Sunday evening I sat down to dinner with friends from Durham after I had made my last run to the airport of the day to drop off folks heading home from the Wild Goose Festival, which was held at Shakori Hills near Durham. Saturday was my friend Terry’s birthday and I wanted to eat dinner with him. Around the table with us were Ginger, Lori (Terry’s wife and fellow driver for the festival), and other friends John and Sonya. I’m not sure how long I had been sitting at the table before I fell asleep – for the first of at least three short naps during dinner. After four days of driving and listening and talking and being a part of the inaugural event, I finally ran out of adrenaline.
Now, after a day to make the last two airport runs, sleep, and reflect on what I saw and heard, I am grateful to have been a part of an amazing weekend and I want to encourage anyone on the receiving end of this post to do what you can to be here next year. Some of the people who will help make my case can be found in the links that follow: Beth Nielsen Chapman, David LaMotte, Michelle Shocked, Tom Prasada-Rao, David Wilcox, Vince Anderson, Julie Lee, Derek Webb, Ashley Cleveland, Psalters – to mention some of the musicians; Rabbi Or Rose, Bowie Snodgrass and Samir Selmanovek from Faith House Manhattan, Darkwood Brew, People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, NC Peace Action, Lilly Lewin, Gabriel Salguero from Lamb’s Church in New York, Colin Richard from Plant with Purpose, Vincent Harding, James Forbes, Tim Tyson, the Void Collective, and Eliacin Rosario-Cruz. My list is far from exhaustive.
The wild goose is a metaphor for the Holy Spirit drawn from Celtic Christianity. The organizers brought everyone together to see what might happen more than force a specific design on the time, other than scheduling it full of folks with dreams and ideas to share. I kept thinking of the closing lines of Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese”:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
Since I was the transportation coordinator, I had more conversations in the van going to and from either the airport or the hotels in the bustling metropolis of Siler City than I did in actual sessions, and I came away challenged and encouraged by what I saw and heard. Perhaps the strongest impression I had is that the Next Big Thing in Christianity is not going to be a big thing. By that I mean, I met a number of people who were doing great, small work. Yes, they wanted to change the world and they were doing it one song, or one conversation, or one tree planting at a time rather than seeking to fill stadium-sized sanctuaries or to bounce their ideas off of every satellite they could find. I met a number of people who described what they were doing as being a part of “an intentional community” and far fewer that talked about being a part of a church. (I’m not sure how to unpack that difference just yet, but I noticed it.) And, though there were a fair share of people with publishing deals and books to sell, I felt more folks were seeking to be faithful more than famous.
On Friday afternoon, someone put up a sign in the Fullsteam tent that said, “Beer and Hymns – 5 pm.” Todd started us off by saying, “We’re going to sing ‘How Great Thou Art’ but not like you’ve ever heard it before.” And he was right. We sang “Fairest Lord Jesus,” “It Is Well With My Soul,” “Jesus Loves Me,” “This Little Light of Mine,” and “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Come, Thou Fount” with a racous reverence that felt like church and unlike church all at once. The next afternoon, there was a Bluegrass Liturgy and Communion Service in one of the other tents, and that night a tent set up as Sacred Space where everyone moved about in silence, each one was shot through with the same Spirit Oliver describes: harsh and exciting, announcing our place in the family of things.
It’s one big crazy family of which I am glad to be a part.
Thanks for your thoughts, Milton. It was good to meet you and I wish we’d had the chance to talk more but we will.
As the planning committee reflects, rehashes and prepares for next year, consider this. If there is a conversation about a mission activity I feel certain that Stop Hunger Now would happily host a meal packing event. We would have to hold it in one of the tents because it has to be “indoors”and we’d likely need to have participants contribute to the cost (perhaps and additional fee on the registration for that event?). But it seems like a good way for people to walk the talk while they are together.
If there is interest let me know. Meanwhile: stophungernow.org
Thanks for reflecting, Milton. I’ve gone to a number of Greenbelt festivals and it’s kind of a spiritual home for me. I was really looking forward to going to Wild Goose and got sidetracked at the last minute due to a surgery my mom planned for that very same time.
Some folks from the organization I’m part of went and enjoyed it even though they had to staff the booth. Next year.