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Greenbelt 2012: An elemental eucharist

by
26 August 2012

by Mike Truman and staff reporters

© Stuart Keegan

MANY campers went to bed in flooded tents last night, but awoke to glorious sunshine. Many will have agreed with Church Times columnist Canon Giles Fraser, who tweeted from his tent on Sunday morning: "Weather is a right old flirt. She was in a disgusting mood yesterday. And now this morning she is all smiles, as if nothing ever happened."

BBC Radio 4's Sunday Worship was broadcast from the festival at 8.10 a.m. on Sunday morning. Dr Paula Gooder ( Faith) preached; the Revd Richard Coles and John Bell gave readings, and the Revd Dr Kate Coleman said the prayers.

At 10.30 a.m., the Greenbelt Communion service took place on the main stage. Greenbelt's main Sunday eucharist is always contentious, as the organisers attempt the impossible task of meeting the varied expectations of their congregation while being committed to innovation. This year there was a response to criticism that last year's service had not been sufficiently all-age: so we had bubble blowing, Fischy Music songs, and a specific task for children in the eucharistic groups. There would have been more participation in processions, had the area immediately in front of the mainstage not been turned into a swamp by the previous day's rain.

Including new songs meant that we were back to needing a half-hour song practice before the service could start; unlike previous years, though, the songs were so catchy that the congregation picked them up quickly and sang with enthusiasm. Some of that enthusiasm was lost in the wordy bits of the communion, but there was plenty of visual material to enjoy, and the sun was shining. And the now established practice of doing communion in loose groups of 20 worked well.

And the tone was right, helped by a ceilidh atmosphere. So, when sunflower seeds were handed round at the end, the symbolism was undercut by a confession from the celebrant that they were, in fact, roasted and salted, so probably not much good for planting.

Sunday's highlights include Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, speaking on gay civil marriage and straight civil partnerships, and the former Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, speaking on the Gospels and Christian hope.

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