It was late afternoon on the last day of this year’s Greenbelt Festival and some people were already starting to go home. That was the time allocated to the Q&A session with Steve Chalke which OuterSpace had asked me to chair.
The venue chosen seemed appropriate – a small inside venue where we could gather a 100 or so people in a safe space to put their questions on sexuality to this well-known Baptist minister who broke ranks earlier this year to publicly support same-sex partnerships. It would be cosy, unthreatening and easy to manage.
Then on the Monday morning we heard that the venue had been changed. The Greenbelt organisers had second thoughts overnight and felt that demand for this session would far outstrip the inside room. So all of a sudden we found ourselves relocated to the Grandstand of Cheltenham racecourse – one of the largest outdoor venues at the Festival!
Two thoughts immediately struck us. Firstly, wow – what an opportunity! But second, how could we ensure that people felt safe to ask questions in such a large venue. They would have to walk down the steps of the grandstand, across the tarmac to the microphone by the stage, turn to face the crowd and speak out their question in front of many hundreds of people!
Thankfully technology came to the rescue. We set up a Twitter hash tag for the event so that people sitting up in the stands could tweet their questions if they didn’t feel brave enough to walk to the front.
The result was wonderful – a good number of people were brave enough to come and ask their questions live – others had submitted written questions beforehand – and others sent their tweets – and we took as many questions as we could in the time available.
Steve was characteristically outspoken. Far from stepping back from his controversial statements on sexuality, he went even further in a passionate appeal for the Church to abandon prejudice and embrace change. He took on questions about gay marriage, schools, church divisions, and Biblical truth.
If you want to hear the Q&A, it is available as a download from the Greenbelt website and costs £3.50 – simply follow the link below. You won’t be disappointed!