Category: Greenbelt

Spiritual Aids

Monday at Greenbelt, Trevor, James, James, Bill and I ate at Nuts Cafe and chatted with a nice Christian couple who joined us at our table. Not sure how the conversation got on the topic, but somehow we began to talk about Adult Bookstores, well, not so much about their contents of porn and sex toys, but about the irony of calling these places “bookstores” for “adults”. It all seems rather adolescent.

Similarly misnamed are items sold under the heading Marital Aids. Although there must be testimonies of married couples who have been aided by the use of whips, chains, porn videos and sex toys, I have a feeling that many (most?) consumers of marital aids are not looking to deepen their relationship with their spouse. (Of course I may be wrong about all this, and I am sure some of you will sort me out 🙂

Over the weekend I witnessed Matt Redman perform Greenbelt’s Main Stage. Technically Redman doesn’t perform; he leads worship. His sweet and upbeat songs encourage people to open up and draw near to God.

He possesses a warm, friendly voice–emotive, not afraid to show his intimacy towards God, his passionate desire to worship Jesus. I own two or three of his albums and through the years have enjoyed his voice, melodies and most of his lyrics. Seeing him listed as a Greenbelt presenter, I jumped at the chance to experience his worship leading.

I sat in a shaded spot as the music began. Redman called us to worship. Clap your hands! Shout to the Lord! Dance! He gave lots of instructions and pushed the audience to respond enthusiastically. Like many pop and rock singers do, at one point he called out to the crowd, How is everyone doing? He received a tepid response, so he repeated the question with emphasis. I said, HOW IS EVERYONE DOING? And on cue, the crowd went wild.

As the “worship” continued, a large group of audience members in the center, up towards the front lifted their hands, jumped up and down, and shouted along with the songs (much like I had done for years in the charismatic church services I attended).

But as the crowd cheered, I grew quiet. The more Redman sang and rallied for us to join in the worship, the more I withdrew. I suddenly felt like a stranger speaking a different language. Instead of warming, my insides felt still and cool and distant.

I questioned myself,

Has my heart grown cold to God? Is this because I am gay and I am bold enough I accept this fact? Have I lost my “first love”?

The answers came quickly and confidently. No, I still love to be in God’s presence. I still love to worship. But I no longer need to be ushered to the throne of God like in the past. I no longer need a cheerleader pointing me to Jesus. These past six years, as I sat in silent worship in Quaker meetings, in that stillness, I have found that “hearts unfold like flowers before thee, opening to the Sun above.”

It is not that I think that Matt Redman-style worship is worthless or bad. But I have outgrown it. I don’t need it like I once did. Instead of a call to worship it sounded more like clanging cymbals to me right now. It serves as an outmoded prop to help me worship or aid, a spiritual aid. Today I don’t need all those bells and whistles and exhortations. I just need a quiet room, silence among Friends, and then I find I can usually enter into a place of openness and listening and surrender.

Here is a crude analogy for those of you who remember tests like the SAT.
Right now, for me, a porn film is to marriage as Matt Redman is to worship. It serves as a distraction, a pleasant but unnecessary stimulation that I have outgrown.

Greenbelt 2007 Day Three

I was too wiped out to post anything last night. Actually happy wiped out. Good day that ended with friends at the Organic Beer Tent. I did miss the Hymn and Beers though.

On the third day I didn’t get to see as much, but I did hear two talks. Another by James Allison and one my Mark Yaconelli, which was particularly moving and helpful for me. It was about failure and loss and what you do when you feel at the end of yourself, broken. It actually reminded me of an important spiritual lesson I learned at one of the most desperate moments in my life when everything unraveled. It reminded me that sometimes the best comfort is no comfort at all, rather to allow myself to feel the pain, to sit in the loss and grieve it properly.

My interview with Premiere Radio went well and was a lot of fun because author GP Taylor was also interviewed and their was a Catholic clergy member in the London studio. I hope I didn’t sound too snippy, but after I related some of my ex-gay experience, the clergy member said something like, “Well, in the Catholic Church we do not condemn a homosexual orientation. The only problem is when someone engages in homosexual activity. What do you think about this?”

It was early (thus my voice being so low Alex) and I was on auto-pilot and I blurted out, “I think you are asking people to become Eunuchs, to box in their sexuality. We have seen how this has happened in the Catholic Church, that when you box in your sexuality, it comes out in all sorts of inappropriate ways.”

After that I had an interview with Greenbelt Radio. I also learned that that show they asked me to add had been slated for Centaur, the LARGEST indoor venue. It is HUGE and not at all suited for the sort of work I do with my plays. I need an intimate space where people can be focus on the small actions on the stage.

I thought ab0ut it through day and decided that I will do an extra show, but instead of a complete performance, I will do a highlights show where I can do excerpts from all my shows. This will help hold the audience and if something doesn’t work, I move onto another bit.

Thinking of doing the gAy,B,C’s from Queer 101 as well as Chad’s fantasy date with Lorca. I want to do a scene as Marvin, either when Brother Ralph “falls out in the Spirit” or when Marvin casts the demons out of his computer. I will do the opening of Homo No Mo with Chad and Vlad (always a crowd pleaser when Vlad says “Focus” in his unique way) and that may be it except for the Identity Monologue.

