Big licks for Greenbelt Communion service

As previously intimated, we (Holy City & Wild Goose) were at Greenbelt 2013 ‘Life Begins’.

GB’s general worship programmers had decided not to ask us to do worship as part of the day-to-day programme back at the beginning of the year, for the first time since John & Graham were initially invited to take part in the same over a quarter of a century ago. However, 2 months before the event, from the another part and in fact, higher echelons of GB, came a request for the WGRG to design and lead the Sunday morning set-piece.

It can be revealed that the Wild Goosers and Holy Citizens pulled it off to - at the very least in the eyes of The Church Times, tho’ we also have to report, in the eyes of other sources and blessed punters.

Here’s the opinion...

“Greenbelt, it seems, has broken with at least one tradition - the suc­cession of earnest but confusing communion services on Sunday morning. For the second year run­ning, this was in the assured hands of John Bell and the Iona Com­munity. It was varied, but never chaotic.

The 40th-birthday theme was prominent. It began with vintage worship songs from Greenbelt's first years (most of which, of course, are still thought of as new in many churches): "Give me oil in my lamp" given the Caribbean treatment, and "Our God Reigns" to a fetching banjo accompaniment.

There followed a set of responses split between the under-40s and the 40-and-overs - which divided the 15,000-strong congregation about 50:50. The next part of the service was split into three sections, each comparing life in 1974 and now, in the areas of female equality, a global perspective, and ecology.

The same pattern was followed in each: a short introduction to remind the congregation of how people talked about these themes 40 years ago, a list of people and movements that have made a difference (this was how Germaine Greer got a mention in a religious service), a biblical reading, a one-minute "talk to your neighbour about" session on an inspiring woman/favourite fair­trade product/creative bit of re­­cycling, and a two-to-three-minute related talk, these in place of a conventional sermon.

Thus Mary Grey spoke about the barriers in her journey towards becoming a theology professor; MacDuff Phiri touched on the plight of the Congo, suggesting that, like illegal diamonds, electronic devices be relabelled "Blood Black­berries" or "Blood iPods"; and Barbara Brown Taylor described the steady progress being made by the organic-food movement in the United States.

Then, after the collection (taken, as usual in the champagne buckets of which the Cheltenham Race Course has far too many), some more songs, including a swoopy 1980s-style version of "The Servant King", all with electric piano and saxophone.

The bread and wine were dis­tributed, once again, in small groups of about 12, and the members of these then held hands and celebrated the peace: the service booklet suggested 40 differ­ent languages:vaka'equ,tsum­u­ki­kiatu,uxolo,soksang, and so on.

A 2013 song (by John L. Bell) followed: 
"You could have honoured better singers than children shouting in the street.  You could have chosen safer diners than those with whom you chose to eat."

Finally, a pantomime blessing, with the alternative responses "Oh, yes he did!" and "Oh, no he didn't!" Thus: "Jesus said, if a man slaps you on the right cheek, kick him in the goolies." "Oh, yes he did!" Scrip­tural accuracy sometimes takes second place to adolescent devil­ment.”


Yo!!!!

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