We’ll be announcing more details about our worship and spirituality programming for the 2018 festival on 24 April. But here’s a sneak preview of what to expect from Creative Director Paul.
After last year’s success, we’ll host our main worship venue, The Shelter, on the far side of the lake again. But this year, it’ll be bigger. And with improved access, including dedicated solar-powered walkway lighting.
The Grove outdoor gathering circle will be located on the far side of the lake, too. And we’re working with some installation artists to make it a real destination space this summer. Less about the meetings that are scheduled there (although there will be a rolling programme of great stuff). More a space to seek out and be in over the weekend.
In terms of specific programming to expect, you need to hang on until 24th April. But you can expect a range of options from morning through to ‘after hours’ – including wonderful musical and sung worship with a Taize service, an Iona Big Sing, and Sacred Music from St Martin in the Fields.
This year, we’re working with Space to Breathe on the whole worship zone. They’re new associate partners with us this year and they’ll be curating the Chapel Space on the far side of the lake for us, as well as providing daily content in the Shelter venue. Each afternoon, they’ll host a session called Sshhhh. And each evening they’ll bring us Proost Presents – creative sessions knitting together creativity and artistry with reflection and devotion, featuring special guest artists. It’s going to be glorious.
Another of our associate partners USPG will be leading daily liturgies in the Shelter inspired by the experiences of their friends in the Filipino church. There; they’re building a spiritual and practical resistance to the mineral extraction and human displacement that they’re witnessing in their part of the world. It’s important that our worship is global in dimension. So we’re grateful to USPG for connecting us to the voice of the Christian community in other parts of the world.
Two Greenbelt music artists on the bill – The Welcome Wagon and Matthew Morris – will also lead worshipful sessions in the Shelter, too. The Welcome Wagon return to Greenbelt after a 10-year gap. The husband-and-wife church leaders from New York have a brand new crowd-funded album out and will be working with a choir they piece together here in the UK to wow and win Greenbelt’s hearts once again.
Matthew Morris will share his journey and Grammy-winning songwriting prowess with us. Having written and worked with artists like Cher and Justin Timberlake, he’s now applying his musical passion and skill to the lectionary and enlivening church worship as a trainee priest.
There may be other guest artists from the festival programme popping up in the worship programme and venues, too. Watch this space…
This year’s communion service is set to be very special, too. Building on the previous two years of services around inclusion – privileging children in 2016 and celebrating those with additional access needs last year – this year’s service will be led by black members of the Christian community in the UK, and beyond. It will mark key anniversaries, and provoke and inspire us with the work there is to be done around making Greenbelt a more diverse community. Especially in listening to the experience of the black African and Caribbean communities here in the UK.
70 years on from the arrival of the SS Windrush at Tilbury docks – with the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean – and 50 years on from Enoch Powell’s odious Rivers of Blood speech, the service will draw on the rich history of black Christians in this country. It will also draw on the experience of black spirituality and conscientisation on the other side of the pond, building on the legacy of Martin Luther King – 50 years on from his assassination – and drawing in the voices of contemporary black theologian-writer-priests Broderick Greer and Winnie Varghese, who join us at the festival this summer from the States.
A Greenbelt spirituality
But as you might remember from our blogs last year (see the footnotes), at Greenbelt we don’t really think of worship and spirituality as something that only happen at certain times in certain places. The whole of the festival is an ‘offering’ of sorts. A massive ‘thank you’ for the life and generosity that we choose to believe flows from God.
I’ve been keeping up with past Greenbelt speaker Richard Rohr’s thoughts about the bodily resurrection over Easter. It’s challenging stuff and I know there are myriad ways of thinking about the resurrected body of Christ in the Easter story. But whatever you think about that, Rohr has helped to remind me of what I regard as central to Greenbelt’s festival spirituality: that it is bodily, embodied and whole. It sees ‘no splits’ between the material and the spiritual. (Steve Shaw spoke about this at the inaugural John Peck memorial lecture last year at the festival. And we’re thrilled to have Michael Eavis, the founder of Glastonbury Festival, coming to speak about the history and journey of his wonderful event this summer as the second in this series.)
Greenbelt is about artistry, activism and belief. It is not a space that is designed to reinforce existing practice and belief and experience – somewhere that is just more of the same, except more so, on a larger scale. Instead, Greenbelt sets out to make a different weekend, a different space, a different experience. And, ultimately, a different world.
Blogs on worship from last year:
Space to Breathe work at helping people outside of church settings – whether at work or in the community – tap into spiritual practice and reflection, almost without realising it! They use the language of ‘seekers’ more than believers. But their content and practice are designed to engage and inspire the most ardent and sceptical of people.