Lou commented as we read these “the thing is, if you try ans answer back, it’ll just look petty”. She’s right, but I think the three mentions of Blessed’s work over the Greenbelt Festival are a little unfair, a little churchmanship-biased and significantly undermining. The very positive feelings about the Festival that I did harbour have now evaporated. I apologise if it seems a little picky to pull part these comments, but that’s what you do when your work is critiqued. The very wise Lou reminded me that I was equally cheesed off last year that Blessed wasn’t mentioned at all, so this is clearly a case of being careful of what you wish for.
However, this is my reply to their comments in red:
IT WAS a typical Anglican high mass: candles, incense, a cotta or two. . . But the nose can’t be fooled. Mixed with the incense was the smell of sausages; and was that rosemary? <– I think they mean the sausage stall outside the big top. Was that our fault? Did the Rend Collective get the same comment? Did Frank Skinner?
Of course, the Big Top might have given things away. And the rock band.
Yes, it was the start of the Greenbelt Festival, and 400 or so (750 the venue manager told me) had chosen to begin with the Charismatic mass, with Benediction, produced by Blessed, a West Country worship community (i.e. church). <– Blessed is not a church, but a Fresh Expression and a non-parochial community. A bit sniffy and a little putdown, I think.
Nursery Rhyme Mass:
Apparently, Blessed’s “Nursery Rhyme Mass”, earlier in the weekend, was populated by earnest clerics. <– When you begin the comment with “Apparently” does it not suggest that you didn’t go? The place was packed with kids, mums and dads, and had people come inside for communion because they couldn’t fit in the venue itself. Only some of the parents were clerics (I know because I know some of them), and all of them were parents, the whole thing was certainly not earnest, but light-hearted and fun. I even messed up a tune, and so we said it, amid laughter.
Beer and Benediction:
“Beer and Benediction”, in the annexe of the beer tent, “The Upper Room”, was disappointing. Liturgical ministers appeared initially like irresponsible children let loose in the vestry, recordings didn’t play properly, and loud music from the pub next door intruded, prompting giggles. <– Technology failings clearly Blessed’s fault, obviously. We planned that. The floods on the racecourse bridge meant we were late to the venue and there was no altar/table like we’d asked for. We had to improvise and fast. Sorry.
The service was heavy on content, but turned out to be much less than the sum of its parts. The ministers stood in a circle at the front moving swiftly from unfamiliar prayer to little-known response, dividing the congregation into those in the know who were clearly revelling in the experience, and those who had no way of working out what was going on. <– Sorry. Awe and mystery comes first. I never explain worship because it kills it. Stone dead. If you didn’t understand it, then don’t criticise it, but float in it. That’s what Transcendent worship is supposed to achieve. It wasn’t a great venue for us, but we were stuck with it. You go where you are told.
So there we are. This follows a review a couple of months back that they published of my first book which made the unsubstantiated accusation that it contained “theological errors”. I challenged the author and he was unable to recall or cite what those errors might be, and it is a challenge that I utterly refute.
We don’t court too much publicity, but read these and you get the sense that what we did was a bit of a failure. It certainly hasn’t felt like that up until now. Tomorrow’s chip papers? Not in the age of the Internet: it is now a matter of public record. However, my commitment to honesty and self-evaluation overrides my pride, and I cite these bad reviews on the understanding that what we do which strives to be different, to challenges, to upset, sometimes lets down and disappoints. Failure is okay. Just let us come back next year and have another go.