Idina Dunmore, pioneer minister, CMS alumna and long-time collaborator, shares her take on this year’s Greenbelt Festival and the Exchange venue, which was co-hosted by CMS.
I always have a childish excitement as Greenbelt Festival approaches – perhaps because I started attending Greenbelt at Castle Ashby when I was pretty-much still a child. I am old enough to remember the pit loos, with annual apocryphal stories of people falling in. Ewww.
Much has evolved over the decades, and the new-fangled compost loos, located over wheelie bins, now have seats with lids. And I have never heard of anyone falling in, although someone was panicking about how to retrieve the mobile phone that had dropped out of their pocket. Ewww.
2023 marks the 50-year celebration of the birth of Greenbelt at Prospect Farm. I’m often struck by the prophetic nature of that name. What beautiful creativity, faith-filled inspiration, radical action, and subversive inclusivity have been birthed at Greenbelt over those 50 years.
CMS has been present and involved at Greenbelt for a good number of those years (does anyone know how many?). This year CMS Britain Hub partnered with HeartEdge and Goodmakers Society to run the Exchange venue, in a brilliant location with constant passing footfall on the route between the two sides of the site. The tent was often packed to capacity, and beyond.
The venue was vibrantly and invitingly decorated with fluorescent fruit and money, for the very CMS-specific reason: that it hadn’t been done before!
Outside the tent we set-up an interactive ‘question of the day’ booth, offering three opportunities to vote by posting bottle-tops into an old cupboard.
The most answered question was: “Change is possible when we…” a) Have imagination for a better world? b) Collaborate? c) Have more money to do it? And the clear winner was… b) COLLABORATE – which echoed a recurring theme from the talks in the tent throughout the festival.
The overarching theme within the Exchange was ABUNDANCE, celebrating God’s richness and generosity, in contrast to society’s scarcity mindset, which is so prevalent. Topics included:
theology, with speakers from Sarum College
AI, which I heard scared many people
tech, including the launch of a hackathon (to a technophobe this sounds illegal, but probably isn’t?)
and multiple discussions around money: tax, philanthropy, enterprise, housing justice and the provocative topic of the Church Commissioners saving for a rainy day (but isn’t the storm here now?!).
Startlingly engaging were daily reflective sessions, hosted by CMS friends: Anna Hembury and team from Hull using puppets and spray-paint to portray starling murmuration; Maria Skoyles of the Dorcas Dress Project using sewing as meditation and pilgrimage as we shared heart-prayers; and Steve Radley demonstrating visio divina – ‘divine seeing’. And each evening Azariah France-Williams skilfully hosted a lively, dynamic festival round-up.
Overheard from one bored small person: “Mummy, is this the place where adults stop to meet everyone they know?!”
Not having small children in tow, for me the most wonderful part of Greenbelt is meeting friends from all parts of my life… from teenage youth-group buddies to present-day fellow-conspirators. The conversations and connections I make at Greenbelt often bubble within me through the year to overflow into new directions for life and ministry.
This was clearly evident at the CMS reception on Friday, when simple hospitality of crisps and canned drinks lubricated conversations between old and new CMS-connected pioneers.
Special thanks to Sarah Clarke (CMS), Catherine Pearson (Goodmakers) and Heather Cracknell (HeartEdge) for making the amazing Exchange partnership flourish, so we became more than the sum of our parts.
Bring it all on again for Year 51 – I’m booking my ticket now!