The Wild Goose Festival

Written by Plant With Purpose on July 26, 2011 in General

by Colin Richard, long time Plant With Purpose volunteer and advocate

I just got back from the first annual Wild Goose (a Celtic symbol for the Holy Spirit) Festival, held in Shakori Hills, North Carolina. I can scarcely gather the words to describe it …

I heard about it a few months ago and can’t quite remember how, but once I got the gist of what it was about I was sold. A handful of my favorite authors/thinkers were going to be there, as well as one or two I had little knowledge of but was fascinated by nonetheless. I consulted the folks at Plant With Purpose and set up a plan to attend as a rep, and was looking forward very much to going.  Being a fairly sociable person, I was only a bit anxious about ending up being a tad lonely at such a wonderful event.

Even so, I knew the crowd that would be attending would gather like moths to a flame around Plant With Purpose’s mission, and that they might also take interest in an idea that I’d had on my heart for a while now: the Missional Permaculture Network International (MPNI). I learned about permaculture about two years ago, and it struck me deep when I did. Having been an impassioned, if somewhat frustrated, environmentalist (as most of them are, especially Christian ones) for years, who also happened to care deeply about social and humanitarian issues, permaculture was a figurative and I’d say literal Godsend. It’s essentially a comprehensive sustainable design system and philosophy, applicable to all aspects of the development and maintenance of human settlements. Wikipedia, the great fallback, has a great entry describing what it is in more detail.

Anyhow, after knowing about Plant With Purpose’s work for years and realizing that it is, at some times officially and at other times not, referred to as permaculture and also recognizing the growing fervor within the church to ‘care for Creation’, I saw a direct connection between what we as Christians understand as our (joyful!) mandate to care for the earth and each other and what permaculture had to offer. Other Christian development organizations, including high profile ones like World Vision, use the term permaculture in the field to describe some of their programs (especially agricultural ones). Yet the term rarely (if ever) makes it back from the field to the church. Add to this the fact that appropriate technologies in the developing world (sustainable agriculture, rainwater harvesting, small–scale animal husbandry, natural building) look an awful lot like the sustainability trends sweeping the nation and you’ve got a strong case for trying to make permaculture a house(of God)hold word.

Though the festival was more marathon than sprint and the geographical layout was somewhat decentralized, many of people came by the Plant With Purpose/MPNI booth; we were sandwiched between The Simple Way and Christian Peacemaker Teams, two organizations I have a lot of respect for. Come to think of it, anyone who doesn’t is just plain mean.

Some of the highlights were getting to listen to Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation and Frank Schaeffer speak, the latter being the son Francis Schaeffer and having led a somewhat turbulent life of grappling with faith. I was able to meet heroes of mine: Brian McLaren and Jim Wallis, and was even interviewed regarding Plant With Purpose by Tony Campolo, a man who will go down as one of my life’s great sages. Musical highlights included Derek Webb, Vince Anderson, and the spirited and supremely unique Psalters.

The whole time I was at the event, I was already dreaming of next year’s. And the next. And the one after that! I know I wasn’t alone – the vibe of many people enjoying simply being with each other and sharing their joys, sorrows, and struggles was undeniable. And with that, I’ll leave you with one final link here for those of you that want to have a retrospective look at what it was all about. The Wild Goose was definitely at the festival, and is everywhere; I’m still not sure who is chasing who.

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