In the bin and among the stars
Festivalgoers at Greenbelt shared their frustrations with and hopes for the Church. Stephen Tomkins reports
When the United Reformed Church decided to arrange a programme of events at Greenbelt arts festival on the theme of ‘Scrap the Church?’ we hoped that we had hit on an idea that would seize people’s imaginations. This was the first instalment of the URC’s two-year association with Greenbelt. It succeeded better than we could have hoped. The constant crowd around the URC stall, the discussions happening around the ‘scrap church’ art installation, the packed-out debates and inspiring pop-up liturgy – these were all testimony to how stimulating people found it to step back from Church and ask themselves: What should go? What should grow?
We had a church-shaped bin at the stall, and asked people to write down what they wanted to scrap about the Church, and then bin it. Then they could write their hopes for the Church on a shiny star and pin it up. Greenbelters of all ages took part and made 500 comments altogether. They’re now piled up on my desk making fascinating reading.
Many of the frustrations with Church that they reveal are individual. One person wants to get rid of seeded bread. One hates awkward pauses. One complains about the silly hats in their Church. One piece of paper just had a name on it.
Some of the criticisms seem incompatible: one dislikes the noise, another the quiet. A lot complain about sermons, while one (job not disclosed) complains about congregations not listening to sermons …
Stephen Tomkins is editor of Reform. The United Reformed Church’s association with Greenbelt continues in 2017
This is an extract from the October 2016 edition of Reform.