Post-festival buzz

The summer may be fading, but there’s a post-festival buzz still wafting around the diocese. The biggest noise is coming from those who spent a recent bank holiday weekend at Greenbelt. But there have, of course, been other Christian festivals making their mark on our worshipping communities this year. 
We took to social media, to find out just what you’ve been saying…  

Matthew has been going to the Keswick Convention in Cumbria with his family for the last 11 years, with the exception of 2020. This year, the three-week convention looked at the theme of ‘Grateful’, with a packed programme of Bible readings, lectures and evening celebrations, to encourage people on their walk in faith.
Matthew said: “We have made lifelong family friends through camping continuously on the same site. 
“We always aim for week three, which showcases 'Keswick Unconventional', their performing arts programme. I love seeing my children flourish in the groups and the friendships they rekindle, and we love activities on Derwent Water and walking the hills or mountains. Another bonus is that it is donation based only.
“A key take home for me this time was the story of Jacob and noticing how much darkness and light is used in his story, for example how he wrestles until daybreak and what a broken ‘ratbag’ he was but how God choose to use him to become Israel and bless the nations.
“We also went to Greenbelt this year - which was absolutely fantastic - but as half of the church in Leicester were also there, someone else can share that!”

This summer in Peterborough, the New Wine community regathered as a family to celebrate everything God has been doing in their lives, churches, and communities. With impactful teaching, worship, Holy Spirit ministry, community, connection, and transformational encounters with God, the United program was created for all ages, with New Wine Kids groups and LUMINOSITY for 11-18s.
Dawn has been going to the New Wine United festival for a few years. She said: “Camping is not really my thing, but it was great to go with my kids, and their kids too, this year. My grandchildren are nine and 11 now, so were given the freedom to go off to their own groups, and it was wonderful to see them come back buzzing, like the adults. It really was a special time. 
“For me, New Wine is about the community it builds, getting to know people and God that bit deeper.” 
One of the strengths of festivals such as these is that they create incredible moments for people, young and old, to accept Jesus into their hearts and lives. And it looks as though a particularly messy highlight of LUMINOSITY this year was the powder paint party!   
Barry Tweeted: “Delighted the kids had such a great time at the Luminosity powder paint battle but am now feeling like I’m doing the Persil challenge with their whites!
“Heading home from New Wine with very full hearts. So grateful to all who’ve served in visible and less visible ways to make such a time of worship, prayer, teaching, and fellowship possible.”

At the beginning of August, the national Youth Pilgrimage returned to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The main programme took place on the camp site complete with a Big Top, which was converted into the liturgical space. Social and food tents were located nearby. 
As well as worship and Bible studies, there was a candlelit benediction in the Shine grounds, a visit to the Holy House and the traditional barefoot holy mile penitential walk of witness from the Slipper Chapel.  
Young people from St Nicholas Church in Fleckney took part in the pilgrimage and posted on Facebook: “The sun is shining and it’s so good for the Youth Pilgrimage to be back home in Walsingham after the years away due to the pandemic. The young people are having a great time and are being built-up in faith. Thanks be to God and to Our Lady of Walsingham for her prayers.”
Sam, a fellow pilgrim replied, sharing his delight and own memories: “It's wonderful to see the next generation of young people coming to Walsingham. It is a place that you will never forget no matter how long you have been away from it. It has that ability of making you want to visit it every year.
“I remember my first youth pilgrimage in 1997 it was a lot smaller then as we all used to fit inside the village church and the Shrine, but it’s grown a lot since then. I just put it down to the power of God working with the youngsters and making it happen every year.”

For those who have never been to, or even heard of Greenbelt, it is – in its own words – ‘somewhere artistry meets activism, where the political meets the practical…somewhere to come together once a year, where we’re as likely to dream up a better world as we are to dance and debate, to pray and to party… And we’re still somewhere that welcomes anyone and everyone.’
This year, the inclusive festival at Boughton House, near Kettering, featured speakers such as Malcolm Guite, Rowan Williams and Rachel Mann, performers including Shappi Khorsandi and Guvna B, plus dancing until dawn at the Glitter ball and the giant world art installation, Gaia. The festival turns 50 next year.
Fiona goes to Greenbelt every year and shared her thoughts on Facebook with us. “It is quite simply home, or perhaps a taste of heaven,” she said. “Inclusive yet personally challenging, community yet with space for contemplation; and something to feed off for the next year.”
Amanda feels much the same, and in her thought-provoking response she said: “It’s wonderful to take communion with so many people, I remember particularly the quiet and calm as we shared communion together. 
“Some excellent talks on rights and justice alongside ways in which we can campaign for more equal lives for all. 
“I always come home feeling refreshed in spirit but in need of luxuries such as a shower, flushing loos you don't have to queue for, and a comfy bed. Luxuries many don't have access to.”
Bev, who went along with a group from Leicester Cathedral, said it was excellent as ever. “…Some deep thinking after the talks and panel discussions. Lots of laughs at the comedy sessions. As always sharing the festival Eucharist with the cathedral community members together was great, so moving.
“From sharing breakfast together in PJs with hair that looked like I had gone back to the 1980s, to enjoying a cheeky pint at the Blue Nun or Jesus Arms, we enjoyed the festival. Younger members of the Cathedral group enjoyed making friends and having space to be themselves in safety, knowing where the food was.”
Youth worker, Lou, has been to Greenbelt for the last three years and said: “Another uplifting, God connecting, community building, justice reminding Greenbelt. I didn’t take many pictures, probably a sign of just enjoying it all and being present. Feeling thankful and filled ready for a busy but exciting term ahead.”
Rachael ran two art tents at the festival and shared her experiences on social media. She said: “Spent a very busy weekend @Greenbelt with wonderful makers and creators in our 16+ arts venues.
“Just look at the beautiful things which come with giving adults permission to play! (see image) This year we became a mini haven on the campsite with many using us a space to pause and find peace.
“Also, witnessing the morning pilgrimage of the beautiful brown robes Franciscan with his progressive pride flag over his shoulder from the doorway of the art studio may be peak Greenbelt.”

We really are blessed in the Church of England with a rich mixture of wonderful, annual Christian festivals differing in styles and traditions – and these are just a few.

If you feel like you’ve been missing out, find yourself a festival for next year. And if you are interested in joining the St Nicholas Church group at the Youth Pilgrimage in 2023 then contact Fr. Philip O’Reilly

First published on: 8th September 2022
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