The Wild Goose Festival is a community creating a festival at the intersection of justice, spirituality, and art. The first festival took place in June 2011. We take inspiration from many places, such as Greenbelt, Burning Man, the Iona Community, SXSW, and others. The festival is open to everyone; we don’t censor what can be said; we invite respectful — but fearless — conversation and action for the common good.
During the summer, I attended the Wild Goose Festival with my daughter, Zion, and one of my dear friends and VDS alumna, Jennifer Lane. We did not know much about the festival, outside of being told that there would be music, theology, and nature. In short – our kind of trip! So Zion and I loaded the car with a four-sleeper tent, snacks, water, and bug spray, and hit the road on Friday, July 10. It took us a little over four hours to get there, but it was definitely worth the drive! The first thing I noticed when entering the town of Hot Springs, North Carolina, were the mountains (cue one long deep and appreciative sigh): The blessed and beautiful mountains! The festival location is snuggled, and I do mean snuggled, comfortably in the hills of the Appalachian Trail, and is even one of the go-to towns for Appalachian hikers who are taking a quick break from the trail or swinging by to pick up packages.
The festival is surrounded by the Western North Carolina Mountains and is situated alongside the French Broad River, which motivated me to find the perfect camping spot. I am happy to report that I was able to secure a riverside location. So at night, we went to sleep listening to the babbling water as it scurried across river rocks. And in the morning, we awoke to sunlight and the water’s continuous and peaceful chatter. The impressive landscape, as coupled with the many and diverse speakers throughout Friday-Sunday, are what made this experience truly remarkable.
Jennifer and I not only attended the Wild Goose Festival because of the scenery and the speakers, but also because we were happy to represent VDS and share the stories of our theological education with interested folks. We met many other seminary students, together with having the great fortune of experiencing thought-provoking theological workshops. VDS alumna, Jennifer Bailey, led my favorite workshop: Interfaith Partnerships For The Common Good. I went thinking I knew a little bit about what interfaith means, and left learning more about the global religious world and my responsibility within and alongside it (faithmattersnetwork.org). Jennifer, a military chaplain, attended Zachary Moon’s speaking event: Ministry With Veterans and Military Families. Jennifer purchased his book and was able to speak with him about her ministry, The Veterans Chapel (www.theveteranschapel.org). I also ran into Andrew Weitze, currently a student in the Vanderbilt Graduate School’s department of religion and a buyer and assistant manager for Books and Bibles at The United Methodist Publishing House, along with two other VDS alumni: Alba Onofrio, contributor to the newly published anthology, Revolutionary Mothering: Love on The Front Lines, and Andrew William Smith, preacher AND teacher! What a whirlwind of theological voices and encounters!
As Sunday approached, Zion, Jennifer, and I made sure to spend a few hours wading in the river. We also enjoyed participating in a Beer & Hymns group and visited Hot Springs, located directly across from the festival. Throughout this time of community, old friends, and new friends—coupled with nature and retreat—God was among us. God, in all God’s fluid forms, was found in the mountains, the river, and the people. The Wild Goose Festival is theology, religion, and spirituality – alive.
by Sherri Person, MDiv’15