Tony Cummings, Chris Cole, with photographers Ian Bosworth and Peter Nolan give their impressions of Greenbelt and Cross Rhythms.
Chris Cole braved the elements at Greenbelt
I am squelching like some sucker-footed alien through the mud when the grey skies open again. Yet as the rain seeps insidiously through my coat, and I with hundreds of others begin a careering, start-stick lurch for the shelter of the nearest hopelessly-overcrowded tent, I can't help but laugh. In the corner punters are browsing through Duel Edge's imports or packing around the band of bedraggled musicians which, as their wistful acoustics ring out over the now sardine-crammed throng, I recognise as Over The Rhine. This wizened thirty something attends, I think, my ninth Greenbelt fest. I'm enjoying the music, the banter, the ministry and old friends, oblivious to the mud, media-backbiting, toilets and more mud, being drawn into the warm, generous heart that is Greenbelt.
Maybe it has been the Communion Service that I went to prior to squelching to this tent that is the catalyst of my unreasonable good humour as now, rain momentarily abated, I stand outside The Bunker to ponder the choices in my programme: Gustavo Panajon at the Odyssey, Eric Delve in the Exodus, Marc Catley on the Fringe or Brian McGlyn at the Lab? Praise God for Greenbelt! Maybe I feel blessed because of God's touch I'd received at the Friday seminar when a Godly Henri Nouwen so gently ministered Jesus to us. Maybe it's just that for all its errors of judgment, self conscious trendiness and vulnerability to British weather, Greenbelt is still, for me, THE event which has encouraged, no even forced, the Church to emerge from its retreatist insularity to address culture. Each year Greenbelt is an exhilarating shock of creative energy to the nervous system of the Church. It has made its share of bad decisions, of course. Yet, Greenbelt has also made many good ones. Greenbelt is a beacon on a hill showing an astonished world, and an often-uncomprehending church, that human creativity is profoundly a glorious and Godly thing.
I do not profess to understand or agree with all that transpires at Greenbelt. In fact, I doubt if even Greenbelt understands all that goes on there. But I believe it is an unchallengeable fact of history that no other organisation in the UK has done more to break up the heresy of dualism - the sacred/secular divide than Greenbelt. "Being in the world but not of the world" is the Scripture Greenbelt are endeavouring to work out and could emblazon on their main entrance. As I squelch off to grab a burger trying to decide whether I'll catch Des'ree on main stage that evening (I won't get the chance - the wind and the rain are to close down main stage Sunday night) I ponder on the future for Greenbelt. The new permanent site is an exciting development. But there'll be a long haul ahead for them. Will they get the numbers right to make an immensely costly exercise break even in this recession-racked age? Will the 'evangelical backlash' against the liberal elements within Greenbelt yet bring it to its knees? These are questions I can't answer. What I do know is that I'm glad, very glad, Greenbelt isn't safe, and cosy, and an unreal, unchallenging retreat which does nothing to shake the church from its cultural lethargy and fear of thinking.
Cross Rhythms is committed to lifestyle evangelism and liberation through God's Holy Spirit. And like everyone else, we must guard against error and imbalance. But I know also that our fear of heresy is tied up with our fear of living. And that fear is there because we are insecure with God. Such insecurity cannot be remedied by creating and supporting an insular Christian subculture only interested in speaking Language Of Zion platitudes to the converted. That is as deceitful a path as worldly liberalism, the old religions of the New Age and all the other siren voices calling us to deviate from the way of Christ. I for one am profoundly grateful to Greenbelt. It needs to be affirmed for all that is has achieved in the past Without such a festival, contemporary Christian music in Britain could well have died and I doubt whether Cross Rhythms would exist. Obviously, with reaction to NOS, there is much to discuss and debate. But let us keep the situation in perspective and balance by seeking the mind of God.
A day later I watch Martyn Joseph singing from main stage. There's an expectancy in the air as he sings with his tight, new band. Martyn has a new single out, another small candle to shine a glimmer of truth in an age of lies. Martyn Joseph owes a lot to Greenbelt and one of its supporters, evangelist John Smith. It was John who ministered reality to the singer after years of stifling, sub cultural unreality had left him hurt and confused. I know Martyn's very grateful for Greenbelt being there. So am I.
