower fri night but dry pretty much all weekend - yay!
the weather forecast has no rain drops at this point for the whole duration - i know this is england and greenbelt and a field but i am still very happy about this!
i tend to spend a lot of greenbelt catching up with people which is always great. and then try and remember to attend a few things. cms have a stand there. if you are interested in pioneer training or simply in pioneering generally then i am very happy to meet up at greenbelt - best to contact me through the cms stand or via a message. and at these points we will be gathering so do come along to say hi on
and of course i will be cheering on harry and chris at the harry and chris show 2 on sunday at 1:30pm
leading the communion service at greenbelt for several thousand people is a challenge - the scale of it but also doing something that is both creative and appeals to a wide range of people - i know as i have led it a couple of times! this year was one of the best all built around the simple idea of children leading it. this included the sermon slot where the archbishop of canterbury was aksed questions by children on his role and on the passages. the favourite question seemed to be who would win in a fight between him and the pope! anyway greenbelt and andrew graystone (who put it together) have made the liturgy and resources available here - a little child will lead them - thank you greenbelt! i am making this a worship trick.
do have a look at one day - a piece of liturgy that managed to be profound and hilarious at the same time...
it's that greenbelt time of year again! this year i am doing nothing in the greenbelt programme for the first time for quite a few years i think so looking forward to a more chilled festival personally. like many people i am intrigued to see what greenbelt will look and be like this year in its smaller version of itself. if you are going hope to see you there!
the last few years i have been involved at greenbelt with CMS especially letting people know about the pioneer training we run. we have no stand this year but if you are going and would like to find out about pioneer training, or meet up then come to the tiny tea tent between 2 and 4pm sat, sun, mon or jesus arms (the pub) in the evenings - see here
looks like the weather is looking like it should be alright at the moment!
the presence of silence went well at greenbelt - it was actually my first ever solo photography exhibition in a rather cute shed. thanks to everyone who popped in to see it - the venue was full all the time - though it was a pretty smalll venue!
following the last worship trick which was music out of the ground, grace produced an amazing labyrinth type experience at greenbelt on the saturday called event horizon (i wasn't involved as i had a ton of other thing going on at greenbelt). it made use of a perfect location for it with an installation called orpheus which slopes down geometrically to a pool of water. the photos are better than a description. there were 8 stopping points on postcards on the journey down and 8 on the way back. and along the way were pieces of music to listen to. it was amazing. and steve has added all of the reflections here along with a description and a set of photos. so a definite worship trick to add to the series 4.
there are so many new things at the moment which is fun! learning to love is a remarkable collection of poetry curated by chris goan. it's been a huge undertaking and has around 100 poets and 300 poems in it. it was a simple idea of chris' a while back and we put the word out that if there were poets interested in publishing to send proost poems. well that quickly became huge. but after sifting and organising, an amazing anthology is the result. i'm so grateful to chris and everyone who has contributed. lots of the poets are publishing for the first time in print i think. it's organised around themes such as protest or the world is broken or the far horizon. if you know any anthologies i guess it's closest in spirit to the series by neil astley - staying alive, being human.
anyway it's just come out on proost. it's available in the greenbelt bookshop. poets themselves can get copies if you know them. and you can order it direct through lulu.com . as ever it's also a pdf download through proost. but i have found that this kind of book i prefer to have a physical copy in my hand. i have actually read all through it twice now.
there is a slot each morning at 9am in the leaves venue at greenbelt to kick start the day of reflections by proost poets that chris is pulling together. do drop in to that.
as well as the contributers to this collection another exciting new thing is that poet harry baker has teamed up with musician chris read to create a 4 track ep but in silence. they are going under the name flock and the ep is available on proost. this is a really beautiful blend of prayerful spoken word artistry coupled with soulful music and song. it's called but in silence. i'll add the link here when it's up... but they will also be performing each morning in the proost poets slots.
i love poets! not just because one is in the family but there is something about this mode of speech that is poignant, direct, soulful, and somehow the language of prophets. when i'd read the anthology i was so inspired by the range of voices, the freedom of speech, the ability to say stuff that needs to be said but that somehow never makes it into sermons and worship songs. there is this undercurrent of voice that needs to be heard. i particularly love the section in the book called the far horizon... anyway have a look and see what you think!
last year a highlight at greenbelt for me was connecting with lots of people who are imaginative building new things out of what they see - what we call pioneers and there was a great party/gathering one evening where we were happy to provide free drinks. well the good news is there is another this year on sunday night at 9pm also combining with celebrating a couple of new books out including the pioneer gift. but there is also a stack of other things that might be of interest which cms are involved with. download an invite to the party here which you need to bring for a free drink. and here is a link to the various things cms are doing - i'm actually first up on friday evening at 9pm talking about the prophetic imagination. if you want to chat about anything pioneering then i'll be spending the weekend meeting people for coffee or beer in the tiny tea tent or jesus arms no doubt! leave me a message or go to the cms stand in g-source.
if you are coming to greenbelt festival at the end of august i have a photography exhibition in the allotment gallery (a glorified shed i think!). it is only up for 2 hours (during which time i will be there) - think of it as private view. come along between 11am and 1pm on the saturday. it's called the Presence of silence.
some of you may remember a series of blog posts on the theme of silence which is the backdrop to this exhibition - see on silence  - fragile poet | on silence  - in the Presence of Silence | on silence  - ineffable and inephotographable | on silence  - individually guided retreats | on silence  - soul work | on silence  - words to ponder
hope to see you there! i'll post about other stuff i'm up to at greenbelt another time...
excited to announce that cms and greenbelt are launching a missional entrepreneurship competition. get your idea in and then be ready to work it up and make a dragon's den style pitch at greenbelt festival!