Adventures in Generosity

The occasionally coherent ramblings of a Stewardship Advisor in the Church of England

Archive for Greenbelt

A risky business

Sacrifice – it’s an interesting word and one that I come back to a lot in my line of work.  We talk about ‘Sacrificial’ giving all the time, but this weekend at Greenbelt I’ve had cause to reflect on what it actually means, both to me personally, in my work and to the parishes I support.

It’s a big word.  It’s a scary word and the tendency is to downplay it – Sacrifice, we tell ourselves, means how much a thing inconveniences us.  My giving is sacrificial because it means I go without some of the material pleasures  of life.  My volunteering is sacrificial because it is time that I could have given to my friends, my family or to catching up with Dr Who on iplayer.

But what I have heard time and time again this weekend isn’t about inconvenience, it isn’t about how many hours I spend in terminally dull PCC meetings, it isn’t about getting up at stupid o clock to be at a church on the other side of the Diocese for their 9.30 Mass, it isn’t about the percentage of my income I give away.

True sacrifice costs more, and less, than that.  True sacrifice exposes us, it opens up our very being and offers it to others – it costs us, at the very core of our soul.  Living sacrificially isn’t about time, or talents, or treasure.  Sacrificial living calls us to expose ourselves, to show the Self that God sees to the world and to offer it, to invite others to share in it.

This is true generosity, the generosity of the spirit, the generosity that risks all of ourselves and offers it, not just to God, but to each other.  When we are truly ourselves, when we place that true self in Gods hands, we are freed from the day to day inconveniences and, though it is risky, it might hurt, it might terrify and it WILL cost – we are freed to fully experience the person God has given us to be in sharing it with others.

Greenbelt for me this weekend was a very ‘raw’ place – where masks were dropped, where risks were taken and where, through the sacrificial generosity of one another, we took small steps closer to the God who dwells in the core of each of us.

 

 

Greenbelt – there’s no place like Home

There is so very much to say about my Greenbelt 11 experience this weekend that I find myself almost lost for words (a miracle in itself, I know).  Much of the experience has been so very intensly personal and game changing that I’m not quite ready to put it out there yet.  But I just wanted to get some initial thoughts down before my head explodes completely.

From the moment I arrived (late) to the Blessed eucharist, just in time for communion, and heard the strains of my favourite ‘you’ve got the love’ I knew that I was Home.  Others have already mentioned how amazing that opener was but just to add to the general clamour – can we do that again next year please please please with a cherry on top?

And the theme of Home this year could not have been more perfect – as someone just pointed out on Twitter – I feel the need for a pair of ruby slippers because 12 months just seems like a tragically long time to be separated from that slightly soggy field in Cheltenham and from the crazy family of oddball relatives who ‘live’ there.

Every talk, random or planned, has resonated this weekend, I’ve not heard a bad piece of music, the random conversations with strangers (and the even randomer ones with friends) have been a joy, I’ve reconnected with my family, I’ve reconnected with myself and, most significantly I’ve reconnected with God through the amazing, diverse, bizarre, wonderful, random and; lets be honest; by Monday; slightly smelly, collection of 23,000 people with whom I shared the experience.

You’re all bloody lovely – now get in the bath because your making the place look untidy.

See you next year.

Season of mists …

Yes it’s a cliche but this mornings ‘low cloud’ (thats Pennine slang for endless drizzle) made me realise that the summer is officially over.
In fact, for me it ended somewhere on the M6 last Tuesday as the Beacroft-Mitchells snored themselves home from Greenbelt. Much more than Master B-M’s first day at school, the end of the festival felt very much like the end of the festive season. That 1st January, “oh dear, glad it’s all over but wish it never had to end”  feeling of satisifed exhaustion.  Perhaps my 4 year old summed it up best; as he waved bye bye to Cheltenham he asked me “Mummy, why can’t we just live at Greenbelt ?”.

 The great thing about Greenbelt though is that whilst January 1st can be tinged with a sense of regret for things not done or apprehension at things still to do, the post Greenbelt fug is embued with a sense of renewed spiritual strength. Inspiration from talks heard,challenges from impromptu conversations in queues, warmth from friends made or friendships renewed, a sense that Gods Kingdom might, just, be an obtainable reality rather than a mythical neverland far off in the future.

Greenbelt for me is an embodiment of Christian Stewardship in its widest sense. Stewardship not limited to time talents and treasure, but in its truest form, embodying a generosity of heart and spirit which can challenge while still respecting and can accept or reject ideas without condemning or judging their proponents. 

Critics focus on what a friend at church called ‘dodgy theology round the edges’ and yes, there is some, but there is also the traditional, sometimes in a new context which can open our eyes to aspects we didn’t notice before.  And the fact that old and new, traditional and flaky, left and right, liberal and reactionary can come together in one place, with a smile on it’s face and say ‘welcome, come in, sit down, lets talk’ is surely what being a Christian, a truly generous, hospitable Christian, is all about.