3 Lessons from Wild Goose: Holy Rest, Holy Mischief, and Holy Reconciliation

By Elaina Ramsey 7-02-2014
Fireflies in the night. Image courtesy Fer Gregory/shutterstock.com.
Fireflies in the night. Image courtesy Fer Gregory/shutterstock.com.

This past week I was surrounded by an eclectic mix of barefoot wanderers, edgy thinkers, and hippie-hipsters at the Wild Goose festival. While none of these descriptors necessarily apply to me, I found myself quite at home at the Goose.

Through justice, spirituality, and the arts, we sought a “fresh public expression of what it means to follow God in the way of Jesus.” Together, we engaged in what it means to be the beloved community, while exploring the systems of bondage—racism, militarism, sexism, materialism, and heteroism to name a few—that keep us separated.

While the Goose refuses to be tamed, I managed to glean some lessons from this earthy-crunchy gathering that may be instructive to other followers of the Way.

  1. We need to rest.

    In an age of fast faith, the invitation to rest can seem out of place at best and unrealistic at worst. Keeping up with the demands of ministry and the 24/7 news cycle has led to burn out among leaders, clergy, and activists. #thestruggleisreal.

    At Wild Goose, however, participants are challenged to practice holy rest. Contrary to popular opinion, camping in the back woods of North Carolina without wi-fi can actually be liberating. Gone are the pressures to post snarky tweets and pithy Facebook posts. Gone is the nagging need to blog about every scandal or tidbit of news. Rather, the wisdom of the Goose says that connection with God is central.

    Through various prayer offerings, time for spiritual direction, and speakers like C. Christopher Smith (a pioneer of the Slow Church movement), the Goose affirms that self-care and Sabbath are necessary for sustaining our souls. Most of all, we are reminded to abide in God, for our worth is not based on our doing—but in our being.
  2. We need to play.

    From hosting electronic dance revivals and nightly “Beer n' Hymns” to featuring the hijinks of Christian carnies, the Goose sure knows how to let loose. Yet, this holy mischief is often missing in our life and work together.

    In our resistance to empire and the systems of domination that pervade our life and being, we tend to take ourselves too seriously. For many, Christianity has become staid and void of imagination.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we risked it all like holy fools? What if we mocked the powers that be through creative civil disobedience? What if we embraced our enemies and welcomed them as family? What if we reshaped our traditions, programs, and liturgies to allow the Spirit to move in mysterious and magical ways? What if we dreamed of a better world and danced it into being? What IF?
  3. We need to engage in racial issues better.

    At the risk of turning these musings into a train wreck, let’s talk about the third rail of religion and politics: race. Kristen Howerton said it best during her presentation on white privilege: “Christians suck at talking about racial issues.”

    In 1987, Jim Walls wrote about America’s original sin—racism. A quarter-century later, Jim discussed the same topic at the Goose, with recent stories about Trayvon Martin, Donald Sterling, and the Voting Rights Act as damning examples of how our nation continues to struggle with systemic racism. I’d love to say that Jim was preaching to the choir, but we can’t talk about racial justice enough. It’s time to start owning our power and privilege—even at the Goose.

    Case in point: After Kathy Khang gave a rousing testimony about why we need to listen to minority voices as allies in the justice movement, a white woman raised her hand and asked, “How do I go about choosing a people group to support?” While I appreciate the sentiment, comments like this—and another Goose interaction I had where I was tokenized as an Asian—make me want to scream.

    For the love of all that is holy, we need to stop treating racial justice as a hobby. Together, we must start naming the sins of racism and be in solidarity with those on the margins. For followers of Christ, nothing less than reconciliation will do.

    May it be so.

Elaina Ramsey is assistant editor of Sojourners.

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