The Common Good: A Reflection on Greenbelt
Paul Parker reflects on his time at Greenbelt with SCM.
Recently a friend asked me what my favourite bit of this year's Greenbelt festival was, and I was truly spoilt for choices. Highlights most definitely included: listening to wonderful live music from world famous artists like Newton Faulkner and Kate Rusby (my particular favourite) on the main stage; discovering new up-coming groups (Wildwood Kin and Unsung Roots - you're seeing my folkie bias here) at the Canopy Stage which has a delightful ambience; or else hearing Jack Monroe speak, or the evenings spent catching up with dear friends.
But in and amongst all of these wonderful things was another highlight. Each day I spent two hours on the SCM stand. It was so exciting to meet lots of people and tell them about a movement that has been so influential in my faith. I met people who had been in "the SCM" decades ago and delighted in hearing how they'd met their husband or wife there, and how SCM conferences have defined their faith ever since. I hope that if I reach their age my faith and action and politics will still be so well aligned, and if they are then I will be able to say it is because of SCM too. I met Diocesan, District and Synod staff looking to resource the churches they support. They loved SCM's Welcoming Students resource. I met youth leaders, student workers, members of congregation and church leaders who were thrilled to sign up as SCM Link Churches. SCM Connect is such a valuable and easy tool for churches to make themselves known and for students to find communities they might want to plug into. SCM has always known this, but every year I'm reminded when a steady train of parents, grandparents, aunts, youth workers and the like come to ask us what is going on in the university town that someone they know is about to move to.
Without a shadow of a doubt though, my favourite conversations on the stall were with students and those about to start uni in a few weeks' time. It was a real privilege to hear their excitement, ask about their concerns and fears, and offer them a goodie-bag full of information about SCM, the really useful Going to Uni Guide, and fun things like coasters and tea bags, as well as the all important info on SCM Connect so that they can find the communities they are looking for at uni. Over 40 people, many of them students we'd already spoken with, went to our Student Meet-Up in the Jesus' Arms (Greenbelt's beer tent), where they met other SCMers, and got to share with people in a similar situation to them.
SCM has so much to offer students and churches, and it really was a delight to tell people about this, and to put our core values into action, over an inspiring and energizing bank holiday weekend.