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by Christine Alker
from Signs of the Times, No. 39 - Oct 2010
Christine Alker was joined by John Plant, Jonathan Clatworthy (left), David Marshall, Tim Stead (right) and Sylvia Reid on the Modern Church stall.
For thousands of people, the August Bank Holiday is marked out in the annual calendar as Greenbelt weekend: families, young people's groups and seasoned Greenbelters of all ages descend on Cheltenham racecourse to set up tents, caravans and stalls. For Modern Church our presence at the festival was a first and we approached it with some trepidation. Paul Badham shared his views on assisted dying with a panel in front of a tent full of interested listeners. The rest of us staffed the Modern Church stall over a total of 35 hours; from 5pm on Friday until 6pm on Monday we took turns to answer questions, discuss issues, share experiences and hand out literature to those passing through the exhibition tent.
We had two particular attractions. Firstly we were giving away paper (re-cycled, of course) carrier bags, over-printed with our name and website address. Secondly, visitors were offered a chance to find out how liberal they were by answering a fun quiz sheet. We gave away nearly 400 bags with publicity about Modern Church and scored about 200 quiz sheets but more importantly we had many very interesting conversations and positive comments. Finally we put on a 25 minute "Roadshow" with interviews and music. Tim Stead and Julian Pugsley sang songs which have been re-printed below. They were brilliant.
Greenbelt is an amazing festival (see: www.greenbelt.org.uk) and I was grateful to be able to spend some time soaking up the atmosphere and attending two talks. I particularly enjoyed sessions with John Bell and Clare Short. Other attractions were Richard Rohr, Stanley Hauerwas and Tom Hollander from "Rev". All of us on the Modern Church team felt it was very worthwhile and we are already looking at ways to improve our presentation next year. Come and join us!
Late afternoon at Greenbelt
by Tim Stead
The frightening bustle of those youthful days
The helpless hustle to find truthful ways
Never realised we were chasing wind
We'd just be told that we had sinned!
Angry dogma we had seen the light
There was no doubt we were in the right
Stop the search - we had found the truth
The dogged certainty of youth
But now: All those things that I've been looking for
All those things that I've been trying to understand
All those things that I've been clinging to
Are fading away, like pictures in the sand
We were gods, we were mystery
The past for us was just history
The time was now and the place was here
We didn't know what to fear
Now the questions are our destiny
The search itself is what sets us free
There's nothing certain and there's nothing sure
There are no limits anymore
Like the fame of a rock and roll band
Like the phone no. on the back of your hand
Like your claims on this land
Like just about everything that you planned
by Julian Pugsley
She said, "Come back to mine
We'll have a good time
You can meet all my friends
They'll help you make amends
Cos you're getting it wrong
You need someone who's strong
And we can show you the way
Just give your life to Christ today."
But I said, "I'm already a Christian
So take a good look inside
So caught up in your mission
Can't see your spiritual pride.
You're sitting in judgement
You condemn in His name
Selecting quotes from The Bible
You make me ashamed.
You say I'm not saved
For my soul you will pray
I must be born again
If I'm to make him my friend
But I'm baptised in the church
I'm confirmed in my work
I love God just like you
Just like the Muslims and the Jews."
And I said "I'm already a Christian
But only God knows the Truth
And he will rescue his people
In ways we don't choose
You preach to Catholic countries
Don't you know they're Christians, too?
Teaching hell and damnation
If they don't sign up with you
(Oh no) I believe in Jesus (not you)
I believe in Jesus (not you)
I believe in Jesus (not you)
I believe in Jesus Christ (not you)"