Solas festival…

We had a lovely day at Solas festival yesterday. Well- mostly lovely anyway.

Solas is a brand new festival held at Wiston Lodge, near Biggar. It is inspired by Greenbelt festival. A few of us from Aoradh went down, and we did ’40’ again, and set a few worship/poetry things. The festival was fairly small- a few hundred attendees. It felt a bit like it was looking for itself a little- not quite sure where it was coming from, but definitely heading somewhere…

’40’ was a bit of a disaster. The organisers had allowed no set up time, and inevitably we had technical problems, which meant that the soundscapes did not work. Also the room was really noisy as the rock band playing outside the window drowned us out. The end result was that we got all hot and sweaty and nervous- with me running around trying to get the sound to work whilst also reading one of the parts!

I have since been in to hospital to have my buttocks surgically unclenched because of the severity of the embarrassment.

But the festival was good. Lots of great music, and interesting discussion. And it was really lovely to be with my friends in a new context- meeting some folk that we new, but also lots of others for the first time. This is the real value of festivals for me- the chance to meet people and allow new things to grow.

I enjoyed Yvonne Lyon as ever- and loved Juliet Turner too.

As for the talking- I enjoyed listening to Richard Holloway, retired bishop and author. He spoke really well about his appreciation of the wide wobbly spectrum of faith- from hard religion, through softer forms right through to militant atheism. Holloway himself appears to be wavering around a faith that does not require God- but remains grateful for the inherited traditions.

He also told a story about his early love of Mysticism, particularly the work of Thomas Merton. This love took him on a retreat where he sought to deepen his understanding of the search for God through contemplation and mystical experience. However it seems that things did not go well- and Richard Holloway remembers the Roman Catholic priest who was his spiritual director saying something like this- “Don’t be bloody stupid, you are never going to be a mystic- you are a writer. You need to worship with a pencil in your hand.” That made me smile ruefully!

I also listened to Labour MP Douglas Alexander, former Secretary of State for International Development. He was slick, but impressive- a future leader of the Party perhaps? Another son of the Manse who is destined for great things.

Michaela was impressed by Alistair McIntosh– unfortunately I missed most of his talk.

Here’s hoping that the festival survives in these rather challenging economic times. Lord knows, Scotland needs the opportunity to celebrate a different kind of religion…

One of the Aoradh crew uses crutches- she has Lupus, and like most people of faith who have long term illnesses, she has had a long journey in dealing with the God who heals, but has not healed her. Helen is a lovely optimistic person, who now sees each day as a gift from God, and does many things despite the pain that she gets when she moves, and the potential long recovery time afterwards. She arrived at the festival field, and within minutes a man came up to her and asked to ‘pray with her for healing’. She politely refused, explaining that this was something that she had kind of thought to do for herself over the years. We later laughed- but it was not funny really.

It was an insensitive thing to do, but what surprised me was that this kind of way of faith is present within a festival like Solas. It is a kind of faith that many of us have experienced in the past, but have been grateful to leave behind.

It is not fair to sum up a whole festival by this one encounter- after all, we are all capable of doing some daft stuff in the name of Jesus- and this man is probably a nice and well meaning bloke. However, I do think that is kind of sums up where we are in terms of developing new kinds of church in Scotland. New developments like Solas are small, fragile, and tend to be an amalgam of people with quite disparate views- who are forced together by expediency because ANY new Christian thing is worth being part of.

There is a danger that the ticking time bomb of doctrinal warfare is always about to explode.

I am sure that the organisers of Solas this year have had a rocky road.

Pray for them- and it.