We’ve often said that the whole festival is an act of worship. And we mean it. Worship isn’t something you necessarily need to go off and do somewhere else, somewhere special at a set time. It’s a lived attitude of gratitude, of reverence, love and devotion.
And Greenbelt is very much a festival. Not a worship and teaching conference. We’re a space and a community rooted in gratitude, celebrating creativity and with a hunger for justice. And this births a certain sort of spirituality. One which is not compartmentalised. We don’t do splits. Sacred and secular are unhelpful terms for the festival. Our altar is in the world. Because God is there. Because of incarnation. Because we are made in God’s image.
All that said, we know that a festival is a feast of noise, colour and spectacle and, sometimes, in order to feed your soul and connect with God, it’s helpful to make a journey to a different space for a bit. We get that.
That’s why we’re building The Shelter, our main worship venue, on the far side of the lake at Boughton again this year. Because just that short distance across the accessible pontoon bridge and over to the west edge of the festival village can make all the difference. You’ll also find The Grove and The Chapel there too.
Here’s a bit more about what to expect when you make the pilgrimage to the other side of the lake …
Nabeel Masih will be back with his mystical fusion of eastern scales and sounds with contemporary western worship music in the much-loved Satsang and a L’Arche community will lead an accessible daytime worship session.
St Martin’s in the Field’s Choral Scholars will be with us again to sing wonderful sacred music and invite you to join with them.
The Iona Community will lead worship and also host one of their inimitable Big Sings. There will be daily Quaker meetings for worship and Greek Orthodox theologian, Dr Andreas Andreopoulos, from our associate partners Winchester University, will lead sessions on colour (in icons) and light (in vespers).
Catholic Mass this year will be led for us by young people from Student Cross (the ecumenical Christian walking pilgrimage) with Fr Paul Smith from Brewood as the priest. Our associates USPG will host an evening vigil highlighting the plight of the communities in Mindanao in the Philippines who are being driven from their land and houses by multinational mining companies, together with their special guest, Filipino priest Reverend Christopher Nercua Ablon.
And new associates Space to Breathe will host daily sessions called The Adjacent Possible – daily doses of everyday spirituality and imagination – and Proost presents – with Alt Worship Grace, Spoken Word and Ambient Vibe.
(As well as leading the wonderful late night Goth Eucharist, Revd Caroline Beckett and the happy-in-black-sheep-of-the-Greenbelt-family Goth community will also host an all-age daytime event too, for alternative families and anyone of any age who is curious and wants to explore instead of guessing the ‘right answers’.)
The Grove is Greenbelt’s outdoor worship space. It’s a place for all ages to gather across the weekend for a variety of sessions – all designed to help us connect with God in nature and enter into all things Forest Church. As well as the planned events, the space is designed simply to just ‘be’ in, complete with Nick Walters’ amazing banqueting table installation and with the Chapel prayer venue close by, too. Set on the other side of the lake in a natural grove of ancient trees there is something for everyone in The Grove at Greenbelt.
From building a labyrinth from found objects with Gabrielle Limbrick of Oxford Forest Church to sessions on ecological spirituality from St Ethelburgas; and from making musical instruments with found natural objects to the mystical poetry of Thomas Traherne; and from stories of saints and dragons to The Gorsedd of the bards of The Grove of Greenbelt (open mic, Forest Church style) – it’s all about connecting with God in nature.
We’re thrilled to be working with Space to Breathe who will be curating and holding our Chapel prayer space this year. Here’s what they say: “Set across the lake, the Chapel provides a reflective space amongst all the hustle and bustle of festival life. It’s a space for your soul with imaginative installations that you can explore and spaces to sit and be still. The Chapel will play host to poetry, art and stations which have been specially curated for the festival and will give you space to explore a number of old and new approaches to spirituality. Space to Breathe bring their unique, non-religious vibe to spiritual experiences and provide the perfect space to be – whether for five minutes of quiet or a longer time of making space to make sense of the world.”
We’re working hard on our festival-wide Windrush communion service and we’re thrilled to welcome back the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir to lead our music for the service and to play a gospel set afterward!
There will be daily all-age worship in our children and family workshop and performance venue, Learn and Do, led by a creative, high energy team from Hull. Expect crafting and creativity and chaos.
Methodist Minister, Revd Rob Hilton, is bringing us his hand-built traditional Shepherd’s Hut – a beautiful space for quiet reflection and solace over the weekend.
The festival’s Sunday morning Communion Service – something that has become a highlight for many over recent years. Read more about this year’s plans here.
And, for those of who would value a guided walk with a qualified Spiritual Director, these can be booked onsite with the Spiritual Directors team at their base near the Info Booth. They’re there to listen.