Doers (#Greenbelt2018 reflections)

Themes: James Mark

Annette James

Sunday 2nd September 2018

James 1:17-2:1 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Mark 7: 1 – 8 and 14 – 15, 21 – 23

Listening to our readings today I have to confess my guilt – last week we were at the Greenbelt festival and I often ate without washing my hands. What a confession from a public health professional – well I am retired from paid work now…. Most people at Greenbelt used the hand sanitizers after using the porta loos and then cold water to get rid of the smell and taste of the sanitizer on their hands – one great development at the festival this year was the return of compostable loos – no queues – I always take seriously the commandment to be a doer at even the most basic level and not hearers only…

There were compostable loos for children too – they were fun – if you were near the children’s, no queue loos, you needed to fold into the cubicle and squat… but any more would be too much information…suffice it to say I came back and signed onto the toilet twinning network to twin our loo with one in a small village in Uganda….

I need to work on the other aspects of our reading today from James - to be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; not so easy I do get angry, quickly and door slammingly angry – but after a walk my anger subsides and I welcome James focus on meekness as I recall the words that Pete shared with us last month – the meek are the ones who sort out the mess of others – who are there when others have given up…

However this morning I bring, greetings from those who attended Greenbelt Festival – last Sunday, Hossain, Zeinab, Andrew and I were worshiping in the rain – as I understand were you (reference to myriad leaks in the roof) – we were in an open field with about 10,000 people celebrating communion – the theme of the service was Windrush immigrants arriving in the UK – with the fabulous Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, who sang Wa Wa Wa Emimimo – Come O Holy Spirit Come - as we sang here a few weeks ago, and movingly the prayers were on video by refugees from a camp in Borno State, Nigeria– filmed the week before. Lots of analogies with those inside the big top and those outside in the rain. Those from the Windrush generation and the mainly white middle class Greenbelters… this was picked up in other areas of the festival.

Each year at Greenbelt there are a few headline speakers who capture the imagination of the punters – this year the theme was ‘Acts of the Imagination’ and the headline act which appeared again and again across the site on panels and in interviews was Pussy Riot – throughout the weekend there was a break out of black and white tee shirts – with the slogan – Anyone can be Pussy Riot. Meaning that “Anyone can stage an active protest in your particular country, wherever you may be that you consider unjust” this was a statement in Feb 2013 at an amnesty international concert.” Maria, Nadezhda, Misha, Sacha and others are those who “look into the law of Liberty and act…. they will be blessed in their doing” – Pussy Riot are angry with the political situation in Russia, with Putin and that the Orthodox church in Russia is unable, unwilling to act independently of the state, hence their protest in the Cathedral in Moscow – I need to learn more about this myself but it is something which I have learned a little about…

For me other highlights were:

  • Meeting friends old and new
  • Stories from Syria – a young girl who uses a camera in a refugee camp to take pictures of hope – she said “people are too quick to assume that because we have nothing we are nothing… “those people are like those Isaiah prophesised against. All people are made in the image of God and this young woman said her camera gave the opportunity to focus on hope in the midst of broken lives, in the midst of a broken people…
  • I listened to Kate Raworth an Oxford Academic who is a brilliant economist who is broadening the horizons of economic thinkers with her theory of doughnut economics… she spoke of the historical view of John Stuart Mills in the 1850’s who had a very narrow imagination – he said man is defined by money, ego and a calculator – Kate reminded us that restricting the vision of man and woman in this way shapes what we will become – we are made in God’s image in Gods imagination and we are the first fruits of God’s creation – not limited by packaging…
  • We sat in on a conversation between Pat and Jo – Patrick Magee, a member of the provisional IRA, an activist who was a perpetrator of the Brighton Bomb (Grand Hotel in Brighton) which killed 5 people including Jo Berry’s father Sir Anthony Berry – we learned how they began “the most broken relationship in the world”, together they learned that forgiveness costs, it is a process and not an action – Jo and Pat have become friends and have met on over 200 occasions – Jesus said – “be ye doers of the word and not hearers only…those who look into the perfect law – the law of liberty and persevere ….. they are surely blessed” as are we who learn from them restorative justice.
  • One of my personal favourite speakers is our friend Padarig O Tauma leader of the Corrymeela Community who we heard speak on the book of Ruth, we learn courage from Naomi –who on losing her husband and sons became Mara a husk of a husk, and Ruth consistently called the Moabite from Moab… was protected from Boaz and other men and able to care for Naomi and because of the great generosity of people the story has a happy ending. Padrig says we need to get to a point where we say… “Well I didn’t expect that”.
  • June Sarpong spoke of leadership, the life and work of women who must not be forgotten – a multi ethnic group of women who worked on data pre computers and the impact of their work – Catherine Johnson who completed tasks which enabled John Glenn to reach the moon – incidentally she is still alive and has just celebrated her 102 birthday, Roselyn Franklyn, who has heard of Roselyn Franklyn – who has heard of Watson and Crick – Roselyn’s work which was the basis of work by Watson and Crick as they were awarded their Nobel Prize for discovering the double helix of DNA.
  • We danced to Osomantli – a fantastic hip hop band from LA
  • I was spellbound by Hyena – descried as a synchronised display of sisterhood, strength and power – fusing circus dance and song. They used cyr wheels – like huge hula hoops creating structures to stand, tumble through and use as high wire as well as synchronised spinning – they were amazing.

