Left to right: Richard Rohr, attendees dancing, Brian McLaren. Credit: Wild Goose Festival Website (www.wildgoosefestival.org).

I have been watching, with rapt envy, the many blog posts, articles, photos and videos filling the virtual airwaves since the Wild Goose Festival closed its second year this past June. A conglomerate of issues (scheduling, funding, timing) kept me from attending but next year it is already locked in on my calendar.

The Wild Goose Festival launched last year, after five years in the planning and making of it, with over 1,000 attendees camping out in Shakori Hills, NC, for an event meant to intersect faith, justice, art, and music in a very particular way. While there are great teachers from all faith traditions (predominantly Christian but increasingly more persons from other faith traditions and no faith tradition are joining the conversation) who present in their own faith areas of expertise the festival is also an organic grassroots experience where speakers step down off their stages and into the crowds for community discussions on the subject matter. It is a live thing, this festival, not just entertaining but engaging and creating in each moment of the community experience.

This year the number of attendees to this festival nearly doubled, showing that it is speaking to an audience and community larger than itself that is hungering for this experience and conversation.

As I begin my own exploration in expanding my young adult ministry this coming fall to include a worship experience which will be part presentation, shared meal, and shared conversation in an experiment of faith practice I am calling “micro-church” I can feel the call in the air for this kind of experience.

And the call seems to be growing as Wild Goose announced its launch of a Wild Goose West Festival to be held outside of Portland this Labor Day.


What is the Wild Goose?

In describing this new bird of faith that is Wild Goose I have been telling people it is “like Woodstock for God.” I am finding that I am not the only person using that frame of reference to try to explain this phenomenon that is festival, but more. People have also likened it to Burning Man (for God).

What I realized this last year is that I have been a bit off the mark in my depiction–although for most the terms Burning Man and Woodstock help to give a view of the vast open spaces full of music and excitement and creativity. But there is something electric and contagious happening in Wild Goose that seems to defy even these boxes.

I have been considering what those differences are in trying to assess what the “Wild Goose Festival” is becoming in this place and time in history. This is what I came up with: Woodstock was an event; Wild Goose is a paradigm shift.

I thought, at first, that Wild Goose was defining a paradigm shift, and in some ways maybe it is. But I realized that the unique components of intersecting faith, justice, art and music in one space there is something electric about it that goes beyond defining a period of time. I realized it is not just defining the state of things but creating a response to the state of things (political and religious divisiveness and polarization most especially) and in doing so it IS the paradigm shift.

It is its own animal–this wild goose.


What is This Time in History? What is the Unique Call?

I absorb my news these days via Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I will try to read the odd article or news blurb to get a bit more here and there but lately I can only tolerate the nature of things in the political and public sphere if comes with a side of satire. I TIVO my limited regular channel shows so I don’t have to watch the pricey mudslinging going on in the form of campaign ads. I find it hard any more to distinguish between celeb-reality and everything else.

Politics is the newest, hottest celeb-reality experience. It’s the scripted reality show that has become government–or at least the perspective of government we are given to see and the one we are meant to cast a vote based on. I think there is some pretty good stuff in this system called democracy–I just don’t see much of it anymore, at least not that is released on the news channels I avoid (for that very reason).

As a nation we are bipolar and in need of some lithium. We are polarized. We are angry. We are ostriches stuck in our own patches of sand–immobile. At times we are even psychotic. If I were diagnosing us I would definitely recommend medication management and immediate therapy intervention.

In this place where we stand we are, in our deepest reaches, in our hearts and souls, salivating for a wild goose.


The Wild Goose Mission

The “Wild Goose” website states:

The Wild Goose is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace. The festival resonates with this image because we recognize that in the current climate of religious and political division and lack of civility, embracing the create and open nature of our faith is perhaps our greatest asset for re-building and strengthening our relationships with each other, with our enemies, with our stories, our questions, and the other. In that spiritual, in an informal setting, and in the context of creative and respectful relationships, we invite you to imagine a new world with us.

We are desperate for authenticity. We are craving connection and intimacy. Wild Goose offers us the potential for that and in doing so I think moves past spotlighting a shift into BECOMING the shift itself.

Since the first year of the Wild Goose Festival the experience of this one long weekend in June has become a movement that flows throughout the year. There is a Wild Goose Festival Blog at the increasingly popular Patheos website. There is a Facebook Page, a Twitter Account with over 3,000 followers. Beyond that there are blog-to-blog conversations about the Wild Goose Mission and Festival experience.

There is something happening that gives me hope. It is that hope that has made me prioritize the festival being on my calendar for June 2013. It is that hope that makes me believe we, the United States, the Western World, this global community can be more than we are right now.

From my vantage point I see this festival as a national awakening. It is the addict walking into an AA or NA meeting. It is the trauma survivor walking into the therapist’s office. It is us, collectively, starting to take our Lithium.

I look forward to the continuation of this conversation, started by a goose and continued by a nation.

(Check out the Wild Goose 2012 Speaker & Artist Line Up from Wild Goose on Vimeo.)

Bookmark and Share