Greenbelt 2013

For us, this was a good Greenbelt: the weather was much kinder than last year and the team was on form: co-ordinated, functional, friendly and a lot of fun: Lou, Liam, Emma, JJ, Jack, Vickie, Elizabeth and Bryony and I worked really well together to deliver five acts of worship. We didn’t take any pictures ourselves, and only a limited number have come our way so far but when I get more in, I will add them to this post.

So this post is a mixture of reflection on what we did and what I saw.

Blessed at Greenbelt 2013

[caption id=”attachment_4737″ align=”aligncenter” width=”480″996594_10151559484205756_509156599_n Church Times 30th August 2013. Very different to last year.[/caption

1. Nursery Rhyme Mass

We filled the Aspire venue: nearly 450 individuals – including a large number of young people joined us for a wonderfully informal celebration of the Mass set to nursery rhymes.

The sight of hundreds of young people sharing the sacraments, and knowing that what they were doing was special (more than many adults in my experience) gives me great hope. The singing was strong and lively and most of the rhymes fitted. I believe the nursery rhyme mass to be an evolving thing and seek newer and better rhymes. Forgot to add gluten free wafers. Ooops. Sorry.

In practical terms, 15 mins to get in and set up a venue was not much time but my team were wonderfully efficient and all played their part. It involves a lot of scrabbling around but everything has its place. I led the Eucharist with little assembly-style links and taught some sacramental theology on the way.

Feedback was really positive:

Jo BM @Twurchsteward : nursery rhymes (which even my belligerent 7yo agreed was ace)
Murray Wilkinson @Murrage: @frsimon nursery rhyme mass = genius, just genius #gbhighlight #GB40

“Just a note to say how much my family enjoyed Blessed’s Nursery Rhyme mass at this year’s Greenbelt Festival. My two boys (4 & 6) had a thoroughly good time, and really marvelled at the opportunity to receive communion. As both an Ordinand (with SWMTC) and a Primary School Teacher, it also gave me lots to think about.  Indeed, I ended up buying your ‘Alternative Sacramental Worship’ book, as well as will be downloading thenursery rhyme liturgy. Thank you.”

Although when one colleague commended the liturgy online it provoked a typical storm of backlash from some Romans, who only seem to be able to approach the sacraments with po-faced disapproval. The Eucharist is at the very heart of my being, but it is not Defeat which draws me to it, but Victory – the sacrifice of the mass is not sad because Jesus died, but joy in the triumph of the Resurrection and His presence with us in broken bread and wine outpoured. This worship is not therefore as they might see it a mockery of the Church but a celebration of all that it gives to all ages. I’m with Pope Francis on this, not Pope Emeritus Benedict and they should lighten up.

For everyone else, it was just what Greenbelt was about: fun and prayerful. Praise God!

2. Blessed Big Top Big Bash

We didn’t get much time between the end of the NRM and the Big Top gig. As a diabetic, lunch is non-negotiable so by the time we had a sandwich it was time to be at the Big Top. We only had 30 mins get in and as we arrived the previous stage was not yet struck. Cue more franticness and a team working well together. My stress was the need to find a new phone battery from my bag. The WiFi link between the laptop and the tablet is essential, as I have taken to using Splashtop to provide an altar monitor: no wires, no fuss but with no WiFi, it doesn’t work. A colleague calmed me down in just the right way and when the Bowie Diamond Dogs video started and Metanoia kicked in with an Aerosmith song the adrenaline was on.

Blessed Big Top Bash Greenbelt 2013

The liturgy was really good, with a dozen concelebrants, and a Big Top with 700 people in it, who got it (with one exception – a man who seeming hated everything at the festival this year). The band were on form: Ruth wrote this amazing Mass Setting especially for the worship, and even though I messed up the beginning, it was a wonderful setting. I hope they’ll use it elsewhere and further in their Rock Masses, which I hope to come up and celebrate sometime soon.


Knotty Intercessions were a highlight – when we did them live at Walsingham, the bits of cloth all linked together like a messy spider’s web, but for Greenbelt the OCD-ness of the congregation came out and there was a massive single strand of prayer. One person said “I didn’t want to add my strip because they had my prayers on, but when I saw another piece just like mine in the line, I knew I had to given them up!” Just like our own prayers, I suppose. I just kept pulling it and it went on and on. In the end, I started improvising more lines about our prayers being linked: a common thread. The best we’ve done in the intercessions I think, and of course, tribute goes to the person who had the original idea: my youngest daughter Zoe.

The Penitential rite was in the middle, because it moved us from dystopia to utopia and used my favourite gimmick: the flash paper.


What else needs to be said about what God does with our sin?

