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“It’s really a magical place”

By June 23, 2016Guest Post

Guest post by Sojourners’ Rob and Hannah Wilson-Black

What do you get when you combine the 1960s rock festival Woodstock’s vibe, the Taize community’s singing, the Chautauqua Institution’s events, and the Aspen Ideas Festival’s speakers? Hey, get real — those four things cannot be combined, in part because of geography, brand confusion, and a time-continuum issue.


But imagine they could be and you could attend with your family and friends and survive to tell the tale because you could actually remember them on your ride home? That’s the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, N.C., July 7-10 — and you are officially invited to join us and a couple thousand of your best friends in this surprisingly intimate gathering of faith, art, hymns (and beer even!), rich reflections on life and faith, and good ole down-home fellowship across the tents and river wading. The common metaphor for the Holy Spirit in the British Isles is the wild goose, so that provides a clue as to what you’ll find at the Wild Goose Festival.

Here’s what my 15-year-old daughter Hannah texted me last night about our time at the WG Festival: “The first image that the Wild Goose Festival brings to mind is a small village of bike-riding, creative hippie-hermits who cultivate a culture of sharing. It’s really a magical place. Though everyone at Wild Goose is very different, one thing that ties us all together is a certain knack for making something out of nothing. We make an acre or two of land into festival grounds, hundreds of attendees into a family, trash into art, even, and a collective spirit into music. And if that’s not magic I don’t know what is.”

While I’ve never considered myself a hippie, other than intellectually perhaps (I think by hermit she means her fellow introverts are welcome), Hannah has it right. All three of our children, from when they were very young to now well into high school, have enjoyed their time at the Wild Goose, and as parents we don’t spend much time tracking their whereabouts throughout the day (I hope I’m allowed to admit that — the story of young Jesus being lost on the way out of Jerusalem should give me pause).

What seals the deal for me this year is the amazing Emily Saliers and Amy Ray as the Indigo Girls will be there, as will worship leader extraordinaire Tripp Hudgins and Anna Golladay’s artistic genius. Especially since people claim old friends and new family will be found at Wild Goose, it was a wonderful surprise to discover my college buddy Tripp, elementary school friend Anna, and new songwriting teacher Emily are all connected to Wild Goose! I can’t promise you’ll find your childhood friends and new mentors here, but it would not shock me in the slightest as that is my recent Wild Goose discovery.

Whether you’re enjoying NOT having to be at the kids’ tent with your own wonderful kids, wading in the river and hiking through forests with new colleagues, or learning more about implicit bias, slow church, and social movements’ ties to scripture, you can be sure that at the Wild Goose, you’ll find all this and more. So while you can find new ideas without Aspen, cool institutions without Chautauqua, tent communities without Woodstock, and music without Taize, why not come to Wild Goose and experience a bit of it all? I’ll see you down by the river on my bike singing “Closer to Fine” this July.

Robert Wilson-Black, PhD is CEO of Sojourners ( and a board member of The Wild Goose Festival. Hannah Wilson-Black is a ninth-grader at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC and is the creator of


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