On Day 4 I actually got to listen to Peter Rollins, as opposed to talking about him, in the session that he gave on 'Changing something so that everything remains the same.' This was essentially about the importance of revolution remaining outside the 'system,' in this case emerging church remaining outside of existing church. However, the main substance of the talk was an explanation of Bonhoeffer's 'religionless Christianity' and its relevance to our contemporary context.
On revolution versus system, this is the eternal debate over whether more radical change occurs from within or outside the system (whatever that system is). Rollins argues for radical change primarily coming from outside and made some interesting observations about the way in which systems can absorb aspects of revolutionary movements in order to remain essentially unchanged. However, in doing so he was also ignoring examples of the way in which systems, while in some fashion continuing, have been radically changed by revolutions. It seems to be that prophets are needed both inside and outside existing systems and that their roles and approaches will differ as a result. There is a great attraction of purity in what Rollins is advocating but I would worry if his arguments were dismissive of those working actively to change systems from within (if he were arguing that the only way to be faithful is to betray).
On religionless Christianity, Rollins was more apposite emphasising our responsibility for deciding, risking and willing action in every moment. His tendency, though, seemed to be to use the language of philosophy and story rather than that of the Bible. Only at the end of the talk when asked about the Bible and his favourite Bible verse did he begin to talk about his ideas in terms of the Bible's narrative. When he does use this language what he says makes alot of sense and so it seems a shame and self-limiting that, as in The Garden's installation/performance, he seemed to prefer to talk in terms of the defining books of the past being placed in the museum.
In the afternoon I heard a wonderfully energetic Martyn Joseph in concert and caught the end of Niall Williams speaking about his novels. As a result I have begun to read As It Is In Heaven. However, the main revelation of this final afternoon was Jamie Catto and 1 Giant Leap. Catto (ex of Faithless) played an acoustic set full of beguiling and broken songs. As a result, I missed the second Peter Rollins talk of the day and went to the screening of the second 1 Giant Leap film entitled What About Me? As with McLaren and Rollins, the film emphasised the significance of experience, of living in the moment, in the now. What I wonder, however, is whether the sense in which the present is formed by the past and includes plans for the future is being fully taken into account when the importance of experience is stressed.
My Greenbelt finished back in The Hub at the final Artist's Forum alongside Martin Wilson and Jon Mackay to show the Love & Light dvd. Wilson is a conceptual artist who cycles thousands of miles photographing images on 35mm film strips that tease meaning from the urban jumble. Mackay is an Oxfordshire based photographer whose 'So What Do You Think?' photography project from Greenbelt can be viewed by clicking here.
This Greenbelt seems to have been a shuttling between the via negativa in the pervading ideas of Peter Rollins and an actual experience of the affirmative way in the sampling of the variety of art on offer. Both ways ultimately exclude the other; which path to choose is the question posed?
As a coda to these posts, I returned to Nailsworth on Tuesday morning and found, in Nonsuch Books & Music, copies of three books by Greg Tricker. Of these, I purchased Francis of Assisi: Paintings of Our Time and am enjoying both the paintings and the reflections.
1 Giant Leap - Wounded.