Other highlights were - Vicky Beeching, Kate Bottley, John Bell, Taize, Christian Aid, Community of Aiden and Hilda and lots, lots more

Speak to Zainab and Hossain – about dancing at Greenbelt…

Two things that l learned whilst experiencing Greenbelt – one was in the foreword of a book on Clem Atlee that Andrew was reading and the other was discovering the work of a man called Hans Urs Von Balthazar, a Catholic Theologian – too hard to keep saying his full name so I will call him Hans from here...

In 1948 Clem Atlee wrote something which is very pertinent to this generation – “It has been said that one of the greatest dangers of civilisation today is that man’s (and womens) conquest in the field of science have outstripped his/her moral progress… we have a task – that of citizens obligation to the community to keep pace with the changes ands structures of society there is a need to stress duties as well as rights.”

Hans wrote –

“what you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God…- what you are is Gods Gift to you, what you become is your gift to God…

The gift of life is a gift from God and what we do with that gift is our response to God… whoever we are and whatever our motivation, whatever we become for that is our gift to God ….

Hans wrote – “God defines himself/herself as I am who I am, which also means my being is such that I will be present in every moment of becoming.”

I have lots more learning to go but everything I have been learning this summer is standing me in great stead in my journey to “becoming …”

Chris sent me an email about the service today – he said there are no readings in the rota so you can choose whatever you want to preach on – however the readings for the day from the lectionary were a gift, this does not always work so well but today…

Bishop James has encouraged all leaders to read the book of Mark over the summer – the gospel has a political dimension – as we heard in our reading today Jesus asserts that evil intentions come from within the human heart – each of us need to recognise the need to bind up the strong man – Mark writes a list of ‘sins’, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

This list includes key crimes of power – theft, murder, stealth and deceit, slander – blasphemy …these come from within, from the human heart…

Hans wrote “It is impossible to contemplate ‘the word’ without the serious intention of doing justice to it in practical behaviour. It demands love for God, and our neighbour and does so with such immediacy and unmistakable urgency that is pointless ever to pause before this demand unless we are willing to respond

Lets just remind ourselves of the words from James…

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

This applies to every act – political, collaborative and personal … we may all have a slightly different doctrine of Faith but I want to finish with some words from my newly found guide Hans Urs Von Balthazar

“Even if unity of faith is not possible, a unity of love is…” Hans

To take the words of Jesus, and of scripture seriously to be “doers” we need courage, the courage to differ, to be a light sometimes in very dark places, I want to share the prayer for courage which I read most days, it is from “Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community” – Padraig O’Tauma.

Courage comes from the heart

And we are always welcomed by God

The cross of all being

We bear witness to our faith

Knowing we are called

to live lives of courage

love and reconciliation

in the ordinary and extraordinary moments

of each day.

We bear witness too, to our failures

And our complicity in the fractures of our world

May we be courageous today

May we learn today

May we love today. Amen



Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community, Padraig O’ Tauma. Cantebury Press 2017

Citizen Clem, A biography of Attlee, John Bew. Riverrun 2016

Hans Urs Von Balthazar.. online. Accessed August 2018.

N.B. Hans books include: ‘Prayer’, ‘Dare we hope that all men be saved’ and ‘Love alone is credible’.