My first day of duty on the OuterSpace stand, from 4pm to 6pm. Domestic chores kept me away from the Greenbelt site in the morning which meant that I missed that Giles Fraser’s talk entitled On Helplessness. My stint on the stand also meant that for a second time in the space of a month I was not able to hear Ruth Hunt speak (Thou shalt not be overcome: LGBT people, our allies, and the Christian church). However, I did catch up with her as she was sipping coffee and passed on the information of how much she had wowed the Quest conference attendees in July.
In the afternoon I attended a talk by Paul Vallely – author of Untying the Knot, one of the first biographies of Pope Francis (a revised and updated version is about to be released under a new title). Paul spoke about the struggle for the soul of Catholicism, laying bear the intrigue and in-fighting surrounding this Pope’s attempt to bring reforms to the church. After finishing my stint on the stand and on my way back to the car, I heard the fabulous voice of Zara Macfarlane, winner of the 2014 MOBO Award for Best Jazz Act. I lingered for a moment but my body was crying out to me, “Go home”, so I did!
There is no doubt that I have been bitten a little by the Greenbelt bug, but I am glad that it is only a 20 minute drive from my front door and therefore I can come and go as I please. I neither possess the stamina to be around that many people for four consecutive days nor the desire to sleep in a tent. It strikes me there is a tinge of New Age about Greenbelt, particularly in the many retail outlets and the items they sell. I am certain that the Quaker who asked me why I remain a Catholic given what the Catholic Church teaches about homosexuality, would think that Catholicism, like New Ageism, is now rather old hat. What was my reply? I believe that in so many ways: in the Church’s liturgy, spirituality, service of the poor, etc it is the place where I most experience the presence of Christ.
The accompanying photo is of the OuterSpace stand, featuring Dave who had to endure two hours of my company.
John Ashman, 29th August.