Pioneers reflect on Greenbelt

View across the festival site. (Photo: James Fox-Robinson)

I invited some of the CMS pioneers’ Starfish network to look back at some Greenbelt highlights. A big thank you to Ali, James and Emma who offered to share their reflections.

Ali Middleton is returning this month to study level six with us, this will turn her diploma into a BA:

“From my perspective Greenbelt is a place for pioneers to have space to imagine, to be inspired and challenged. It’s also a good place to meet fellow pioneers and chat. I wrote a poem when I got back from Greenbelt:”

Photo: Ali Middleton

This Greenbelt
This hallowed ground
Of prophets and poets
Questioning and searching
This place of belonging for misfits, troubadours, seekers and seers
This cacophony of sound, coloured with the sense of the divine
This misunderstood, misjudged, mistreated wild place.
This home
This holy hallowed ground
This Greenbelt.


The Shelter venue at sunset. Photo: James Fox-Robinson

James Fox Robinson is about to go into year two of his three-year MA with us:

“Like the CMS courses, Greenbelt offers the opportunity to meet other people who don’t quite fit. People working on the fringes or in new ways or in unusual contexts. The festival is great if you want to expand your theological horizons (which I believe should be part and parcel of pioneering). It’s an opportunity to take a bit of time to reflect on what it is to be a pioneer, how we take that ethos of faith, arts and justice into our ministry and mission.

“This year I really enjoyed meeting a bunch of pioneers I had only previously been in contact with online. There’s something special about having a face to face conversation with people who have supported your thinking or ideas online.”

Emma Major is a lay pioneer licensed with CMS. She helped to run the Mission-Shaped Ministry course here at CMS a few years back, and remains a firm friend of pioneering at CMS…

“We loved Greenbelt again this year, despite the weather trying to drown us on the Sunday and basically wiping out my talk about making the natural world accessible for people with disabilities. God definitely thought my talk would have more punch if disabled people couldn’t get to it; and Greenbelt will be sharing my article about it soon. The photo is the slope that had to be navigated to get to my talk at the grove – tricky in the dry for wheelchairs and crutches, imagine it in the rain.

“God definitely thought my talk would have more punch if disabled people couldn’t get to it.” Photo: Emma Major


“For the rest of the festival we basically just hung out as a family, bumped into loads of friends we don’t often see anywhere else, discovered heaps of new music, laughed at comedy, were wowed by art and theatre and got inspired by John Bell and Jack Monroe – go and donate some Marks and Spencer’s lemon biscuits to a foodbank.

“The worship didn’t work for us this year, but somehow the festival as a whole was worship, bringing us closer to the peace of God and his call on us to be agents of change.”

David’s Tent

I spent most of the bank holiday weekend at a different festival called David’s Tent. I was on the CMS stand there and one of my colleagues commented:

“People I talked to at David’s Tent about pioneering were generally impressed and very enthusiastic. They especially liked that pioneering is about joining in with what God is already doing locally, and going where people are rather than expecting them to come to church.”

Pray: please pray for all who were at Greenbelt, David’s Tent and all the other summer festivals, that they, having been refreshed and encouraged, will go on to spread refreshment and encouragement to others.

Main image: James Fox-Robinson

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