Why I’m Attending the Racial Justice Institute at Wild Goose
by Jacqui Buschor
My first Wild Goose experience was truly transformative. It happened at a time when my worldview and theology where in major transition. I had grown up in a fairly conservative Lutheran church in rural Ohio (read: white as hell), but had recently started working and worshiping in an urban neighborhood in downtown Columbus, and found that what I thought about the world and about God and how God worked had to stretch to accommodate the new people and realities I was meeting. And, as is often the case with these things, it was a lonely process. Sifting through what I had been raised to believe and trying it all on to see what still fit. Playing a game of “real or not real” (before Peeta Mellarck made it cool), but I could rarely find someone brave enough to answer the question.
On the final day of that first year, I stood in the back of the crowd (like a good Lutheran) and listened to William Barber, fresh off the start of the Moral Monday Movement, preach with all his soul about the Gospel imperative for justice. He preached about the “the purpose of power and power of purpose.”
I was slayed.
He was giving voice to the things my heart knew to be true. Speaking about the power that movements like Wild Goose held to bring peace to the places the country had forgotten. Places like the neighborhood I had grown to love. He reminded us of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had taught us about power, that “power without love is reckless, and love with power is anemic.” And he challenged to us to place ourselves in the middle of power systems that threatened our neighbors. He told us all, “The only reason you come to Wild Goose is for a recharge. Because if you don’t leave Wild Goose and stand right in the face of domination and challenge it, there’s no need to come to Wild Goose.”
I wondered where messages like this had been my whole life. Why had I needed to go on such a pilgrimage to discover that Jesus’s main message had been about liberation for the oppressed? How had no one ever told me? And in the back of the crowd, in a blazing hot sun, the only answer that came to mind was this: the churches I’d spent my life in were too white. That oppressors, intentional or not, tend not to talk about oppression. And I knew opening up my spiritual journey to include some of these new depths and flavors would add to it’s richness in ways I couldn’t imagine.
In the years since, that has proven to be true. But a new concern is begun to stir in my spirit. At the close of last year’s festival, though there was a noticeable increase in the racial diversity of the attendees, I realized that somehow my life has changed so that my time at Wild Goose is now four of the whitest days of my year. And though I still ache for the time I spend at the festival ever year and am deeply grateful for the time of retreat and community it brings, I wonder if it’s not, on some level, missing the some of that same richness I didn’t know I needed just a few years before.
That’s why, this year, I’m excited to attend the Racial Justice Institute on Thursday, July 7th. Because I’m committed to making the festival the richest experience possible for myself, for those who travel with me, and for those of you who will camp beside us, and that means setting aside time and space for people of color. For hearing their unique voices. And for hearing and engaging the Jesus’s message against oppression in ways that are hidden from most of our privileged eyes.
From one avid Wild Goose-r to another, I invite you — urge you — to join this conversation, too. Come, camp an extra night, and make the intentional space in your Wild Goose experience to add to its richness.
As William Barber told us a few years back, the Bible tells us “Jesus went about doing good. He didn’t just pray for good. He just didn’t write books about good. He didn’t just have seminars about good. He went about doing good.” And, Wild Goosers,we cannot rightfully claim to stand with our brothers and sisters in experiences we’ve never taken the time to understand. And that if we aren’t willing to do that, as Dr. Barber said, we have little need for a community like Wild Goose at all.
Jacqui Buschor is committed to: following God; leading with humility; investing in people; seeking justice & redeveloping communities with dignity & love. This post originally appeared at Medium.com and is reprinted with permission.