Tony Cummings shares his experience
It is Saturday night and walking alone across the dark fields of the Devon County Showground the gnawing worry fells from me. At last I enter completely into enjoying the 1992 Cross Rhythms Festival. It's an obvious truism that people involved in the organisation of an event have scant opportunity to get involved and enjoy it. Up until this walk I had felt pretty hassled. It was not that my concerns derived from PAs that don't turn up or complaints about the noise (poor Chris has to deal with those things). My turmoil was caused by dashed expectations. I'd hoped for 5,000 attending Cross Rhythms. Chris had expected three. But then the rain came, fitful showers of insidious drizzle. All those day visitors and family groups we'd so hoped to see basking in the Devon sunshine became one more fantasy. Those punters who did turn up to enjoy our weekend of music and ministry looked a pretty thin crowd spread across the vast expanses of a Showground used to staging mass-attendance events.
I was amazed when the receipts were counted to show the Cross Rhythms Fest attracted a little less than 2,000. Amazed but not encouraged. 2,000 was up on last year's attendance but on this massive site looked paltry. Even more depressing was the fact Chris' pocket calculator seemed to be telling us - such an attendance figure was going to mean a financial loss of, maybe, £5,000. The editorial in Cross Rhythms 11, printed just in time for the fest had already spelt out how the magazine was hanging on to existence by its financial fingernails. We needed a financially successful festival to help pay off some print bills and, dream of dreams, give us a little cash for new investment. But all that was now lost in the drizzle. £5,000! I knew that that new loss could, in theory, finally close down Crass Rhythms magazine and festival. But I had no time for moping or praying my standard "why is it all such a struggle, Lord?" prayer. I was too busy, meeting people, renewing old acquaintances and catching some music.
The music was unquestionably good. Highlights I enjoyed on Friday afternoon were the gifted soul-tinged pop gospeller Paul Kinvig and his breathtakingly tight band; and Helen Jayne. an immensely talented new singer/songwriter (surely an artist crying out for a CD release). But my enjoyment was tinged with regret that the tent they played in was so sparsely populated to hear such exceptional music. By the evening my spirits were rising - John Perry and the Geoff Mann Sand delivered punchy, full blooded sets from Mainstage while by the time I'd got to the rave praise tent where Last Daze were getting down I too praised the Lord with my feet against the thudding strains of Carman and Scott Blackwell. Everywhere, I was seeing people enjoying themselves. By now I knew if Indeed this was to be the final throw of the Cross Rhythms dice, at least it was one the Lord was blessing. I was hearing from Chris that wonderful things were happening in the ministry tent - dozens of young people becoming Christians, people being delivered from all kinds of bondage. Final reports where that art astonishingly 500 young people were profoundly touched by the Holy Spilt Spiritually, the festival was a huge success.
On the Saturday t had work to do. Drafted in as a last minute judge/MC for the New Rhythms "search for a new ministry', I thoroughly enjoyed the gruelling morning checking out the bands in the new Rhythms tent. I was elated by the high standards of the grassroots bands. 40 Days, Under The Son, East West - all had much which was good in their performances while the winners, Lifeline, were a fine, cooking little trio from London with a strong spiritual message.
By the afternoon I was sufficiently free of gloomy imaginings of imminent financial disaster to dodge the rain showers and go to Main-stage to catch bits of Brussel Spaceship (one of the big hits of the fest turning in a quite brilliant indie rock set), Free Zone and Medals. Eden Burning did their usual rocking, rootsy thing then the Springwood Musicians, played with superlative technique and worshipful sensitivity. While they ministered clumps of punters braving the drizzle stood, then danced, then worshipped. Afterwards the crowds surged to the Vinesong', being held in the Big Top and featuring the Celtic Praise celebration with the Electrics. Jonathan Day And The Eye Of The Storm and Eden Burning. The stomping roots-music blasts from the tent as' walk, rather reluctantly to a tent in the distant corner of the site. I'd rather be enjoying the Celtic Praise than compering a chat show, particularly when I find there's hardly a soul there to listen to the interview and music. But Caroline Bonnett, as she had earlier in the Big Top, sings like an angel. Afterwards I enjoy a few encouraging words from my new friends from Lifeline before walking back across the showground. Tired but blessed I enjoy the walk. I can hear the noise of full-throated worship coming from the ministry tent though it is way past midnight. Suddenly, I want to worship too. It all feels so right to be here. My family are enjoying Cross Rhythms. So are nearly 2,000 paying customers. Dozens, no hundreds, of people are receiving a powerful touch from God. As I turn back to find my caravan a conviction grows within me, rain or no rain, big or small crowds, God has not yet finished with Cross Rhythms festival... and Cross Rhythms magazine.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.
Chris and Kerry speak at a number of national conferences on Christian lifestyle, marriage and culture.