Greenbelt 11 reflections…

Home we are, shower fresh and full of stories. I had such a great time that I am reluctant to let it go and so refused to shave this morning for work. I am going beardy for a while as a wee celebration of all things festival.

Our worship thing went well- and as we were first up, we suddenly had time to relax- a rare luxury! This meant actually going to talks and sitting down listening to music. Fancy that.


Perhaps most of all, time with family and friends- I laughed so much at times that I ached. Several of the kids of my long time friends were there too- Sam, Caleb, Sarah, Nathan, Gail and Andrew- it was such a privilege to spend time with such great young people (not to mention my own kids!)  It was great also to meet up again with a growing network of creative folk from around the UK, many of whom are involved with ‘Tautoko’.

The meet up in Gloucester Cathedral was great- we managed to get down in time this year.

As for music- The Unthanks and Martin Joseph on mainstage were both really great. Billy Bragg was at his polemical best.

Gungor redefined worship music with intelligence and musicality.

In terms of speakers, I began slightly skeptical of the celebrity headliners- but Brian McLaren inspired me, and made me cry. He also sat down and spent half an hour speaking to one of our young people, Sarah. If you were to download just one talk from GB this year- go for this one. I also enjoyed hearing a couple of my longer term heros speak- Christian social worker/activist Bob Holman and Psychologist Oliver James.

This year I even saw some comedy- not usually something I bother with- Jo Enright was hilarious, and Mark Thomas (swearing like a Gatling gun) managed a two hour romp about his walk around the Palestinian wall.

Michaela has always rather tolerated Greenbelt through gritted teeth- it has always been much more my thing. She goes because it is important to me, and has other practical benefits. However, this year seems to have been a real change for her- she too had a great time. Michaela is happy when she has made connections, and this year she had some quality time with lots of friends too- including Yvonne Lyon (copies of whose new album sold out almost immediately on the strength of another lovely tender performance, despite a bad cold.)

Finally, one other performer deserves a mention- Sam Hill. Sam used to go to the same church as us near Preston, and despite all the music I have seen performed, I reckon that one of his gigs was the best I ever saw live. He is a hugely talented songwriter and performer. Our mate Andy played backing guitar for him at his last GB performance 9 years ago, since when he has hardly performed. Now he is back!

There was probably so much more that I have not immediately remembered, but that is festivals for you…

I took very few photos this year- I was relying on Andy ‘5 cameras’ Prosser. Here are a few however, mostly from Michaela’s camera.

Off to Greenbelt!

We are off down to Cheltenham for Greenbelt Festival. Hope to see you there!

If you go- come to our worship event- New Forms Cafe, 7pm on Friday.

Or you might like to check out the Proost ‘Silent Pilgrimmage’- poetry by Harry, Podraig and myself. Pick up headphones at the Greenbelt Angels desk.

But do say hello, perhaps we can share a pint of Redemption ale.

The killing of Sophie Lancaster…

I listened to this on the way home from Lochgilphead today- wonderful, powerful emotional stuff.

The Killing of Sophie Lancaster is an elegy to the young gap-year student who was attacked in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire. She later died on August 24th 2007. This is an elegy to mark the anniversary of her death, four years later. Aged twenty, Sophie suffered fatal injuries while cradling her boyfriend Rob’s head in an attempt to protect him from a ferocious attack by a group of youths. Rob survived but Sophie went into a coma and never recovered.

The story is told by her mother, and poetry written in ‘Sophie’s voice’ by Simon Armitage.

Poetry enough to make me stop the car to wipe away the tears…

A story of a vibrant young life wasted- because of the way she looked. Listen to it on the i player!

I didn’t do sport.
I didn’t do meat.
Don’t ask me to wear that dress:
I shan’t.
Why ask me to toe the line,
I can’t.
I was slight or small
but never petite,
and nobody’s fool;
no Barbie doll;
no girlie girl.
I was lean and sharp,
not an ounce of fat
on my thoughts or my limbs.
In my difficult teens
I was strange, I was odd,
– aren’t we all –
there was something different down at the core.
Boy bands and pop tarts left me cold,
let’s say
that I marched to the beat
of a different drum,
sang another tune,
wandered at will
through the market stalls
humming protest songs.

I wore studded dog leads
around my wrist,
and was pleased as punch
in the pit, at the gig,
to be singled out
by a shooting star
of saliva from Marilyn Manson’s lips.

But for all that stuff
in many ways an old fashioned soul,
quite at home
in my own front room,
on my own settee.
I read, I wrote,
I painted, I drew.
Where it came from
no one knows
but it flowed. It flowed.

Thomas Merton on travelling…

Courtesy of minimergent-

In one sense we are always traveling, and traveling as if we did not know where we were going.  In another sense we have already arrived.  We cannot arrive at the perfect possession of God in this life, and that is why we are traveling and in darkness.  But we already possess Him by grace, and therefore, in that sense, we have arrived and are dwelling in the light.  But oh! How far have I to go to find You in Whom I have already arrived!

