From left, Janelle Thiessen, Heather Mullin and Kathy Thiessen enjoy the music and inspiration at the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival in London in October.
Dan Dyck
Wednesday, October 26, 2005

LONDON (Mennonite Mission Network/Mennonite Church Canada Witness) — Each year about 20,000 people gather on a race course nestled in the hills of Cheltenham in Western England – but not to place bets.

They’re here to open their hearts and minds to four days of Christ-inspired music and speakers.

The Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival is attended by all ages, but teens and young adults are easily the most conspicuous presence, says Vic Thiessen, because they are rarely seen in churches.

Thiessen is director of the London Mennonite Centre, a ministry of Mennonite Church Canada Witness and Mennonite Mission Network. Greenbelt attracts visitors, he said, because it is a place for people who are questioning their traditions and looking for new ways of being a church. “Especially,” he said, “for being a church that sees peace and justice as central to the gospel of Jesus.”

Enter Mennonites and Anabaptists. Some of the founders and current organizers of the event were involved in Anabaptist study groups hosted by Alan and Eleanor Kreider, LMC directors through a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network from 1974 to 1991. Kreider himself was a regular speaker during the early years of Greenbelt and Mennonites and Anabaptists continue to make regular appearances. This year, they accounted for at least four presentations, including one by Tim Nafziger, a Mennonite Mission Network volunteer who works at LMC.

From its inception in the 1980’s, Greenbelt has focused on peace and justice issues, both in its music, and its speakers. Today, singer-songwriters like Garth Hewitt and Martyn Joseph and speakers like Walter Wink and Ched Myers challenge the worldviews and values of teens and twenty-somethings.

“The entire festival has a distinct Anabaptist feel to it – if it had been organized by Mennonites, it wouldn’t look much different,” quips Thiessen, who had often pondered the Anabaptist flavor of the event.

In a global economy, events like the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival begin to spread their impact in unexpected ways. This summer at the MC Canada/MC USA joint assembly in Charlotte, N.C., Thiessen met Paul Wright, a former Brit who became a Mennonite after moving to Florida.

Wright first encountered Anabaptist ideas at Greenbelt and was convinced the festival was part of an “Anabaptist conspiracy” that also included Workshop (a Christian studies program), the LMC and Third Way magazine.

“When I attend events like Greenbelt, where you rarely hear the word Anabaptist or Mennonite, and detect the unmistakable flavor of Mennonite theology throughout, I can understand what Paul means,” says Thiessen.

“And then I wonder just how much influence the LMC has had on the church scene in the UK during the past 30 years. It’s quite thrilling to be part of a conspiracy, especially one that is helping to bring young people back to Christianity.”

 

 

 Related

 

 

Mennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 years20th Anniversaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4765/Mennonite-Mission-Network-celebrates-20-yearsMennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 yearsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Video series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“Webinarhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4782/Video-series-teaches-ways-to-Stir-Up-PeaceVideo series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Football league fundraiser is no fantasyExtra-Ordinary Givinghttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4777/Football-league-fundraiser-is-no-fantasyFootball league fundraiser is no fantasyGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Kansas
Conflict transformation training in South Africa receives national attentionSOUTH AFRICAVideohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4761/Conflict-transformation-training-in-South-Africa-receives-national-attentionConflict transformation training in South Africa receives national attentionGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Johannesburg
New book chronicles history of peacebuilding in Northeast AsiaSouth Koreahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4764/New-book-chronicles-history-of-peacebuilding-in-Northeast-AsiaNew book chronicles history of peacebuilding in Northeast AsiaGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Namyangju
Press Release: Leaders Inspiring LeadersPress Releasehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4763/Press-Release-Leaders-Inspiring-LeadersPress Release: Leaders Inspiring LeadersGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Elkhart, Indiana
Voices from the MVS unit of 9/11MVShttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4762/Voices-from-the-MVS-unit-of-911Voices from the MVS unit of 9/11GP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476New York City
MVS Washington, D.C., congregations honor end of ‘house’ eraMVShttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4758/MVS-DC-congregations-honor-end-of-house-eraMVS Washington, D.C., congregations honor end of ‘house’ eraGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Washington, DC.
Authentic mission partnership brings everyone to the decision-making tablePartnershiphttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4755/Authentic-mission-partnership-brings-everyone-to-the-decision-making-tableAuthentic mission partnership brings everyone to the decision-making tableGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Super SOOPers spend their retirement sharing their giftsSOOPhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4753/Super-SOOPers-spend-their-retirement-sharing-their-giftsSuper SOOPers spend their retirement sharing their giftsGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Shipshewana, Indiana
Remembering Delbert ErbIn MemoriamVideohttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4754/Remembering-Delbert-ErbRemembering Delbert ErbGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Mister Out-Spokin’ created Christian community in every settingObituaryhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4751/Mister-Out-Spokin-created-Christian-community-in-every-settingMister Out-Spokin’ created Christian community in every settingGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
Youth Venture Borderlands learning tour inspires future serviceYouth Venturehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4750/Youth-Venture-Borderlands-learning-tour-inspires-future-serviceYouth Venture Borderlands learning tour inspires future serviceGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476Douglas, Arizona
Youth Venture Borderlands tour in photosPhoto essayhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4749/Youth-Venture-Borderlands-tour-in-photosYouth Venture Borderlands tour in photosGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476
More Mustard Seeds: Director of Mennonite Bible School in South Africa releases book on forgivenessMore Mustard Seedshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4733/More-Mustard-Seeds-Director-of-Mennonite-Bible-School-in-South-Africa-releases-book-on-forgivenessMore Mustard Seeds: Director of Mennonite Bible School in South Africa releases book on forgivenessGP0|#52c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1;L0|#052c46992-a072-4af3-b006-834f7e8b9cb1|News;GTSet|#544fcc8d-5de2-49c8-9d51-afee09323476

 

 

 

 

Mennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4765/Mennonite-Mission-Network-celebrates-20-yearsMennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 years
Video series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4782/Video-series-teaches-ways-to-Stir-Up-PeaceVideo series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“
Football league fundraiser is no fantasyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4777/Football-league-fundraiser-is-no-fantasyFootball league fundraiser is no fantasy
Conflict transformation training in South Africa receives national attentionhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4761/Conflict-transformation-training-in-South-Africa-receives-national-attentionConflict transformation training in South Africa receives national attention
New book chronicles history of peacebuilding in Northeast Asiahttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4764/New-book-chronicles-history-of-peacebuilding-in-Northeast-AsiaNew book chronicles history of peacebuilding in Northeast Asia
Press Release: Leaders Inspiring Leadershttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4763/Press-Release-Leaders-Inspiring-LeadersPress Release: Leaders Inspiring Leaders



 

 

Mennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 yearshttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4765/Mennonite-Mission-Network-celebrates-20-yearsMennonite Mission Network celebrates 20 years20th Anniversary
Video series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“https://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4782/Video-series-teaches-ways-to-Stir-Up-PeaceVideo series teaches ways to “Stir Up Peace“Webinar
MVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4768/MVS-Minute-11-The-secret-ingredientMVS Minute #11: The secret ingredient?MVS Minute
Friends become familia at God’s tablehttps://www.mennonitemission.net/blog/4769/Friends-become-familia-at-God’s-tableFriends become familia at God’s tableHispanic-Mennonite Heritage
Football league fundraiser is no fantasyhttps://www.mennonitemission.net/news/4777/Football-league-fundraiser-is-no-fantasyFootball league fundraiser is no fantasyExtra-Ordinary Giving
MVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?https://www.mennonitemission.net/video/4774/MVS-Minute-06-What-does-MVS-smell-likeMVS Minute #06: What does MVS smell like?MVS Minute