Eternity Where

Eternity Where

This is the full version of a beautiful testimony Anton Thompson-McCormick wrote for us for a piece published in Premier’s Christianity Magazine.

As a child travelling through the backroads of Ulster’s Bible Belt, I used to peer out at all the Scripture verses nailed onto trees. My favourite was a red sign that flashed against the grey sky as you passed it. Its question was hand-painted in white: “Eternity Where?” It was meant to recall us to the end of the world: the staircase to heaven, or the highway to hell. But, for child me, the question meant something different. It held a certain magic. “Eternity — where?” Among those mountains, the answer seemed clear: “where else but here?” It was testament to my Granny’s gentler Calvinism that I was never corrected. 

The memory of that red sign came back to me on a late-night stroll on my first ever night at Greenbelt in 2021. In the years before, I’d come out as gay and left religion. Only recently, had I found myself back — first the Quakers, then as the youth worker at an affirming Baptist church in Brighton — and now I was at a Christian Festival. All this had unfolded over the course of my twenties, but it had felt fast and raw – and I was still finding my feet. I had heard that Greenbelt was a sanctuary for people deconstructing their faith, and I thought I knew what to expect: less piety, more politics — a chance to heal, to draw a line in the sand with the past’s contradictions. That first day, though, Greenbelt turned out to be something entirely different. Here, the contradictions dissolved and something stranger, more capacious offered itself to the imagination. 

Before that walk, I’d just been dancing to Madonna at a queer-themed disco, glitter smeared across my face, courtesy of the youth group. But, before that, I had been in a field of Methodists, raising up old hymns to the night sky. At the end of my walk, I’d have a deep conversation with a stranger about the Bible into the early hours. The next day, I’d pound my fists to the punk rhythms of Grace Petrie. I’d thresh wheat in a forest, listening to the Book of Ruth, considering the beautiful implications that loving the stranger always had in Israel’s ancient stories. 

This wasn’t deconstruction, a leaving behind, but the forging of something new out of all the old. At a meeting of Greenbelt Quakers, I stood up and read a poem that reminded me of the mountainous Presbyterianism of my grandmother. Here, I felt I was being reconciled with something I thought I’d lost forever. I was taking her older faith, and letting it live a little differently inside me. I was asking it – me – a question: could eternity be here? 

The next year, the youth group and I were invited to bring a queer worship session to Greenbelt. I chose to retell the Burning Bush story. It had once loomed large in Bible Belt pulpits, but it was a perfect fit for Greenbelt. Moses turns aside, sees something that first beckons to, then changes, his imagination — an ordinary bush, seen in a different light. By it, his world is transformed, and yet the bush is unchanged, we’re told — it’s still the same bush before, during, after this encounter. It’s a beautiful statement of how the divine and the everyday were always meant to hide inside each other. 

At Greenbelt, you learn to see things like this. Even in the moments where God isn’t explicitly mentioned—or perhaps especially there—you begin to know that all of it is meaningful, all of it is God. It’s there in the faces of people in the queues; in the writing of poems to the future at a transgender Marxism workshop; in the midnight chat with struggling friends under a dome of stars. For a weekend, all of life is raised up, but it doesn’t take us away from reality. Rather, the radiance and challenge of a more faithful perception find their way into the rest of our worlds: “Eternity where?” Eternity here — and here — and here.

Testimony from Anton Thompson-McCormick (he/they)
Youth Worker, One Church Brighton 

This is the full copy of a piece submitted for inclusion in an article in Christianity Magazine here.