Summertime blues? Listening for the still, small voice: June 2016
As LGCM's Chief Executive, I have watched and listened to many people I respect and admire offering commentary, analysis and reflection on the events of June 2016. I have found it difficult to know when to add my own voice, and when to listen and try to discern the 'still, small voice' in the midst of this very modern earthquake, wind and fire. Our foundations - personally and as a community - have been rocked by the events in Orlando, by the senseless killing of Jo Cox, by the deep splits in our society revealed by the results of the EU referendum, and the subsequent unravelling - at alarming speed - of old political certainties. Where are we to turn, and how are we to retain hope? How do we hold together these huge shifts at the same time as getting on with the day to day things?
How petty and introspective our denominational wranglings have sometimes felt, in the light of these tragedies. And yet, and yet - it has never felt more important or more urgent to tackle the seemingly harmless small things. The careless words, the thoughtless generalisations or subtle silencing, which contribute in tiny and imperceptible ways to the hatred we've witnessed these past few dark weeks.
On Wednesday we gathered in the Speaker's House at Westminster to launch Amazing Love - as remarkable scenes unfolded in the Commons, a stonesthrow away. Last weekend over 200 Christians marched together at London Pride to a remarkably positive reception, and over the coming days both the Methodist church and the Church of England will meet to discuss and reflect on marriage and same-sex relationships. These things are not unconnected, even if holding them together and making sense of them is challenging and uncertain.
So what can I offer? Where have I pointed ofhers, keen to restore their sense of equilibrium? Well, I've pointed them to a very special place.
Last Saturday felt too soon to follow the Glastonbury coverage - but catching up with Coldplay's set via BBC iplayer last night, I was reminded once again of the life-enhancing and transformative possibilities of summer festivals. Of people gathering together in celebration and defiance; of live music, of fresh air, of space, of encounter.
Greenbelt is a festival of faith, justice and the arts, which takes place in Northamptonshire over the August Bank Holiday. It's my place of reconnection, of restoring my faith in God, and in humanity. While the church continues to silense, dismiss and diminish the lives of LGBT people, Greenbelt accepts, affirms and celebrates our stories, our lives and our gifts. This year is no exception. The line-up includes Mark Oakley, Savi Hensman, John Bell, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Juston Welby, Kate Bottley, Terry Waite, Broderick Greer, Bob Harris, Elaine Storkey - and that's before we've even started on live music, theatre, cabaret - and food!
Beyond the programme itself, Greenbelt has become a safe space - soul food - for those seeking to make sense of faith and sexuality, and of our place in an increasingly complex world. If you've never been, why not make this the year? There are some great ticket deals for young people and for first time faith leaders. It would be great to see you there. It's the best resource I can think of right now.
And finally - someone else's words. Pádraig Ó Tuama will be bringing his poetry, storytelling, truth-telling to Greenbelt again this year. These words of his have felt very close these past few days. The still small voice.
Narrative theology #1
And I said to him
Are there answers to all of this?
And he said
The answer is in a story
and the story is being told.
And I said
But there is so much pain
And she answered, plainly,
Pain will happen.
Then I said
WIll I ever find meaning?
And they said
You will find meaning
Where you give meaning.
The answer is in the story
And the story isn't finished.
Pádraig's beautiful book In the Shelter is the best thing I've read in many a month, and so we've decided to stock it in our shop; you can get hold of a copy here.