Wild at Heart
For the last 18 or 19 years, on the August Bank Holiday weekend, we have been making our annual pilgrimage to the Greenbelt Festival – and we tend to talk about it for the rest of the year! This year, Greenbelt – like all other public gatherings – got cancelled in the Spring. Not to be defeated, the Greenbelt Team decided to try and create a festival which could be accessed at home. ‘Wild at Home’ they called it instead of ‘Wild at Heart’ which was to be the theme of the 2020 Festival.
The theme of ‘wildness’ fascinates me and I’m not sure why! My parents would not have encouraged any sort of ‘wildness’ in my brother and me. They would have associated ‘wildness’ with indiscipline, with rough and uncivilised and uncontrollable behaviour. ‘Self-control’ was high on my father’s list of Christian virtues as it was on his own parents’ list! As a grandmother myself, I have become reacquainted with the whole business of channelling the precious wildness of children. Today’s successful parents are still rightly, in my opinion, working on the same anti-wilding project – often with a great deal of serious thought about the 'taming' process. And I am grateful to see that within my own family.
With approaching old age, however, I become more enamoured of ‘wildness’. Firstly because so much of western life can be ‘tame’ – safe and packaged and predictable. Yes – we can be thankful for that even in this ‘unsafe’ time of pandemic. But there’s more to it than that which has become even clearer during the pandemic. In our human attempts to be safe, it is so easy to focus on being in control. And a life focused on control can be the very antithesis of being fully human. And it is certainly the antithesis of the true life of faith.
Contrary to so many assumptions both inside and outside faith communities, statements of faith must be about trust rather than certainty, about reliance on the goodness of God or the Supreme Other rather than trusting in our own power and goodness. And in the most practical sense, faith is about the wildness of trusting Someone Other - Someone over whom we can have absolutely no control.
It is this wild, deep, wide, God - the God big enough to include all of us – winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, who, as the hymn writer Stuart Townend has it, ‘welcomes ... with the wonders of love and the power of grace’ that the Greenbelt Festival celebrates.
And this year, everyone, wherever they are, can have an online taste of Greenbelt throughout September. A £7 ticket* will buy access to a variety of the weekend’s programming in the Canopy and Talks in the Pagoda. All I have listened to so far is the conversation in the Pagoda between the theologian Brian McLaren, a couple of politicians, a social commentator and an economist. It was called 20:20 VISION: What might a Post-Pandemic World look like? For anyone interested in a taste of Greenbelt, I recommend it as a good place to start! Greenbelt has for me always been a bit of a 'rewilding' process. Holding on to the good things in my upbringing, discarding the unnecessarily restrictive, and searching for new understandings which will enlarge my capacity to live well in my fragile world - it's an annual gift! * You can buy a £7 ticket here