Justin Thacker

Authenticity – why I loved Greenbelt so much

Greenbelt-festival-1

I’ve attended lots of different Christian festivals over the years, some of them I’ve even spoken at, but for the first time this year I attended Greenbelt, and I just loved it. Since returning, I’ve been reflecting on what it was about this particular festival that made it so great.

It certainly wasn’t the accommodation and food. I love camping, but one shower in 3 days, a sleeping bag so thin I almost froze, portaloos and some quite expensive food vans is not the reason that Greenbelt took hold of my heart. Was it the teaching and theology? No, I’m not sure it was that either. While I loved much of what I heard, I think I also disagreed with more at Greenbelt than at any other festival I’ve been to. It could have been the people, but the truth is that other festivals I’ve attended have been with much closer groups of family and friends, so it wasn’t that either. If I was musically inclined, I suppose that might have been the clincher for me, and I can see that it is for others, but I’m just not that into the arts so that aspect did not do it for me.

Maybe it was the inclusive nature of the event – certainly the Sunday morning communion service blew me away in the way it focussed on those with additional needs, and the sermon by a teenager with paraplegia was outstanding, but I still don’t think that was why I fell in love with Greenbelt.

In truth, I think the reason it has captured me was its authenticity. Throughout everything I heard at Greenbelt, I never once felt that the speaker didn’t passionately believe everything they were saying. I never once felt that their lines were carefully scripted to ensure they didn’t offend some or other constituency. They spoke from the heart, and while I didn’t always agree, I at least knew this was what they truly believed. They were not speaking to please the crowds.

I also never once felt emotionally manipulated, whipped up by music, lights, ‘worship’ into a psychological space that was not of my choosing. And even though I’ve seen lots of speakers at other events be vulnerable, at Greenbelt I never felt that such vulnerability was staged or rehearsed. It never felt as if they were telling their story in order to get a reaction or to demonstrate weakness, they were just telling their story – because it was their story.

I am not saying here that all vulnerability at other events is untrue or manufactured. Some of it is genuine just as it was at Greenbelt, but my experience of other events is that too often it seems false, and that is what I didn’t encounter at Greenbelt. Perhaps the clearest indication of this was that in telling their stories, many of the speakers stumbled. They didn’t know what words to use. They were clearly searching for the right phrase to express their emotion – and sometimes just couldn’t. For me, that contrasted strongly with some advice I was once given by a well-known speaker, that I should rehearse my stories – make sure they’re honed to bring out the point I want to make. That was not the Greenbelt approach – and that I why I love it. That is why I’ve found my spiritual home.

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30/08/2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments