Spirit. Love. Justice. Dirt.

Guest post by breathesinglove

7/14/18, Hot Springs Campground

I am literally covered in dirt. Sweat is dripping down my…well, everywhere. Noises surround me in a beautiful symphony of love and peace. Justice-seeking people of all ages singing, dancing, listening, sharing stories while drinking beer or fresh squeezed lemonade. Everyone around me is covered in dirt, too. Some have body paint or colored powder on their bodies, some have glitter feathers in their hair. Many have sayings or symbols on their clothing, promoting love, community, peace, hope.

Our hearts are so full of joy and the sense of community is so strong that we don’t notice whether or not the stranger next to us is covered in dirt or took their “showers” in the river yesterday. Near the bench where I sit is the amazing Mark Miller leading us in worship, saying, “You are a child of God. No matter what the world says or thinks about you.”

Someone just brought me a chocolate, with a smile and a sense of gratitude for sharing my story. This stranger I met just a few minutes ago, and now we share things. Yesterday I was invited to a potluck supper, to share in a meal with a “tribe with no name.” I had nothing to offer but a smile and grateful heart, and the tribe welcomed me without question. Some familiar faces around the campsite greeted me with smiles and hugs.

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The Wild Goose Festival is a place where strangers quickly become friends, where the Spirit’s presence is thicker than the humidity, and the kingdom of God is a glimmer in each person’s eyes. Hope stirs in our souls and permeates the campground as each person’s voice enters the conversation and is honored and celebrated. We lament with one another as we share stories of grief, pain, and suffering. We celebrate one another’s uniqueness and the beautiful expressions of community and interconnectedness. Art, music, storytelling, nature, food, drinks, laughter, hugs, silence, dancing, conversation, meditation, blessings, prayers, chants –these are our ways of engaging with one another and with God. This is how we “goose.”

Each year I leave the Goose with a heart full of gratitude, a mind buzzing with ideas, and a greater sense of hope, that I am not alone in this work of compassion and justice. I’m inspired to keep breaking down the walls of prejudice and leading people into a greater sense of community, based on God’s unconditional love and grace.

I am “Deacon Shannon.”  This is my story.

Shannon LeMaster-Smith is a Deacon in the United Methodist Church, a clergy order ordained to Word, Service, Compassion and Justice. She currently serves in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. She has a M.A. in Conflict Resolution and 10+ years of experience in youth ministry. Her call is to help people experience the transforming love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit and to equip and empower them to share God’s love and grace with others. She enjoys singing and playing board games and is married to her best friend, Dr. Jonathan LeMaster-Smith.

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