It was good to be at Greenbelt, even if only for 24 hours, after thinking for a long time that (for cash-strapped reasons) this would have to be one of the two festivals I'd have to miss in 35 years. The 2011 festival theme, 'Dreams of home' if slightly introspective, nevertheless comes close to describing the urge to go to Greenbelt, which is inbuilt in me, and for which the reward is many conversations with people I've got to know well over that half-lifetime, worked with, wept with, worshipped with, people I may only see at Cheltenham Racecourse for five minutes now but who are sort-of like family and will always be special influences on me, wherever I roam.
Among these Martin Wroe, whose talk was the only one we got to in our time at GB2011, but even if we'd soaked in a whole weekend's worth of seminars I suspect that this would still have been a highlight. A brief talk in which Martin introduced The Gospel According to Everyone, a book about the otherwise overlooked people of the parish of St Luke's Holloway, based on the idea that "The Church is the Fifth Gospel", that the stories of the people sitting next to us ('the woman who gave up her child for adoption, the gardener who notices God in the roses, the gay man shunned by his children, the atheist who found he'd become a believer') tell us as much about us and God as those we know from first-century Palestine.
I was happy to take part in this lovely little workshop, the sort which opens up small streams of light into darkened corners of the mind, and sets off ideas for how-to-do-this-at-home (which is part of Greenbelt's great value for me). I read the story of a man who found the divine in looking after the church garden, by staring at the roses. The book's on order from Lulu now for me; it looks good thanks to Meg Wroe's picture portraits of the people whose pen-portraits Martin has shaped so well. And it tells me that Martin, who has for so long been Greenbelt's great discoverer of new and raw spiritual inspiration (the Mike Yaconellis, the John O'Donohues, championed by Martin and brought by him to a greater stage), is now doing just the same at home: valuing people, listening hard to the stories they are telling, recognising the great worth and wisdom in them, however stumbling their words or modest their bearing. The priestly role, seeking and saving the lost... the lost stories... deftly dealt with by the touch of a compassionate journalist and his gifted artist wife.