I drove out to Cheltenham Friday morning after hiring a car at Heathrow. Next year, I'll plan on going out Thursday and stay overnight as I ended up staying in a hotel in London and I'd much rather be in Cheltenham for the pre-festival goings-on. The drive out to Cheltenham from London via Oxford on the M40/A40 was lovely as usual with only a few traffic queues. Even things like stopping at a services area for a late breakfast and snacks was a small, delicious treasure to enjoy.
I had lunch at James' with Trev and had a relaxing and refreshing start to the weekend. It was good to catch up and James is the host-with-the-most. The food was great and the day was sunny and perfect for enjoying in the conservatory that serves as James' dining room.
I was texting back and forth with friends who had saved me a spot for a tent. I met Caroline and Geoff at the box-office and put the tent, sleeping bag and air mattress they brough into the car. GB claimed they'd mailed me my wristband and materials. I didn't recall getting it so they re-issued. Later, I sheepishly discovered going through the pile of mail I'd stuck into my backpack before leaving home, I found the GB envelope.
I drove onto the site with the car (a massive, black Skoda Octavia TDI) to drop off my kit at the campsight. Anna was there and directed me in. She and Paul helped me set up the tent for which I was grateful as it was a bit blowy. She and Paul had just gotten engaged which was fabulous news (they got together precisely one year ago at Greenbelt in the beer tent on the last night!). I observed over the weekend that people I've come to know through Ship of Fools and Gay Christian Network have been getting on with their lives (as I have), meeting partners, getting married, having children, starting new careers, and so forth. It's a blessing to be involved, even if peripherally, in so many wonderful peoples' lives.
There was a SoF social gathering in the beer tent at 18.30 and I ended up meeting some folks from GCN there too. There were about 10-12 people from GCN at the festival that I ran into throughout the weekend.
Speakers I heard:
Rob Bell (his new talk "two kinds of new" plus an interview that was quite pointed in parts)
Bishop Gene Robinson (twice: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/gloucestershireheadlines/Controversial-bishop-divides-opinion-Greenbelt/article-1296086-detail/article.html)
Michael Ward (on his theory of the code behind C.S.Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia: http://www.planetnarnia.com/reviews/the-narnia-code)
Susannah Cornwall (on being intersexed: http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/festival/2009/lineup/event/2663)
Miri Weingarten (on the state of primary health care in Palestine: http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/?a=1427 )
Maggi Dawn (excellent as usual; thoughts about feasting and fasting: http://maggidawn.typepad.com/)
Nadia Bolz-Weber (a.k.a. "Sarcastic Lutheran" http://www.sarcasticlutheran.typepad.com/)
Dave Tomlinson (Standing in the Long now; vicar of the church I attended when I lived in London: http://saintlukeschurch.org.uk/)
Worship I attended:
IKON: Pyro-theology: http://wiki.ikon.org.uk/ (extremely well done and thought provoking as usual)
OuterSpace: http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/festival/2009/lineup/event/2600 (gentle, encouraging, safe and excellent music)
OuterSpace Eucharist (held at noon Monday -- much preferred over the mass worship experience on Sunday)
Performers I saw:
Foy Vance (Best performer I saw)
Most significant event of the weekend: I was chatting with two random vicars whom I happened to be standing by in the queue to get into Rob Bell's talk. Somehow it came up that I was gay. Conversation about my particular journey followed. As the queue started to move, one of the vicars asked me for my contact details and we parted with a hug. Monday at the OuterSpace Eucharist, he turned up and came out to me.
Best event of the weekend: Beer and Hymns on Sunday afternoon. Thanks to Paul, Anna and Clare for arranging the beer and getting me in because the bouncers were being a bit facist this year. I know I'm daft but I absolutely love singing "Jersalem" with 600-700 other punters whilst brandishing our pints high! I was next to a group of uni students and we cooperated on singing complex harmonies (many to hymns which aren't familar to American ears -- at least, the tunes aren't!)