Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Here I am, around a day now since I returned from my first trip to the UK festival GREENBELT for the first time in possibly three or four years.

If you have never heard about it, GREENBELT is a UK annual faith-based (Christian) festival featuring many kinds of talks, art, crafts, music and more. It celebrated 40 years a year or more ago now, which was a major achievement and say a lot about the reputation it has and why people keep returning after decades.

My wife introduced me to it many years ago, she a friend had taken her years before that. I was looking for a festival to go to among the UK Christian ones, and this one is less intimidating and almost seems just like some of the other big major music and arts festivals.

It is also to some believers viewed as the suspicious, and controversial Christian event-too liberal, too open and questioning. It is a place where people can question their faith, the Bible, consider different views, interpretations, faiths, cultures, how faith connects to music, art, words and more.

So my wife and I packed up and got in the car, travelling to the new location for GREENBELT 2015 (we also had not been camping for around 2 years, and so we made a few funny mistakes along the way.)

We did arrive a little late due to overrunning work/life stuff and so pitched the tent, got set up and went for an events programme. They had run out and some printing problem had happened. So Friday night was about just simply looking around the festival, finding something unexpected and relaxing.

We got some good noodles, watched a mainstage musical piece which connnected with some significant and very old industrial photographs. Interesting stuff. Later we came upon some good music in one of the smaller tent venues-a bit indie folk rock sort of thing.

Saturday was the first time we got out and saw the festival in full day light-and it all looks great. We had a very different location to look around and explore. The event now takes place on the large country grounds of a well known country manor house. There is a beautiful wide lake and shaped small river alongside it, and around the paths many full and tall trees. These were all lit up in blues, greens and orange light at night reflecting the theme of ‘The Bright Field’ this year.

Now you see, there is always so much to see, do, watch, listen at GREENBELT- you just can’t take it all in. The many talks featuring guest speakers ranging from well-known newspaper journalists, writers/authors of many kinds, comedians, tv/radio presenters and more (many not Christian), are soon available to buy of CD’s or downloads after the event.

We went along to see author and newspaper writer Cole Moreton lead a casual newspaper daily review/discussion- Saturday featured Giles Fraser and Madeleine Bunting and some acoustic tunes halfway and after. Moreton is a funny, friendly chap, leading a discussion intended to be respectful, honest, and challenging on the news from the day’s papers. While he joked that the tent was probably mostly full of Leftie liberals who did not read the Daily Mail, he hoped someone might and we could listen and consider their view of things with respect. It was funny, engaging, and great to hear an unscripted mix of opinions and views being voiced and considered.

We had a mid-afternoon camping emergency and returned to campsite later to catch some chilled folk-indieĀ  sounds with added electro elements from The New Portals in the Canopy tent out among the trees. We missed a few things-I may haved liked to have seen Simon Mayo the radio presenter discuss his new Y.A. book. This was a festival for relaxing and spiritual thoughts besides music and camping and some of the weekend just had to be random and hit-and-miss.

To be honest, I spend most of Saturday thinking about the Goth Eucharist which was due around 10:30 at night. We had gone along this at a previous GREENBELT and I am a big rock fan, so this to me is a very interesting and engaging alternative form of worship.

As the night came, we had some food outside our tent, walked to the festival village again, and caught some brief bits of music and talks around while we waited. We found the Treehouse venue later and sat down among a crowd to wait for the Goth Eucharist. Like last time, it was started later than planned. This time however the venue was outside-just a tent with now walls. Last time, if I remember rightly, Goth Eucharist was more like a gothic rock nightclub event, with familiar rock/goth/industrial tunes all with similar themes of faith, God, and spiritual thoughts connecting them. Rockers and goths danced, some with glow sticks and between songs, hymns and scripture was up on wall ovehead projection.

This time, the event was more stuctured like a regular communion at church except the vicars involved all wore black, some with black dreaded hair, purple hair, goatee beards. The service began, and the music was actually very dark, heavy celtic worship. There was a choir/band involved at the front which included the four or five dark gothic vicars and a group called N-Chant. Some of the words were like ancient Celtic or some other kind mixed with regular worship parts.

There was bass, guitar, bongo style drums, and a huge black harp with the female player singing and leading the music at the same time. The service reflected on the dark times in our lives, what the dark of night can be and offer and how God is there and will take us from it. Very different, but very cool.

Sunday morning was as usual, when almost everybody at the festival made their way to sit under and around the main big top Glade stage/tent for morning worship/communion. There was bishop Libby Lane from Stockport, Manchester and Pushpa Lalitha from South India involved as we prayed and broke the bread and drink the wine in huge numbers on the field. It closed with the Lord’s prayer, an Indian blessing from Bishop Pushpa and then some Japanese folk music as we all seperated to the morning events.

My wife and I had a relaxed gap of time until the afternoon and so looked around the festival at the various stalls, market shops, a small exhibition about Irish political wall murals. Lunch and then we watched a reading from very well respected and acclaimed author A.L. Kennedy, who read from her recent Dr.Who book and current more adult literary manuscript. Funny and interesting, as I write myself. We split up during this and my wife listened to a talk called ‘Is the right to offend Sacred?’ which I just caught the end.

