Find Me An Ark!
Over the past weekend I have been on my almost annual pilgrimage to Greenbelt Festival. Greenbelt is an arts festival put together by Christians that thankfully does not just invite Christians to perform, talk, sing etc. This makes it an easy target for ‘charismatics’ to criticise and rant about ‘atheists’ debating with ‘gay’ vicars etc. These opinions really do miss the point of the whole festival and what touches something deep in the core of me. That whole sense of connectivity and gathering for those often found in the margins, that sense that God can be seen and found through all creation and art, that sense of being stretched and made to feel uncomfortable, but more than that, God really does want to draw people to Himself. They may not come away signing on our imaginary dotted line of faith but they may have touched the hem of a garment. This years main talking point was of course the weather and the flooding to parts of the site caused by rain of monsoon quantity. One of the art pieces was Noah’s Ark. We could have done with a real one of those to stop us floating away. But despite the weather the festival amazingly continued and I enjoyed bands, speakers, poets, dance, comedy, wandering, talking, watching etc. God touched me deeply as I listened to the Indian worship of the band Aradhna and the post rock of Immanu El. Encouraged me as I heard Lucy Winkett’s talk on the desert place even in cities and Cole Moreton reflect on Britain’s new soul. The highlight was a talk by a guy called Jonny Baker who spoke on another world being possible, and using Walter Brueggemann as an influence talked about some stuff that resonated so much. Here are some of the bits and quotes he used.
Imagine All The People.
He said that there are those who can get used to business as usual, people who like things the way they are. Also people who need things to be how they are. As he said that I though about pastors and leaders and how in reality although they preach change that very thing could be the greatest threat to their ‘calling’, gift, vocation. What if things really did get transformed they may not have a job! Dependence on people being submissive to them and their vision. When I was in the so called ‘pastoral ministry’ I remember saying a few times if everyone obeyed the commission and went who would be around for me to lead? In reality we preach go but want everybody to stay. Who would we preach to for starters? But there are those who are different. There are the dreamers, the poets, the prophets, the artists, the crazy people as Baker called them. The marginalised. The rejected. Could those of us reading this fit somewhere there? Those who see the days of the empires are over. He then shared about five keys to embrace and not be afraid of;
A very underrated and undervalued gift. People like those mentioned earlier who have a different sort of site. Quoting Brueggemann here, and I loved this, Imagination is a danger, thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination to keep on conjuring and proposing alternative futures to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one. That was worth the admission price alone. That is one to chew over for a while. Baker also said that imagination is stirred by two things that seem opposites but are of the same story, a grieving of how things are and energising the hope of how things can be. I think this is important, especially that we do not get hooked on just grieving and looking back, this has to be a story of hope.
Turning imagination into action. Baker saw this as a positive thing rather than a negative. He pointed out that just moaning about how things are and nothing else is often not helpful, but dissent that leads to creativity is a good thing. Prophets who walk and speak out in grounds that have become domesticated. Release of new language. Discovering new paths in the overgrown hedgerows. Often living in tension with tradition. There can be no constructive change at all, even in church, unless there is some form of dissent.
3 the gift of not fitting in
What I loved here was that not fitting in was seen as a gift and not rebellion against authority. These people are there to cut doors in this world to connect the world with Christ. They are here to mess with boundaries and create new worlds. They dwell in possibilities and say ‘why not.’ For the first time in a long while I felt the embrace of acceptance and affirmation for being where I am walking at this time. Not that I was looking for that any more because I had learned to realise I needed no person’s pat on the back for this journey any more. But to hear someone outside say, it is okay, you are still a gift, what you feel is part of that gift, I felt deeply touched and moved. Trust others reading this can feel that embrace to.
4 best nurtured in community
Surely the hardest one to take in or sometimes even see or imagine. But hope for? Yes. A day when new community arises. Communities like the school’s of the prophets in Scripture, where it is safe and good for dreamers to meet, share, eat, laugh, weep, journey together. One thing Baker said that resonated so true, ‘it is tough and no fun to dream on your own, we all need someone to share our dreams with.’ Not to submit the dream, get people to judge it etc, but to dream together for a better world and be encouraged to live it. A safe place to detox the empire with others. I think these loose communities are already beginning to emerge and will continue to do so. What will they look like? Undescribable I hope, so that there is no model to copy. But it will look like relationships. Messy but real.
The place of stripping bear. Uncertainty and not knowing. Yet limbo is a most creative place. Learning to rest in this space as part of the journey and not fight for a destination. We are the missing scene and we need to improvise. Walking here we need to appreciate new worlds do not come easily and empires do not fall easily. He dwells in the dark places too. It is okay to walk here. Dreams often come in the night.
I’m Not The Only One
We may feel isolated and alone (I sometimes do in my own geography) but we are not alone. Elijah felt like this too and God even told him there were others like him. There are others like us too. The time and season will come to begin finding each other. Sometimes by ‘accident’, sometimes by looking. There are more in this cave than we first realised. My prayer is for those feeling alone that connectivity will emerge and that dots will be joined and a new picture of an imagined future will begin to emerge. You are not alone. I too am a dreamer like you.