Charismatic conservative evangelical Tony Cummings reviews the 39th GREENBELT arts festival

Continued from page 3

Folk On (Jonathon Watkins / Greenbelt Festival)
Folk On (Jonathon Watkins / Greenbelt Festival)

The rain has started yet again and I'm Beyond Tired. But this is a fest going on all around me and I need to make a final effort to forget about wet socks, alarmingly diminishing money and wondering when I will be getting a phone call to say if and when I can get a ride home. I stand at the edge of Mainstage listening to Karine Polwart. It's obvious why she's a BBC Folk Awards winner and her voice soars out to a small, welly-shod throng. But her sometimes sad, sometimes angry music isn't doing much to lift my spirits or bring a blast of energy.

The Rubber Wellie with the luxuriant ginger beard offers me a cup cake. To a hungry man who only minutes before had been ruminating whether to spend his fast disappearing cash on an Atlum Schema limited edition box set or an overpriced foodstall snack, it is a God-send.

The G-Music tent is jam-packed with rubber wellies. Quite literally. Harry Bird & The Rubber Wellies are playing a mini-set and everywhere in the G-Music tent feet attired in the suitable footwear are endeavouring to tap in time, if such a thing is possible on a chocolate-brown glue-like floor. Harry has a smile of such dazzling intensity that it seems to hover in the air, like Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat, even after the Bilbao-born frontman and his two rollicking travelling folkie colleagues have left the stage. Their opening song "Links In The Chain" is a gem and even yet another cloud burst and the sound of Seth Lakeman on Mainstage drowning out some of the Wellies's last two songs can not stop those Bird-smiles spreading through the rhythmically squelching crowd.

In an act of gratuitous kindness John the drummer tells me he'll drive me home to Stoke-on-Trent, even though he's already made one detour after playing at an Elim church conference.

On the way home John the drummer, whom I've never met before tonight, and I find ourselves enjoying Holy Spirit-wrought ministry together. We pray, we hear fragments of each other's faith journeys, we feel God's Spirit presencing himself in the car. It's an unexpected and wonderful end to my excursion to Cheltenham.

WEDNESDAY, 29th August
Today's the day my Greenbelt piece will be published. I stand in the bathroom belatedly cleaning off mud from my leather jacket. As I do the iPod-in-my-head is playing a great track by Liam Blake, a brilliant singer/songwriter I "discovered" at the 2010 Greenbelt. The track goes, "I can't quote the Good Book, I don't know the verses, I just know the hook." Brilliant. Suddenly I stop mud-scraping and rush for something to write on. The Bible, the infallible word of God is what we all need. Not used for legalistic point scoring, not taken as a helpful pointer to Jesus - lover of the poor and oppressed - but ignored when it comes to pinpointing our own sins. When the Scripture, empowered by the Holy Spirit, takes a grip on our lives the charismatics and post evangelicals, the Greenbelters and those who attend Elim chuch conferences, the Catholics and Seventh Day Adventists, the pietists and activists, the socio-political right and the socio-political left can at last be that church of unity demanded by God's word. How will this come about? God knows. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.