We later got a bit lost, seperated, saw more different music until catching the end of a talk called ‘Angels and Cyborgs’ which looked at robots, robotics, technology today and robots in films and television. Again, very interesting-might have to get the audio recording of that one.

After that we watch a performance piece called ‘Gender Outlaws in the Bible’ This was from a gay American guy, exploring and considering possible gay.bi and trans characters previously ignored or left hidden until now. Very interesting, funny but could have been uncomfortable for some people. Greenbelt is a place where you will see or meet gay, lesbian, bi and other kinds of Christians who may not be able to be so open and comfortable in their own churches or communities but can feel relaxed and happy to express themselves and their way of faith and life around others at this festival.

So finally Monday arrived, as usual, just as we get used to camping and the way of festival life again. I never really know when to leave exactly at this point. I think Greenbelt seems to last longer than in the past, as it still went on until Monday night, but many people already did leave or were packing things up. We went to the main big top tent/stage to listen to Steve Chalke talk about life as a narrative, combining Aristotle, Kierkergaad philosophy with his own thoughts on the Bible and jesus and our way of living and life. We then caught the last morning newspaper discussion with Cole Morton which also included Steve Chalke, a female vicar from tv reality show and young female lesbian political folk singer. This again was a very challenging, engaging but also funny event.

By this time, the rain had been lashing down through the night, mud was getting thicker and gloopier all over, and we started to pack the tent and belongings back into our car. We drove home half covered in mud but taking home some great experiences and memories as we hoped we would.

Okay the thought came into my mind either today or late yesterday. It was a bit different, not as serious perhaps and scripture focused for this blog as usual but I think it is worth exploring…

It is the end of the week too, so maybe I had this lighter thought in mind as I relax slightly near the weekend.

Here it is-What would Jesus laugh at?

Okay, that might not have been the first burst of the idea, but that is what frames it. It mostly goes around myself as a christian, and other Christians today…what do you find funny, what do you think you CAN find funny? What do you think you are NOT allowed to find funny, being a Christian? Why is that?

Myself, I am a fairly relaxed person, pretty mainstream, almost secular if not for the faith part. I’m ‘Born-Again’ (urrgh, awkward term but…whatever) and so I’ve got a regular British, western pop cultural background.

I am not ashamed to say that I have for many years since my teens years been a big fan of Blackadder, The Young Ones, the Naked Gun movies, Austin Powers films, the Bottom tv show, Harry Enfield shows, Monty Python…(yes, all of Monty Python…) Red Dwarf and much, much more varied kinds of great comedy in tv, film, radio and more places.

Yes, I did mention Monty Python. Over here in the UK, they are almost universally seen as a modern classic comedy institution, legends who have influenced modern comedy shows, films, and actors worldwide. But they made that film didn’t they…? The one about Jesus…

Okay, so Life of Brian if you have not really ever seen it or heard about it, did create quite a big controversial fuss in the late 70’s with a number of Brit politicians and tv presenters and journalists harrassing the members of Python, and asking why make such an apparently ‘Blasphemous’ film?

The film actuall focuses on a baby born in a stable, named Brian, who grows up, wanders around, experiences some strange event, then says somethings that many people take as inspirational and special but he just wants a quiet life, to be left alone but the crowds beleive him to be the chosen one, sent to them. He is not the Messiah. He is Brian.

It is a very funny film, it does put forward some very important questions about faith, religions, institutions in society. They Python comedians were not trying to be offensive, but just putting forward these questions in the form of comedy as they always did. It is a kind of comedy satire in film form.

I am aware of a few Christian comedians around the UK, and they have some different views on how they can or should do their work. Some will never swear in their act, some will not makes jokes about stereotypes, women, minorities-well, regular comedians should not do those kind of jokes but then….Ricky Gervais…

What can we laugh at as Christians without feeling guilty or bad about ourselves? What is alright to laugh at? Right now in 2015, we are sort of almost post-politically correct in pop culture-or are we? It can get so very confusing.

I laugh at slapstick comedy, a like comedy shows or films with scenes where the characters make uncomfortable social mistakes, or dig a big hole for themselves. Sometimes it is just wordplay, puns, that kind of thing.

The Bible can seem so serious, and we as Christians can often seem to others to have no sense of humour whatsoever. Is that okay? Are we okay with that? Should we be? Do we even know?

Can’t we enjoy a simple good joke like anyone else? Well, we will see things in life different possibly. There are many different kinds of people, cultures, walks of life. Everyone sees some things in life different to some other people-that is part of life.

So what is funny? What might Jesus laugh at? Do I have that answer? Is this really taboo?

One day you might laugh at something, another day a similar thing might not be so funny. Things change.

A person slips on a banana skin-funny? Someone breaks wind, no one around admits-funny?

Someone makes a very serious point about justice and politics…but they have tomatoe sauce up the side of their cheek saying it and don’t know-funny?

Life can make us laugh, I think God knows this. It can be a gift, it can help us through hard and very difficult times. So laughter and laughing is special, it is important in life. Jesus would laugh I think. I think God might laugh at Monty Python.

