“The headline for me was being with people in need.” Lee’s Glastonbury Festival experience

Published: Tuesday June 27, 2023

Thousands of people flocked to watch their favourite music artists at Glastonbury Festival at the weekend. Lee Barnes, Lay Ministry Officer and Warden of Readers, has been involved with the church tent at Glastonbury for the past 30 years and is part of the leadership team that organises and oversees The Church at Glastonbury Festival.

Lee shares his reflections from the weekend:

“This year, our church tent was decorated around the theme of the days of creation. One of our artists painted seven windows to represent this and we tried to create a colourful and welcoming place of sanctuary for the festival community. If we take the profound creativity of the Living God and the profound creativity of the festival, there is no surprise that there is such a resonance for us as a gathered Christian community in what we do serving others (around 200,000 others!) for a week in June.

“Our team had a range of ages and backgrounds and expressions of Christian communities, and it was a joy. It was a glimpse of a community working together in unity where we celebrated difference, and we served as people – whether lay or ordained – alongside each other. It was not perfect, but it was very good.

“This year was a hot weather one! The festival tends to do extremes in this regard – it is either very hot or very wet but rarely somewhere in the middle. As a result, we gave out water to thousands of people and we offered shade from the sun and a place to sleep.

“Our renewal of marriage vows services were incredible occasions and profoundly important for the people involved. Our daily rhythm of prayer and worship created a place of gathering both at the church tent and the Coracle (a Celtic prayer space in the healing fields), including with our sisters and brothers serving as part of the Iona community.

“Our main Sunday worship was an ecumenical communion, which included four children being baptized and a specially commissioned and performed poem by Kabir Kapoor, the new British Sign Language Poet Laurette – it was a beautiful time of worship. And then there was the usual press – a colleague and I had 32 interviews on the Sunday morning which happened to be really good conversations. In fact, conversations were the highlight for me this year. So many engaged and interesting dialogues around faith and God.

“… the small moments were the most special and sacred.”

“So, what were the highlights this year? Of course, there were the big Glastonbury moments – Elton John, The Foo Fighters, the incredible art installation Carhenge, the special gathering to give thanks for the NHS and many more – but it was the small moments that were most special and sacred. Being with people in need or who want to be accepted as they are, or want to, give God a chance. There were so many of these stories this year. It reminded me of the wonderful ways that Readers across the Diocese of Gloucester are storytellers and story-receivers – what a gift they are to the kingdom of God.

“This year, as always, it was about being authentic and meeting people where they are – there is joy but there is also struggle and pain – and in inviting God into our shared humanity and everyday life, the love of Christ can be found and experienced.

“We discovered once again the playfulness, the realness and the hope that is given as a gift from our Creator, a festival-God whose sanctuary and love is for all. My experiences here have shown me that as a Church we need to embrace this often in our mission wherever and whenever we can!”

For more about The Church at Glastonbury, see:

The Church at Glastonbury Festival | Facebook

Sanctuary Marquee (@Church_Glasto) / Twitter

The church @ glastonbury (@thechurchglastonburyfestival) • Instagram photos and videos

 

 

 

 

Leadership

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