Confession time: I never went to church camp. Unlike many, many of my Protestant sisters and brothers, (I was raised Roman Catholic.) I have no frame of reference for that quintessential summer experience that inspires as many conversions as it does hook-ups. When my friends and colleagues (mostly clergy) wax poetic about teary-eyed moments singing Jesus music by the campfire and stolen kisses in the bushes nearby, I glaze over, lacking the personal connection to that shared experience.
Now that I’ve been at the Wild Goose Festival — one part hippy campout, one part educational conference, and one part Christian tent revival — I’m guessing that this must be a little like what church camp is like. Every walk of (church) life seems to be represented. Former fundamentalists rub elbows with atheists. Transgendered pastors lead Gospel hour. Prominent movers and shakers from the emergent church movement share beers with participants. A Jewish rabbi lead Shabbat prayers for a mostly Christian crowd at sundown Friday.
As a panelist said during one of the sessions, I attended yesterday — our own salvation is inextricably tied to another person’s salvation. Meaning: I can’t live well unless YOU are living well. That panelist was speaking from the experience of creating community among homeless populations. Homelessness is primarily a relationship issue, they strongly suggested. Create community and you have no more homelessness “problem.”
Festival organizers seem to have created a space for a seemingly effortless beloved community in which generosity and hospitality reign and all seem truly welcome. There’s no one who you can’t sit next to and strike up a conversation without it seeming awkward. All are willing to give a hug and share a prayer. It’s a lot like a big intergenerational church camp, only with beer (at least for adults).
I feel like such a small thread in this bigger, fascinating tapestry; yet, somehow you still feel important. You can’t help but be changed by this kind of community and know that simultaneously that if you pulled your string from the fabric, it may not totally ravel, but it wouldn’t be the same or as beautiful.
I may not have changed this community substantially with my presence. Wild Goose was here before me. But, I have been changed in community. And, as I am changed, so is the community. Our salvation is linked after all.