Our Report from the Wild Goose Festival
A few people associated with Grace and Main recently attended the Wild Goose Festival near Pittsboro, NC (Shakori Hils, to be precise). They were exhausted but they all spoke highly of the experience. Our very own Ben Wright contributed the following report to beliefnet.com, as well. Since he’s one of ours, it seems appropriate not only to link to the beliefnet.com report, but also to host the story here so you can share in our joy. All of the pictures below are from one of our beloved friends, Bill Guerrant.
I feel a little guilty for staying in bed until 11:30 a.m. this morning, but only a little. It’s been a week and I still haven’t caught up on missed sleep from the festival that is Wild Goose.
Wild Goose Festival is a four day event focusing on art, spirituality, music, and justice that took place during the last weekend of June in Shakori Hills, NC. Talks and performances were given by many well-known progressive Christian leaders, musicians, and more mainstream presenters who gathered together to pursue the Wild Goose—a Celtic symbol designed to encapsulate the free and uncapturable nature of the Holy Spirit.
The above photo is of me discussing with author, preacher, and lecturer Brian McLaren, a topic from one of his recently published books. Dialogue was a key theme of Wild Goose, where presenters were asked to reverse traditional speaking roles; instead asking the audience questions while remaining engagingly receptive to each person’s response.
The festival began with an opening ceremony in which participants were invited to apply various items to their skin in a three step ritual—water to wash away the sins of injustice, mud to unify all as the created possessors of the imago dei, and ash to honor God’s sacred presence within. Opening talks were given by Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? music producer T-Bone Burnett, who explained that due to outside interests, art was the only true form left for discussing the Divine, and Sojourners magazine founder Jim Wallis who stated that, “instead of pointing out what is wrong with other religions, we should be practicing our own.”
Session topics spanned an array of issues covering concerns like responsibility to a just global economy, how to do faith in the current “inventive” age, sustainability, contemplative worship, and masculine spirituality. The festival was not without its share of hot topics as things like immigration, race relationships, and sexuality were openly discussed among diverse audiences. However, judgment was noticeably absent from discussion.
During a discussion with activist Shane Claiborne, another Wild Gooser expressed his passionate disdain for several Afghani terrorists, in contrast to the message of needed ceasefire and reconciliation being presented by Claiborne. Rather than engage in heated debate, the two continued discussion by sharing each owns passionate stories without demeaning each other, while together working towards a larger path for reconciliation.
Judgment and sleep were not the only things missing from Wild Goose. During a “festival feedback” session with event coordinators, participants identified a lack of individuals with more fundamentalist views; a component recognized as needed in order for true dialogue to occur in the future. Despite talks from Richard Twist on indigenous myths and Anthony Smith on African-American spirituality, the event had a noticeable lack of people of color; both among ticket-buying participants and presenters. Contrary to other reports, ageism was not prevalent among participants. Mid-lifers were as equally represented as twenty-somethings, if not more so, in addition to large appearances by many young people and children who were presented with their own specialized Goose events.
In addition to powerful speakers, the musical performances at Wild Goose proved to be life changing. Folk Rock-Punk Fusion Jam Band, Psalters provided the most widely attended opening performance as a barrel drum complimented banjos, an accordion, and rusty vocals in a symphony of jubilant praise. Outsiders may have mistaken dancing crowd members as flaying “deadheads,” swaying to spaced-out rhythms, when the unmistakable reality of Spirit-fueled bodily vibrations were undeniable to other Goosers present. Derek Webb paused between songs to talk about concerns near to his heart and Jennifer Knapp interrupted her own set with stories of experience as a formal CCM recording artist. Knapp also took time out of her performance to record an “It Gets Better” video at the festival. I missed her performance due to my aiding in stage management for Marcus Hummon, who performed the co-written Grammy award winning song, “God Bless the Broken Road.”
Executive Director Garrth Higgins joined together with other board members over ten years ago to form Wild Goose Festival, an event inspired by England’s 37-year-running Green Belt Festival. The goal was to create an event focusing on justice, spirituality and the arts that would encourage people to live out a more “just and creative life.” As I prepare for my own hunger social experiment with friends, together rejuvenated by the life giving power of the Wild Goose, I am all too aware of the success of this lofty goal. Together with Christian sisters and brothers, we sail in a tight pack on the tail of mother Goose until we meet again next year to share new stories of our recent travels.