I’ve written about the Wild Goose Festival many times on this blog. To be honest I talk about the Goose a lot in my day to day life as well, and for good reason. The Goose has played so many roles in my life. In different seasons the Goose has been as my license to explore a more progressive faith away from the fundi-evangelical world back home, it has been my church when I didn’t have a church to call home, its been my community, and most recently my job.
Even through all of that and maybe because of it, something I’ve always struggled with is to answer the question, “what is the Wild Goose Festival?”. I usually answer something along the lines of,
“It’s a four day progressive Christian festival in Hotsprings, North Carolina that is centered around Spirituality, Social Justice, Music, and Art. Oh, and it’s the most beautiful life-changing thing I’ve ever been a part of… you have to come with me!”
This response captures what the goose is on its surface, but misses all the things I love so much about the festival. The problem is all the things I love most about the festival are precisely the things I struggle to put into words.
My friend Tim likes to somewhat jokingly say the festival is like “Hippy Christian Jesus Camp”. Which while not a bad description doesn’t really get us any closer to answering the original question.
Over the years I’ve heard many people refer to the goose as a “thin place“. The term comes from Celtic Christians, and Celtic Pagans before them and was used to describe a place where the distance between heaven and earth is stretched so thin that you can feel it in your being. This comes the closest to capturing the goose that I know and love, but to people that aren’t familiar with the term, just saying it’s a thin place doesn’t convey much of anything.
This past Sunday at liturgy we read a beautiful call to worship that went like this…
We are called here to boldly imagine an impossible world, Where what is broken is restored to wholeness, Where what is dead is brought back to life. Here we bring the worlds most damaged realities and hold them in faith that they will be changed, in the presence of hope and love.
Can you imagine a space more holy than that? Welcome to liturgy.
The call to worship stuck with me through the entire liturgy that night and has been playing in my head over and over the last few days. I couldn’t figure out why, but it felt familiar. Not so much familiar in the sense that I had heard it before, I hadn’t, but familiar in the same way that a certain song can transcend itself and transport you back to a very particular place and time in your past.
The more I rolled the newly familiar words around in my mind the more I realized the call to worship was describing the Goose. It was the call of the Goose! The impossible world that I was being called to imagine last Sunday night was the impossible world that I had experienced year after year for four days at a time in the mountains of North Carolina. It’s describing what I love about the goose.
Every year a combination of infighting within churches and denominations, The 24 hour shit-show that is the political news cycle, and my own cynicism leave me wondering “is this upside down, last shall be first, impossible world, kingdom of God stuff really real, and even if it is real as an LGBT person is it worth all the fighting for it?”.
Then every July I make my way back to the Goose. I meet so many people from all walks of life and diverse backgrounds, its impossible to tell what everyone has in common. I’m pretty sure the only thing everyone shares is the presumption that everyone belongs, and that no one there belongs more than anyone else.
At night I sing hymns while drinking beer with a level of levity and joyousness I have yet to experience anywhere else, I spend the day with others dreaming about a better world and discussing how to make it happen, then I usually wander into someone’s campsite for beer or coffee, or occasionally for bread and wine, and through all of this I get just enough of a glimpse of the Kingdom to once again prove to me that yes it is indeed all real and all worth it. To quote Ezekiel the festival replaces my heart of stone and gives me a heart of flesh year after year after year.
In short, the Goose converts me to my own faith, again and again.
Can you imagine a space more holy than that?
Welcome to The Wild Goose Festival.