I’ve recently returned from the Wild Goose Festival, and I’ll cut to the chase: this is one of the most important things happening in the Christian world right now. I have been blessed to attend all three of the North Carolina events, each year becoming more amazed at the fact that this event even exists.
All around us, popular Christianity takes a distinctly Neo-Calvinist/Hipster/Evangelical image. No matter what your denominational affiliation, it seems as though the most popular and common material popping up in Bible studies and across my Facebook feed is whatever is put on the Lifeway shelves or the latest release from Beth Moore.
There are plenty of churches and individuals for which that material is appropriate, even inspiring. I don’t happen to be one of them, and I’m not alone.
Wild Goose is a place where those of us for whom a simple, literal faith simply and literally doesn’t suffice can gather to discover that we’re not alone, and hear speakers and musicians who are also wrestling with a God who will not be known as simple in new and innovative and ancient ways.
If that doesn’t make sense, then I’ve probably said it well. It is so difficult to truly capture the experience of the Goose in words, though I, like many others, will try.
This year, the Goose was different. The venue changed from a middle-of-nowhere, commune-esque farm to a campground in the small town of Hot Springs. Place is powerful, and that change alone changed the experience. I can’t say it was better or worse; it was different.
I haven’t heard the final numbers, but the Goose also grew this year, both in numbers and, it seems, in operations in general. Phyllis Tickle (who also gives one of the best hugs EVER) said at the opening ceremony that the Goose was no longer a fledgling; the Goose grew up this year. In conversations about this year’s event, some friends agreed that there was a different feel in the air (and not just the 10-degree drop in temperature).
In addition to the size of the festival growing, the content also matured. A friend commented that the past two festivals have seemed like two parallel festivals going on at the same time: one about social justice, the other for angry post-evangelicals. The festival served its purpose well, but it was still in an experimental stage. This year, however, something shifted. There wasn’t as much anger. There were still scars, but they were addressed in more equitable and beautiful ways. There was still healing, but healing through reconciliation and peace rather than cynicism and vitriol. Another friend piped in that he felt like he was growing with the Goose, following a similar trajectory from anger and cynicism to healing and redemption.
It was a different festival this year, and that’s okay. I mourn the loss of the “we’re all in this together” feel of Shakori Hills, heat and humidity and all. But I celebrate the new movement the Goose is taking. Even though we spent the week muddy and saturated in more than love and Spirit, the new setting is more inclusive in so many ways, and that’s so much of what the Goose is about.
So I look forward to continuing to see and experience and help bring about the evolution of the Goose; I pray that we as a community can continue to move forward as the Spirit moves us, and that we (I) do not create idols of the place or the content, but that the character of the event is continued, as a place where journeyers gather to create the Kingdom together, just for a few days.