Life is funny.

Listening and living…

Posted: September 14, 2014 in Uncategorized
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For a spiritual fix this week, my wife and I went along to the other new church again, after being at our regular one last week.

I often have a bunch of conflicting thoughts before going, and then a bunch of positive or otherwise thoughts after. Well, this week did feel the need to go along, as we are alternating and I was feeling fairly ‘spiritual’ by this point. Hey, we should be feeling spiritual and full of Grace all of the time right, but sometimes things just aren’t always just like that.

This new church is fairly big-not exactly like one of those America ‘Super/mega-churches’ but could aim to get like that. So it sort of felt a little like being at a music event or gig, except I usually go to see very loud rock bands and this was loud but with small children, babies and christian mainstream worship tunes.

Now remember, my thoughts and words here are from my own weird, male mind which also has many other things crowded around in there.

I’ve been ‘Born-again’ (Never sounds great does it?) for a good many years now, but many parts of regular church experience still are not totally amazing for me. Am I being stubborn? Am I holding back too much?

I try to feel real experience of faith and God, and be honest with myself and my own feelings. If a service does not move me, I not really going to pretend or just go along with it.

So today, the service was quite relaxed, started with the usual songs-I think it was Matt Redman or the other guy(…?) some quiet prayer time, more songs. Eventually after some meeting and chatting with others casually, there was a ‘sermon’ looking at Corinthians-the historical context, the geography of the place at the time of the gospels and a few funny parts added in from the speaker. this kind of thing I like and it is usually very interesting.

After this there were a couple more worship tunes of the same usual regular kind. All fine and good enough.

So then, my own thoughts did drift a little-yes, not intentional, I can usually focus and pay good attention-and I was considering how I might like church to be. What would a great, very relevant church be like? There are many churches around, and many have one or two parts which are really great but not always the whole. I think perhaps I would want more social work, social justice, possibly. Jesus would be on the streets, saying hello to all kinds of regular folk. Rich people, poor people, popular folk, unknowns.

I thought about how I support some charities and humanitarian organisations, and what that means to me.

I was thinking about worship-what worship is, what can be worship, what worship should be, or what some people think it should not be. I enjoy some forms of worship but not others-is that totally wrong? Does God prefer some forms of worship over others?

This makes this afternoon a time of contemplation, considering ways of knowing God, living like Christ in 2014, in the UK right now. What ways are right, what ways are best and what ways are my ways to worship? …

Well, actually pulled myself out of bed early and decided to head along to this other local church again for what would be the third time. My wife and I headed along, and what do you know, yup-it’s closed this week. Think they’re all on holiday, or well maybe a spirtual camp/festival thing.

So that was that, but now I am here on a Sunday all ready to worship for a change (yeah I know, sounds bad right?) and back at home. So it leaves me with my thoughts. Perhaps that was the point…

So I put on some ‘worship’ music that I dig…Christian rap-rock band P.O.D. (Payable on death), their most recent album-Murdered Love. A little angry but very passionate. The lyrics speak to me well.

The day that they murdered…day that they murdered…day that they murdered LOVE…

I’ve been slowly reading this book about how we see Jesus today, often we see him as a passive, relaxed, white, chilled out guy…was he really?

Wasn’t Jesus the guy who questioned social order, hypocracy, injustice all around? Should we not think of him like that? Is that just difficult, inappropriate, not right with our culture? Well, sorry but we probably really need to see that Jesus more than ever.

 

Alright, so here are a few underrated or less well known things that boost my spiritual Christian walk and faith…

The music of Johnny Cash-an amazing country music icon now sadly passed away. He had his troubles, but made so many great uplifting and inspirational songs and albums through his life, and tried to follow Jesus well.

Bands-KING’S X-Truly stunning band. The first four albums are fantastic, awesome worship songs there. very honest music. Some said a mix of The Beatles meets Metallica. In America, many Christians distanced from the band when singer Dug came out as gay mid-90’s. Were percieved as a ‘Chrisian band’ from start, but more of a spiritual band these days.

Skillet, RED, Love and Death/Brian HEAD welch (guitarist from band KORN), Stryper-yeah I know, but really if you like classic rock/metal they’re pretty cool really.

Flyleaf-Really fantastic Christian band, sadly original singer Lacey left a couple years ago, now have new singer and new album due later this year.

The Whosoevers-Members of Flyleaf, BrianHEAD Welch, P.O.D. involved in this Christian alternative worship movement in USA.

P.O.D.-Rap/metal Christian band, some great albums/tunes including ‘Alive.

Times of Grace-side project from Killswitch Engage band members.

U2-Possibly the biggest Christian band ever really.

Also love many bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Sabbath, Prodigy, Radiohead, Bjork…

Books-The Manga Bible-From UK comic artist Siku, it came outĀ around four/five years ago, fantastic artwork.

Donald Miller-Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God knows what, etc. Really great, honest thoughts collected in books.

Rick Warren, Jeff Lucas, Rob Bell, Adrian Plass…

I also really like the sometimes ‘controversial’ Christian festival GREENBELT-which incorporates art, faith, music, worship, discussion of all and many kinds.