by Christine Alker
from Signs of the Times No. 39 - Oct 2010

For thousands of people, the August Bank Holiday is marked out in the annual calendar as Greenbelt weekend: families, young people's groups and seasoned Greenbelters of all ages descend on Cheltenham racecourse to set up tents, caravans and stalls.

For Modern Church our presence at the festival was a first and we approached it with some trepidation. Paul Badham shared his views on assisted dying with a panel in front of a tent full of interested listeners. The rest of us staffed the Modern Church stall over a total of 35 hours; from 5pm on Friday until 6pm on Monday we took turns to answer questions, discuss issues, share experiences and hand out literature to those passing through the exhibition tent.

We had two particular attractions. Firstly we were giving away paper (re-cycled, of course) carrier bags, over-printed with our name and website address. Secondly, visitors were offered a chance to find out how liberal they were by answering a fun quiz sheet. We gave away nearly 400 bags with publicity about Modern Church and scored about 200 quiz sheets but more importantly we had many very interesting conversations and positive comments. Finally we put on a 25 minute "Roadshow" with interviews and music. Tim Stead and Julian Pugsley sang songs which have been re-printed below. They were brilliant.

Greenbelt is an amazing festival (see:  )  and I was grateful to be able to spend some time soaking up the atmosphere and attending two talks. I particularly enjoyed sessions with John Bell and Clare Short. Other attractions were Richard Rohr, Stanley Hauerwas and Tom Hollander from "Rev".

All of us on the Modern Church team felt it was very worthwhile and we are already looking at ways to improve our presentation next year. Come and join us!

Pictures in the Sand

by Tim Stead

The frightening bustle of those youthful days

The helpless hustle to find truthful ways

Never realised we were chasing wind

We'd just be told that we had sinned!  

Angry dogma we had seen the light

There was no doubt we were in the right

Stop the search - we had found the truth

The dogged certainty of youth  


But now: All those things that I've been looking for

All those things that I've been trying to understand

All those things that I've been clinging to

Are fading away, like pictures in the sand 


We were gods, we were mystery

The past for us was just history

The time was now and the place was here

We didn't know what to fear  

Now the questions are our destiny

The search itself is what sets us free

There's nothing certain and there's nothing sure

There are no limits anymore


Chorus, plus:

Like the fame of a rock and roll band

Like the phone no. on the back of your hand

Like your claims on this land

Like just about everything that you planned.

I Believe in Jesus (Not You)

by Julian Pugsley

She said, 'Come back to mine

We'll have a good time

You can meet all my friends

They'll help you make amends

Cos you're getting it wrong

You need someone who's strong

And we can show you the way

Just give your life to Christ today.'

But I said, 'I'm already a Christian

So take a good look inside

So caught up in your mission

Can't see your spiritual pride.

You're sitting in judgement

You condemn in His name

Selecting quotes from The Bible

You make me ashamed.

You say I'm not saved

For my soul you will pray

I must be born again

If I'm to make him my friend

But I'm baptised in the church

I'm confirmed in my work

I love God just like you

Just like the Muslims and the Jews.'

And I said: 'I'm already a Christian

But only God knows the Truth

And he will rescue his people

In ways we don't choose.

You preach to Catholic countries

Don't you know they're Christians, too?

Teaching hell and damnation

If they don't sign up with you.

(Oh no) I believe in Jesus (not you)

I believe in Jesus (not you)

I believe in Jesus (not you)

I believe in Jesus Christ (not you)"

Christine Alker is Modern Church administrator.