Talking Point – July 2023

Festivals Get to the Heart

Rev. Kevin Lovell

THE SUMMER festival season is in full swing and there’s a lot to look forward to. We’ve just had Glastonbury Festival; July starts with the Henley Festival, then Readipop, Flackstock, followed by Rewind South and Reading Festival in August.
Festivals are exciting. We look forward to them partly because they lift us out of the routine of daily life. We get to see and hear great bands and awesome music. Festivals are sociable events; we go with friends and we make friends there. They are unpredictable – and I’m not just talking about the weather!
A few years ago I found myself, glass in hand, watching Sinéad O’Connor singing ‘Nothing Compares To You’, from a La-Z-Boy recliner overlooking the stage. Unlike studio recordings, live performances are one-offs, and you see the artist’s expression and body language as they play. Along with the atmosphere of the crowd around you, this creates a feeling beyond lyrics or the score. It goes to your heart, and you remember it for the rest of your life – you and the others with you that night.
People of faith learn to pay special attention to these ‘heart experiences’, where you know it’s not just a rush of adrenaline, nor of emotion (nor, for that matter, anything you may have consumed earlier); there’s no other explanation than it being the presence of God. Two thousand years ago, a bunch of shepherds saw a fantastic live performance, which prompted them to rush to a stable in Bethlehem. And 30 years after that, two of Jesus’ followers walking towards Emmaus noticed their ‘hearts were burning within them’ as they heard the scriptures explained to them by a stranger.
The 13th century Saint Bonaventure maintained that God was “in all things but not enclosed”. The world values what we can touch, measure or count. God is in all things and, in my experience, God is especially present in the things we can’t touch or measure – things the world considers worthless.
Heart experiences invariably alert us to the presence of God in those things which we can’t see and touch. So, if we can sense God in the big obvious experiences of life – like festivals – then maybe we can learn to notice God in the ordinary, everyday experiences of life too. Then we discover that God really is in all things – and the ordinary becomes very special indeed!
Rev. Kevin Lovell is Vicar, St Barnabas, Emmer Green and Caversham Park