1233406_10201640132943488_1969817215_n 1176194_10201640126183319_170216442_n 1150381_10201640123383249_433855769_n 11189_10201640119423150_706086086_n 1239867_10201640129583404_875116591_n 1236358_10201640120903187_1352767723_n

No end of positive feedback for this one:

Sisters of Bethany @bethanysister : @frsimon @Metanoiauk thank you for making our first visit to Greenbelt so rich. Loved the Blessed Mass. God bless!
and THIS!
3. Worship Pageant
Finish the Mass by holding before the people the Blessed Sacrament, before starting the Procession
And then procession with our canopy…
971940_10201640134463526_1166511811_n 1001937_10201640137503602_901233256_n 2013.08.24-GB13-JW-Sat-0170   Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Onto the MainStage for a good combination of all different kinds of worship and spirituality, ending with me giving Benediction from the mainstage. It was clear that if you didn’t know this was a monstrance, you’d just think it was a kind of Cross, so no-one was offended and many were blessed, even those who didn’t realise it.
4. Social Media Worship
Analysis of this will take a whole separate post, but suffice to say, this was a real venture into the unknown. Would it work? Who knew. On balance I think it did, and we learnt loads. You will never know until you try it. We took up residence in the Contributors with a load of tablets and a laptop connected to my 3G phone (because the Greenbelt people didn’t want to play) which worked well.
It brought some amusing responses:
Twitter   kateboardman  The diversity of the Church ...
In its own way, it worked. We enjoyed doing it, and we will have another go building on this soon. A fuller exploration of this to follow.
5. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
A real contrast to everything else. They said “can you do something catholic and contemplative?” I replied “We could get Jesus out for an hour and have Holy Hour…” The exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, surrounded by tealights and in complete silence. This was prayerfully powerful.
“What happens?” asked someone “Nothing, just prayer” whispered Fr. E.
The sacrament had been consecrated the night before at the liturgically powerful, wonderfully celebrated but fearfully badly organised Goth Eucharist. Fr Robb and Fr Edward knew what they were on, and should be given a greater role in making the Goth Eucharist happen: they are natural liturgists and excellent celebrants. I cannot say the same for all the clergy there. The liturgy was, however, excellent, beyond excellent: poetic and powerful, but needs the guiding hand of a liturgist to make it both authentic and valid.
In the presence of the Lord, an extrovert often has problems with the nothingness, but this time my prayers soared and it was invigorating. I was taken aback by this.

Other things in the Festival

I go to Greenbelt for worship, and find the other things (comedy, music, spoken word) a bonus. I go to the worship to be stimulated, challenged and above all to steal good ideas.
Worship Highlights for me included:
  • Holy Ground – who used an early experiment by me in Kinetic Typography. A really good exploration of sheltering from the Storm in Christ
  • Goth Eucharist – mentioned previously. I would have prefered more band than nChant, but that’s my personal preference. Fr Edward even did an impromptu baptism as everyone else renewed their promises, and because he did so, I know there will be proper follow up, post baptismal care and documentation of that.
  • Les Mis Mass – normally I am very vocal in my aversion to Les Miserables but I have to admit this really worked. Carol’s idea really came off and she should be congratulated for that. Fr J celebrates beautifully.
  • U2Charist – which suffered from technical issues with the screen but was musically awesome (Metanoia again!)
  • Meeting Susan Sayers – what an inspiration this lady is: recovering from a stroke and yet still sitting on the floor with children, using simple ideas for worship and engagement with God.
  • Beer and Hymns. The idea is to drink some beer and sing some hymns. Nuff Said.

Beer and Hymns 2013


The other highlights was encountering and chatting to many good people, too numerous to mention, but I learnt a lot from you this year (especially you, Fr E!). The Jesus Arms is where many of this took place and over a beer seems to be the best place to engage with theology, I think.

I don’t do much music, but as I passed the Roots open mic, I heard a good number of good performances and a couple of really dodgy ones. I also enjoyed StylusBoy at Last Orders and Maia at the Performance Cafe, both of which were for me, happy accidents.
Comedy is always enjoyable, but Last Orders suffered from what I felt was excessive length on the first night and tiredness from me, which meant I didn’t ‘get’ Barbara Nice, whom everyone else in the world considers to be hilarious. Maybe next time.
The greatest find was the spoken word strand, and the event in the Big Top brought new poetry into my consciousness. I was hugely moved by poems on Palestine by Rafeef Ziadah and the one long poem by Josh Idehen ‘Dad Poem” on his Father brought me to tears: a moving account which as both Father and Son spoke deeply to me. It was topped by Harry Baker’s awful puns and his excellent “Popup Paper People” Modern poetry is a thriving artform and something which I should explore further.
My weekend seemed to be based in the Jesus Arms and I especially enjoyed the Barnsey and the Piston Broke.
The weather was good, the team excellent, the tone of the Festival good. It was a great weekend. Thanks be to God.