I’ve now been back from Greenbelt for three or four days, and had sufficient time to digest what happened over that weekend and what God was doing. Greenbelt was the first time I’d really been away on my own. Although whilst I was there I was blessed to meet loads of people I knew completely randomly – thanks God for the divine coincidences that I prayed for! – I travelled and went through the whole experience on my own, very deliberately. I have to confess there was a slight fear in doing that for the first time, but more the kind of fear which I knew I had to embrace, rather than one I was really scared of.
I have to say as I went around the site and heard such amazing speakers as Brian McClaren, Rob Bell, Peter Rollins and Phyllis Tickle, and experienced the whole Ikon experience on the Saturday evening – which was without doubt the most edgy, creative and innovative worship/liturgical experience I have had – I saw and experienced a freedom in God I had not felt before. I felt alive in new and fresh ways and saw God moving in dynamic, creative and energetic ways which I’d not seen before. There was real discussion about issues that mattered without any fear, even between people that disagreed, there was a sense that we were all participating in this big discussion, a bigger movement that was going on, and this was merely a marker point in that.
At Greenbelt it felt like the shackles of religion and ‘the church’ were down – and in its place we had real community, real freedom and real honest and frank discussion concerning faith and how it relates to the world we live in, and how God is a reality in the world we live in right now, rather than something separate from it.
To me that is how faith should always be – church is important and what we believe is too, but it needs to be about a God who is part of the whole of creation and active, participating in it, and has set us free through death & resurrection, not an imposed set of rules and structures which hold us down.
That freedom is what I experienced at Greenbelt.
It has certainly got my mind racing with thoughts, ideas & reflections which probably haven’t even taken form yet, but I really felt a shift forward in momentum, and that suddenly what I did, how I participated in my own church and what I do through this site actually matters, that there is this bigger community of people out there desperate to know Jesus better, to discover the way of Jesus in a new way, to put flesh on the words of scripture.
One other very important thing to note, was that I finally felt okay to be me.
For so long I’ve tried to define myself by who else I am like, trying to fit in with their rules. Over this weekend I realised I needed to accept me for who I was and what God was doing with me, and be content with how God has put me together. I’m not any of the speakers who spoke. I’m no one else but James Prescott, and God has particular work for me to do, and that’s actually okay. The scary part is going to be figuring out what that work is, saying no to good things which aren’t part of the plan and yes to the the things that are – and discerning between them.
Do you ever get tired of being polite with God? Do you ever want to down niceties and just say what you think? I’m not talking necessarily about being rude even, just always going through the same old rituals when sometimes you don’t mean them, and instead actually have a conversation with God? I was challenged this weekend to lay down Jesus and church as a idols, comfort blankets which help us sleep at night, and embrace the wrestling match of faith.
This metaphor of relationship with God as a wrestling match really grabbed me more and more over the weekend. I’ve talked here about faith being like walking a tightrope, and I think the wrestling metaphor makes a lot of sense too – in a way I will describe more in a future post.
One thing has really become clear though, I have moved to a different dimension and a new level of honesty in my relationship with God. I feel more free and honest in my walk with Him, and that I am really engaging with a real God in real relationship, and I’m excited about where that journey is going.