Then right after that I head over to the 11-14 year olds area where I will lead a Bibliodrama. Maybe the passage where Jesus casts out a herd of demons into a herd of pigs. What does that story mean???? Is Jesus some sort of Anti-pork, Jewish sorcerer and activist?

OUTerSpace, the new LGBT group at Greenbelt had a LOVELY service, the highlight of which was when a woman, who had recently been forced out of her church as worship leader because she is lesbian, spoke to the group. She said that she knows that God loves and and in fact, God likes her. And then she gave a simple but sincere encouragement to others who feel marginalized in their churches and families. Amazing how many people I met who just came out or are barely out.

The day ended at the Organic Beer Tent where I passed a HUGE test. It involved two very athletic straight young men, one hugging me, a bit smashed and begging me to come to their tents to continue the party. The Holy Spirit (in the form of Auntie Doris from Ship of Fools) helped me hold my ground. I remained in the Beer Tent and the boys took to their party without me. Phew.

Greenbelt 2007 Day Two

Ah, lovely day at Greenbelt. Although I remained uncharacteristically anxious about my show all day into the evening. (More about that in a moment).

I first listened to James Alison give a talk about the New Testament Clobber passages (most often used to clobber lesbian, gays and bisexuals). Last Year James covered the Old Testament passages, and after hearing him speak, I declared on this blog that I want to have his Biblical love child. I still do.

In his talk he discussed Romans 1 and expertly unraveled it. I left during the Q&A, but Trevor told me about a man who stood up and said something like, “All my life I have been condemned by that passage in my churches, but now you tell me it doesn’t condemn me.” And Trevor said you could see the light and freedom breaking over the man’s face. You can read James Alison’s thoughts on Romans 1 here.

Next I just chilled a bit knowing I had to pace myself, especially in the hot sun. I did go to the Liquid Lunch where a panel of four funny people (comedian types) talked about Greenbelt, what they saw, what they recommend and comments about the festival. Very fun and I even got a mention!

In the afternoon I heard worship leader Matt Redman present at the Main Stage. I will have more to say about this when I have more time.

Most of the rest of my day I prepped for my show. Took a nice long nap in a quiet worship space (I think I snored). Sat with my Friend Esther. Wrote in my Journal. Ran through my lines.

Then I had my show. People lined up an hour in advance. Crazy. I felt the show went well. The pace and the length seemed just about right. I am in the midst of still tweaking bits. Vlad’s dance seems long here to UK audiences. Maybe in the US too, but no one has said that since my earliest workshop presentations of the piece (before I edited the song some). Good laughter (they laughed more than most US audiences) and I felt well connected.

After the show James Alison came forward to greet me and inform me that the ushers had to turn away 500 people. The venue already held 500. Hope they went instead to the Beer and Hymns at the Organic Beer Tent.

After my show I dashed to see Ikon, a group from Northern Ireland that does provocative theater. This year’s theme was The God Delusion: Where Does Your Faith Lie. Lots of deep questions they asked. Not much more to say about it right now. Left me lots to think about.

I need to go to bed immediately before I have a 30 minute interview with Premier Radio from 8.30-9.00 UK time. Premier is a fairly conservative national Christian radio station. I am shocked that they invited me to it. I believe you can listen live.

So many people to thank for today, but especially my host James in Cheltenham (Jimbo at GCN) for providing me such a restful place to lay my head.

Greenbelt 2007 Day One

Not that I will post something everyday. Just am thrilled about today as I go to bed. James from Bridgend, Wales drove me to the home of James in Cheltenham where I also got to see Trevor from further South.

We are all hear for Greenbelt, a fabulous, funky, one-of-a-kind Christian arts festival loaded with bands, amazing speakers, performances, dance, an organic beer tent, a tiny tea tent and some very lovely people.

I will present my plays, “The Re-Education of George W. Bush” and “Doin’ Time in the Homo No Mo Halfway House.” And to my shock and surprise, I was listed on page three of the Greenbelt program as one of the Seven Do Not Miss events! This is out of thousands of events. Then the Church Times also listed me in their Greenbelt edition. Guess I don’t have to hang up posters this year.

Really, it makes me a little anxious. I went to a Do Not Miss event last year and it stunk! I feel the pressure that so many people will expect so much. So think of me, pray for me. I do the Bush show on Saturday and Homo No Mo on Sunday. On Monday I lead a Bibliodrama for 11-14 year olds.

I feel privileged and very very fortunate to be able to be here, not just to present, but to be in a spiritual place where I hear challenging messages about the environment, immigrants, the plight of the Palestinians, and a call to authentic Christian living.

I really wish Alex and Ally and Willie Hewes and Elliot and Pam and Christine and the whole lot of you could be here with me. I’d even buy you a pint of Absolution Ale at the Organic Beer Tent. (Hymns and Beer tomorrow night after my show!).

Off to bed. Night all.