it’s never too early to start planning next year’s trip…

i started writing this in Hong Kong sometime yesterday… i’ve been home for 18 hours, asleep for not quite enough of them, and hope this doesn’t reflect that!… i intended to write a lot more while i was away, but barely touched the computer… no regrets there…

We had a good trip. Greenbelt was followed by a few days in Telford, then the group split with mine going to Belfast and Manchester, before rejoining the others [who had been in Oxford] in London for a couple of days. The time always goes so fast, and the conversations just seem to get started; at its best, the trip gives a taste, and it sparks some imagination.

The entire trip is made possible only by the amazing generosity and hospitality of the people and communities we visit. I think in future trips we need to think about how we minimise the burden for those we visit – it must be getting to a point where many of them are spending more time entertaining fact-finding visitors than they are being community … i also think there are a number of communities who carry the cost of public scrutiny and opinions that are arrogantly formed in a fleeting visit. It’s easy to speak of them theoretically, rather than as people trying to make sense of the hardest parts of their lives and faith in a public space. Needless to say, each group we connected with was remarkable – not just for the fabulous things they are doing, but for their honesty and integrity in who they are trying to become.

Over the last few days Nic and i were talking through possibilities for next year’s trip. we need to split the group into two again – one focussed on meeting with people in new forms of faith community, the other focussed on meeting with those who are working to make space for such communities in the institutional church. I think i’d like to go one step further with the first group though, and offer a trip for people who want to explore the connection between culture and spirituality, not necessarily for any outworking in a faith community context, and certainly not necessarily as potential ‘leaders’ of such communities… it would be great to take some of the artists [in the broadest definition] who are right on the fringes of what we’re doing here [which is, in its turn, on the fringe of the church] to visit greenbelt, then to meet with groups and people in the UK [christian and otherwise] who are making the same connections on a day to day basis… it would be the kind of trip where we’d spend as much time in galleries as we would with communities…

so a huge thankyou to those who met with us, brought us into their homes [and their pubs]… and to our UK support crew [especially Taryn!] who offered local knowledge and wisdom that makes logistics so much easier… And thanks to the group who put up with a fairly relentless schedule with great humour, and managed to turn even the dodgiest moments into some kind of learning experience…

the annual UK trip has functioned as a punctuation mark for me over the last few years – a semicolon of sorts. some theme always gets expanded in its aftermath, things take on a new direction in response. i’m looking forward to seeing what that might be this year… but it’s going to have to unfold in my subconscious for a few days; i’m taking most of the next week off… see you on return.

2 Comments

  1. I agree – the communities and the individuals involved exhibited graciousness, integrity, hospitality and genuine welcome that actually speaks something in itself of the nature of those communities, as much as what they spoke of in terms of the creative and innovative shape to their gathering and living in relationship with God and each other.
    I love the idea of an artists’ perspective, art and spirituality focus to a trip – look forward to hearing more (i wonder if the church would fund another trip for me … ??!!!)
    thanks again for all your work for the trip – very worthwhile, though I’ve also had to trust my subconscious to work on it for now, with all the catching up to be done.

  2. Michelle Coram

    I second Sarah’s comments – thanks to the communities that welcomed us, and to you and Nicole for organising the trip. As a jetlagged introvert with a slight phobia of large crowds and queues, I’m not sure I’m looking to become a Greenelt regular attendee! But the intimate settings for conversations with the groups we met with after Greenbelt were experiences I’ll remember for a long time… sitting cross legged in Mark’s loungeroom floor in Telford passing the bread and wine to each other, me, a Catholic (with nationalist tendencies) in conversation with a protestant son of a police officer in a Belfast alley, and finally realising, after that conversation, and the black cab tour, the significance of the Ikon group’s ecumenism, love that several of the Sanctus community live in a converted church and worship in a cafe, encouraged by Ben saying that Sanctus began with four people in conversation, seeking community. But maybe, most of all, encouraged that I now know 15 more people here, in Australia, who want to have conversations about exploring new ways to be in community, or as Sarah puts it so well, ‘living in relationship with God and each other.’ Looking forward to seeing where the conversations lead…

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