General CBF

Wild Goose Festival: A Baptist Reflection (Part 1)

The third annual Wild Goose Festival was recently held in North Carolina. This outdoor event – intended to “heal divisions between conservative, progressive and moderate Christians” – featured several Baptists as both participants and presenters.

Brian Kaylor, a professor at James Madison University and contributing editor of, spoke about discovering an unknown manuscript written by Clarence Jordan about the life of Christ while doing research on the late Baptist pioneer at the Koinonia Farms archives in Americus, Georgia.

Ryan Clark, CBF specialist and training manager for self-funded field personnel, attended the festival with his daughter. Read Part 1 of his reflections below:

by Ryan Clark

People around me kept saying, “It sounds really cool…I wish I could go.” And I kept thinking, “It’s camping and it’s been raining nonstop and we’d just timed our leaving the Philippines so we could miss rainy season!”Wildgoose2

Then, a few friends from my seminary days told me they were going. And the speaker line-up looked great. So, I packed up my tent and 4.5 year-old daughter Emily Jane and began the adventure to North Carolina for our first Wild Goose Festival.

You’ve heard of Brian McLaren and Phillip Yance and maybe even Phyllis Tickle, and you rememebr that song “Mr. Wendal” (all teens of the 90s remember the catchy tune about a ‘bum’ with dignity from alternative hip-hop group Arrested Development). Well, Speech was there.

Maybe like my wife, you read Momastery, a popular parenting blog by Glennon Doyle Melton, and you’ve fantasized about picking her brain more about what she’ll do now that her kids are old enough to Google her and read what she says about them…

These folks were the initial enticers that got Emily Jane and I headed up to Hot Springs, North Carolina for the 3rd annual Wild Goose Festival.

Wild Goose is a “community gathered at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music and art.” This main event is an outdoor festival of about 2,000 camping participants and hosts a variety of speakers and artists.

“Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace. It is in this context along the banks of the French Broad River where I attended seminars on money matters, non-violence, sustainable communities, art and Scripture, the future of the church and several other conversations on how the church can be more engaged in social issues.

This year’s theme was “Remembering the body” and taglined with a phrase that called on its participants to “re-imagine how to build community amidst difference, and to consider both our physical bodies and their strengths, challenges, needs and gifts.”

I was struck by how every aspect of the event not only challenged participants to think in a new way, but also to practice in a new way. As a Baptist, I appreciated the emphasis on freedom and perspectives on important things to me that didn’t come from my dear Baptist bubble.

One morning at the main stage, the musical artists ran into the audience and handed instruments to folks. Emily Jane pounded the bass drum as kids and adults dance. I genuinely appreciated the time with my daughter and the expectation that she was as valuable a participant as I was.

As I schlepped through mud and rain for half a mile to the next venue, I kept thinking, “This better be worth it.” And I was never disappointed by a single session.

My only disappointment was that the schedule was too full and the childcare didn’t cover a long enough time-frame. But, this also became a really sweet blessing. During a truly “grown-up” event, I got to spend time with my daughter who started pre-K on the Monday after we returned.

Rain fell, sounds from various venues bled through into adjacent break-outs and kids ran in and out of mud as we all wandered into leaky spaces to commune. And I realized my Wild Goose Experience was paralleling our service in the Philippines as CBF field personnel.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Ryan Clark’s Wild Goose Festival reflections.

7 thoughts on “Wild Goose Festival: A Baptist Reflection (Part 1)

  1. Sorry I did not see you there Ryan. Some folks at the McAfee tent told me you were there. After going to the past 2 Wild Goose festivals, it was good to see more CBF type folks there this year! What a great time.

  2. Ryan, I didn’t realize you spoke some German. Good to read about you “schlepping” yourself through the rain and mud. Your reflections also made me want to go next time.

  3. Pingback: Wild Goose Festival Part 2: Thoughts on Chick-fil-A and faith | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog

  4. Pingback: Wildgoose Festival Part 3: A Confession about violence during nonviolence week | Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Blog

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