Thomas Merton

The Seven Storey Mountain

Scottish cricket comes home…

Today we played cricket against Mid Argyll Cricket club.

What a ground! In the shadow of the ancient hill fort of Dunnad in Kilmartin Glen. There is something about played such a quintessentially English game (a discussion point- I know!) so close to the ancient seat of power of the Scots.

For the record- we lost. Badly. But it was a great day.

Meanwhile Emily and Michaela were at Toward Sailing Club fun day. Sailing races, food, swimming and being towed behind a speedboat on an inflatable. Emily that is, not Michaela.

The houses of the Kingdom…

Been doing more Greenbelt thinking- it is only a few days away after all! If you are going to the festival, Aoradh’s worship slot in the Worship Collective (Used to be called New Forms Cafe) is first up- 7.00pm on Friday.

The GB theme this year is ‘dreams of home’, and we have used this to consider something of the contrast between our house-obsessed culture, and the deeper things of home that we long for- resulting for most of us in a kind of yearning, that might be called ‘homesickness’.

For many Christians, this impulse seems to have resulted in a deliberate focus on ‘heaven’- as in some place that we go to when we die. In doing this, the danger is that we enter into that old dual thinking trap- we split into sacred/profane, temporary/eternal. What seems to have happened at times is that our religion became an escape pod from this doomed planet.

This is not the way of Jesus.

How might our homes reflect this then?

I turn once more to the Jesus manifesto from Matthew chapter 5…


Beatitudes for houses


Blessed is the house of the poor in spirit (for this home belongs to theKingdomofHeaven.)


Blessed is the house of those who mourn (for their homes will be places of comfort.)


Blessed is the house of the meek (For their house is bigger than the whole earth.)


Blessed is the house of those who long for righteousness (for their homes will be pregnant with grace.)


Blessed are houses full of mercy (for love will rest in them.)


Blessed are the house of the pure in heart (for God will be ever present.)


Blessed are the houses of the peacemakers (The sons and daughters of the Living God.)


Blessed are the houses that are broken because of Jesus. (The Kingdom of heaven is no earthly insurance policy.)





Part of our worship event @ Greenbelt festival-


There was a concern in the land

In every town the roads were lined with beggars

There were homeless orphans and widows cast out onto the streets

The lunatics were stoned by children

And melancholics drowned their sorrows with gin

The mess of it all was in the middle of us

The Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping

He had no home amongst us


So the good people gathered

“What is needed” they said “Is asylum.”

A safe home where broken people can live out their lives in care-

Protected from all of the mess of life

Fed and warm and watered.

So money was gathered

Stones were shaped and raised

Staff were retained and clothed in crisp starched clothing

And the heavy doors were opened wide in welcome


And so they came- the halt, the sick, the lame

The motherless and the pregnant child

All those broken by worry and grief

The shakers and the mutterers

All the awkward squad

The outsiders now came inside

They were home at last


It went well for a while

All was orderly and planned

Starved frames filled out

Songs were sung again in the entertainment hall

Gardens were laid and tended

Sheets danced in the evening sunlight

And a bell rang out to warn of the dowsing of night candles


But time passed, and shadows fell

Budgets were tight, and the paint peeled on windows

The good folk who had once been so generous had other calls on their coin

A few still visited on feast days but for the most part

Out of sight became out of mind.


And there was trouble

The awkward squad was still awkward

The asylum split into‘us’ and ‘them’


‘We’ had roles- uniforms and clipboards, rotas and registers

Big bunches of keys danced at our belts

We had dreams- of advancement, romance and families

We had homes away from this home


‘They’ stood the other side of our desks

Dirty and lacking in motivation

Ungrateful and manipulative

Un co-operative with our assessments

Lacking insight into the nature of their dysfunction.

They had ceased to be like us

Rather, they lived out regulated half-lives

They ceased to be flesh

And became instead a collection of paper

In manila folders


Despite all the material provision- something was missing

Despite all the person centred plans, the person was not at the centre

Despite the close press of humanity, there was no family

Despite all the risk assessments, there was no adventure

Despite all the planned activity, there is no purpose

Despite the safety of the high walls, I am still destroyed


So it was that care became captivity

Individuals became invisible

And home became hollow

And toxic

And Jesus in the least of these

Was weeping





Back to school…

Up here in Scotland, the school holidays are over.

Emily starts her ‘highers’, and William is now in his last year of primary school. Emily is a prefect this year- complete with blazer of office-

I often hear parents longing for the end of school holidays- not me. I love the gentle pace of the long summer days- which like our children’s childhood, still pass by so quickly.

Summer is now on its last legs- staggering onwards to autumn. It has been lovely though…