We’re headed home from Wild Goose Festival, a gathering of artists, activists, musicians, and theologians, in Hot Springs, N.C. It was hot, rainy, and messy. My suitcase smells like my fifth grade gym locker.
I can’t wait to go back next year.
The speakers are remarkable; many of them are walking the talk they’re offering, which is an unfortunately rare phenomenon. The music is fresh and exciting, the art is created before your eyes, and there is an energy of hopeful expectation that renews your soul, flushing out the broken-down-ness of daily life.
But the most important part of the whole four-day event lies in the unexpected moments. Sometimes I would walk along the main dirt road in the middle of the grounds, lined with tables, tents, and makeshift gathering spaces, until I saw something interesting going on and just joined in.
In one moment you’re debating the theological implications of the American food-industrial complex. Half an hour later, you’re laughing with new friends in the beer tent. And then, just when the sun sets and you’re sure you lack the fortitude to go one any more, the music on the main stage cranks up and the very earth beneath you vibrates.
There are few such opportunities for those of us among as the mainline Christians, progressives, emergents, and “spiritual but not religious” folks to experience fully embodied spiritual catharsis. We also long for deep community, to become a part of, and contribute to, a greater common narrative. But too often in our accelerated, distributed, and dizzyingly fractured culture, we forget we’re all part of a bigger tribe with a richer, broader culture than we can even imagine.
Wild Goose helps us reclaim that tribal identity, not so much just as Christians, but as fellow participants in a phenomenon that is humanity, made of heart, mind, body, and spirit. In our regular lives, it’s all too easy to lose connection with one or more of these pieces of who we are; as such we experience a disembodiment, which can lead to a crisis of personal and spiritual identity.
Who are we? Why are we here? What gives life meaning? Where is beauty being birthed in the world?
These are the kinds of questions that Wild Goose helps participants fully embrace while slogging through mud puddles and swatting away pesky bugs. But honestly, what’s a few bugs compared with the opportunity to be reignited by God’s breath, to experience a hint of the Pentecostal fires that sparked this whole movement to begin with?
And yes, there were Pentecostals, evangelicals, and Christian radicals there, too. It’s an unlikely assortment of God’s children, but somehow, year after year, it works.
It works because the inspired vision cast, molded, and shared is so much more compelling than our respective differences. In a manner of speaking, it’s a sort of annual jubilee, one in which we cast off our denominational and other distinguishing identities, flattening out the architecture of hierarchy and privilege (while acknowledging there’s still more flattening to do), in order to stand, shoulder to shoulder, on holy, common ground.
Christian Piatt is a Sojourners Featured Writer and an author, editor, speaker, musician, and spoken word artist. He is director of church growth and development at First Christian Church in Portland, Ore. Christian is the creator and editor of Banned Questions About The Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus . His memoir on faith, family and parenting is called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date .