Whilst I was on my Activist Pilgrimage, I visited Adrian Prior Sanky in Taunton, and was sat in his back garden, we were chatting in the glorious summer sun, hearing about the amazing work he is doing with the various chaplaincies in the local area, and was visiting the Street Pastors project later that evening.
Yet there was one project that I was particularly interested in, and that was his work at the Glastonbury festival (having seen a picture of him with a pink wig and an inflatable guitar) and asked a bit more about the work they did supporting people at the festival.
I had also heard from the Street Angels about Festival Angels and realised this is a much needed area of ministry, as festivals often have been in need of the help that “Street Pastors and Angels” often give, helping people who have had to much to drink (or perhaps taken something they shouldn’t have), got lost or separated from friends and are vulnerable.
I have wanted to go and serve at the festival for a while (and would love to chill out and listen to loads of amazing music). Some of my wife’s family -who wouldn’t call themselves Christians- go every year and amid the music and fun there looks like there are many people engaging in big ideas such as ecology, sustainability, social justice and social action, my late father in law used to paint psychedelic and provocative banners challenging us all to re-think how we do life together on the planet reminding us that “when the last tree is felled, and the last lake polluted humans will realise they cannot eat money”. I have longed for Church to be at the forefront of the discussion about “how we make the world a better place?” -but too often when we as the Church ought to be leading the way, we are lagging way behind.
Yet, rather than just serve with practical support of Street Pastors, or the tea and toast of the Church tent, Adrian was telling me of an exciting work that was birthed at the festival a number of years before.
There was a field that was filled with various practitioners of all sorts of spiritual disciplines and rituals, many of the people who come to the festival are deeply spiritual people, and yet there was no Christian presence here. So, a couple of trainee vicars approached the festival organisers asking for the Christians to be included as well. They ended up having a beautifully crafted Christian tent, offering to pray for people, to seek healing and give prophetic words of encouragement and wisdom. Offered for free.
I was reminded of a story in the Acts of the Apostles where there were many people searching and seeking and a sorcerer called Simon saw the power of the Holy Spirit, realising this was a power that far exceeded his own, and wanted to buy this power (but the disciples refused).
It strikes me as strange how often we as Christians seem to miss these amazing opportunities to bless people and have the privilege of seeing people encounter God; in fact, many Christians would not even attend Glastonbury much less engage with spiritual seekers in this way, missing the amazing opportunities to see the Kingdom of God advance.
I remember from my science lessons at school learning about alkali burns, acid burns because it has a positive reading on the PH scale -it burns because of what is in it- whereas Alkali has a negative reading on the PH scale and burns because of its absence, what is not there. Which struck me as a picture of the Church, by being absent we are removing the light from darkness and the salt from the situation. I believe that for too long many of our communities and much of our nation is suffering from the alkali burn from the absence of the people of God stepping out in faith and blessing their communities.