I found myself yesterday in the position of preparing the talk for Methsoc. Normally we have an interesting speaker, but yesterday due to a bit of a falling apart on all fronts it turned into a DIY job. As the secretary who had volunteered to do the talk had a huge deadline for Monday I volunteered to take over. So it was that I spent about three hours yesterday preparing a talk, activity and discussion time on why we take ourselves away on retreat/ pilgrimage/ Christian conference/ Christian festival. The central ideas were to think about where we went, why we went and how we benefitted. I was then ready to use Greenbelt as my example to critically examine the nature and benefits of these events; giving the history, a bit about my own experiences of Greenbelt and then a critical examination of it in light of Turner and Turner’s theory on pilgrimage. Alot of the preperation involved going back to an MA essay I’d written about whether Protestants go on pilgrimage when they go to Greenbelt, Keswick or Spring Harvest and similar events. The blog posts I did back in 2006 on this are about “what is the nature of pilgrimage?” and “Does the Greenbelt fit the model?”.
As it turned out my three hours of prep were not needed. There was a general lack of peopleness at Methsoc last night so we adjorned to the pub early. The bar was fairly empty when we arrived, but we soon found ourselves surrounded by a sea of Catholics. It appeared we were sitting in the middle of the Cathsoc pubquiz and soon found ourselves invited to join in.
This was an interesting eccumenical exercise, particularly during the religion round. We were very greatful that Methsoc does not contain just Methodists….the Anglo-Catholics Anglicans in our group came in rather useful. As it happens we turned out to have a good smattering of knowledge within the team and came a credible second, only losing out to the winners by half a point. (Actually it was a good job it wasn’t the other way round or the point we gained by being able to give the original first line that Wesley wrote to “Hark the Herald” would have become a bit like a controversial penalty in a footie match). Anyway upshot was a rather tense moment when the winning team decided which prize they would take…the bottle of Southern Comfort or the remote control car. There would have been great merryment but a number of awkward issues had Methsoc ended up with the bottle of SC. As it was the crisis was averted when the winning team chose the bottle and we ended up taking up ownership of a Methsoc toy.
Reflecting on why I wasn’t miffed at having effectively wasted 3 hours in preperation yesterday I came up with the following which I learnt from the experience:
1) Even if nobody else got anything out of the talk I did. Through having to prepare it I practised some skills, I reflected prayerfully on why we take time out…the purpose and the benefits. This did me good, I think. I also specifically reflected upon Greenbelt and what the purpose of taking time out every August is aswell as what the festival means to me and how God has used it in my life over the years. I also reflected seriously upon the history of the festival and how it has evolved and changed over the years aswell as what is so special about the communion service.
2) I am a wuss who is actually scared of doing “God stuff” publicly and whilst I know that sometimes it is something God is calling me to do it scares me silly. Sitting in a room with my fellow Methsoc peeps doing a talk, when I feel myself often to be intellectually inferior to these young people, was scary. So in some ways I was glad I didn’t come under their scrutiny in the end. However, as I did not know until literally the appointed hour that I wouldn’t be doing the talk I had to go through the process of preparing to face my fears. I got to go through part of the process of facing my fears by doing the bit I saw I could do reasonably well…the preperation. The fear I was feeling was useful to reflect upon, I had a real moment or two of if I feel this about doing a talk to my friends should I have gone on note?
3) In the end I think the group benefitted more and learnt more than they would have done through my talk. As the quiz developed we saw where people’s different areas of knowledge and expertise were. We developed some serious teamwork skills of listening to other people aswell. It was also a practical exercise in eccumenicalism and particularly in the religion round appreciating other traditions and how little we know of them. I reflected upon the way that we share one faith but sometimes know sooooo little about how other members of that faith express it or about the sites and saints which are important to them.
4) It made me think a little about the Methodist attitude to alcohol. At the beginning of the night one of the Catholics I know had given me the , “but Methodists don’t drink do they” line to which I had given the reply “it’s not banned, they just believe in taking a responsible attitude to alcohol”. Later in the evening as I sat with my pot of tea, (I love the Duncow because I can have a really good pot of tea if I want to stop drinking alcohol), I thought about this. There would be some who might raise their eyebrows at Methsoc sitting doing a pubquiz, but we were all drinking sensibly. The key about a quiz is it actually makes you drink at a moderate speed and if you take it seriously not get sloshed….you need to be able to talk at a reasonably low volume and think quickly. Additionally when it seemed that there was a danger we might win the bottle of Southern Comfort I reflected, when I’d stopped laughing at the irony, about why this would have been problematic. That is probably a blog post in it’s own right and so I’ll stop now. Suffice to say that a good night was had by all and lots learnt. Sometimes it’s brilliant when a plan doesn’t come together.