I did go to plenty of the talks however – more than I expected to actually, although there were a few where the venue was full up by the time I got there. I'm not entirely sure why Greenbelt gives extra profile to certain speakers and then allocates them a smaller venue – though I know that certain bands in the past have requested the smaller venues for that more intimate feel.
There were a good number of biblical scholars at this years festival, although some of those were the ones I missed, so in the end I only really caught Morna Hooker. She was talking about the nativity narratives in Matthew and Luke, and whilst most of it was stuff I was familiar with there were a few extra things that I came away with. Hooker started off reading Matthew's opening as a way of demonstrating that Mathew is more of a scholar than a teacher. She also pointed out how "disrespectful" the four women mentioned in the genealogies are. Rather than finding Sarah, Rebekah etc we find a prostitute, a woman who posed as a prostitute in order to have a child by their Father-in-law, a Moabite, and an adulteress. Hooker says this links to Mary's "suspicious" pregnancy. She also pointed out two things I'd never thought of. Firstly that the star makes a mistake in leading the wise men to Herod, and secondly that Luke is paralleling the birth of Jesus with the birth of John.
I also enjoyed listening to Christian Aid's Nigel Varndell who had chosen the provocative title "Jesus was a Liar". Of course it was obvious that that was hardly what he meant – and sure enough he was mainly looking at 2 occasions in Mark when Jesus appears to deliberately misquote the Old Testament (Mark 10:19, 12:30-31). The thirs example he gave was from Mark 8:38 ("For whoever is ashamed of me..of him will the Son of man also be ashamed") which comes straight after Jesus has told Peter (who denies Jesus laterin the book) that he will use him to build his church. He used this last passage to say we need to hold Jesus's words and actions in tension.
Other talks I enjoyed were Dave Tomlinson, the always good John Smith and Mark Yaconelli who ably demonstrated that he's a chip off the old block (his father Mike Yaconelli was a huge favourite of mine before his untimely death a few years back). And, of course, Greenbelt wouldn't be complete without hearing Gareth Higgins's annual "Film Review of the Year". I was surprised that he was quite so enamoured by The Fountain and that he didn't give much time to the incredible This is England but otherwise there's a lot of agreement between us and he highlighted a few films that I really need to catch.
Sadly, the film programme was less exciting this year. The majority of the programme was given over to four films from the Church Times's 50 top religious films – The Mission, Babette's Feast, Into Great Silence (my review) and Intolerance. Fortunately they also showed a few other films including the coffee industry documentary Black Gold which I was disappointed to miss earlier in the year. It didn't disappoint, and you can read my review over at rejesus.