[Guest Post by Mike King]
Seven years ago, shortly after attending the Greenbelt Festival, I had an idea that I thought was original: North America needed something like Greenbelt.
We needed a festival that allowed new ways of thinking, unleashed imaginative conversation, featured great art and artists, emphasized justice, embraced deep spirituality, nurtured an environment of diversity and hospitality and provided a place for lifelong friendships to form and grow.
I spoke to several friends about my thoughts and soon learned that there were others who were also talking about a North American version of Greenbelt. Before long I was engaged in deep conversations with Karla Yaconelli, Tony Jones, and others about this idea.
Mike and Karla Yaconelli had talked for years about the idea of doing something similar in the USA. Robin Fillmore and a group of people involved with Sojourners had also been in dialogue about this idea. Once we found this synergy, a team of people came together to work on a feasibility study about the possibility of launching a US festival.
For a long time all we ever seemed to do was meet and talk about it. We met in Washington, in Virginia, and in Kansas City, plus we held video and conference calls. We developed plans and tried to organize. Every time we met, something seemed to surface that caused our teams and progress to stall. Finally, after another wonderful planning meeting in Kansas City, great ideas emerged but, once again, no one stepped up with a plan to take the lead.
This led to Robin Fillmore, Ian Cron, Karla Yaconelli and myself making a pact with each other that we would put our necks, time, resources and passions on the line to finally move forward. We recruited Topher Philgreen to establish a 501c3 for the Wild Goose Festival, which got us up and running. We made several more trips to the Greenbelt Festival to solicit help and learn from their staff. Their generosity and expertise was vital for moving the launching of a Wild Goose Festival forward.
We also received a significant jolt of energy when Joy Carroll Wallis joined the Wild Goose Board. For a period of time we functioned with an interim director but it became clear that the Wild Goose Festival would need full time staff if it were going to actually take flight. We narrowed the field of candidates for the role of Director down to two amazing individuals and after a round of interviews it became clear to us that we had found a leader who could catapult us forward. I have been blessed immeasurable by what a dear friend and excellent leader Gareth Higgins has become. Through Gareth’s apostolic leadership the Wild Goose took flight and began to soar. We hired a great staff of people like Jacob Kuntz, Laurel Meath and Mike Morrell. The addition of Melvin Bray to the Wild Goose Board was another significant development leading up to the first festival.
As we prepare for Wild Goose’s second year this June, it is surreal to think back to the months leading up to the first festival. I remember conversations with Gareth where we wondered if the first Wild Goose Festival would actually take flight. But that first Wild Goose not only happened, but it became an amazing ride. To see old friends and new friends streaming in to Shakori Hills with anticipation, hope and curiosity was overwhelming for so many of us. I remember being filled with astonishment, gratitude and humility throughout the first festival. For four days I felt like I was floating just off the ground as I made my way around the festival. I was amazed and grateful for so many artists, speakers, authors and contributors that came to participate, not for the sake of getting another gig, but for the passion of helping create a culture-making experience that left them feeling fully alive and fulfilled.
It was also awe-inspiring to see festival-goers coming to Wild Goose with aspirations for helping to create a wide open space for community, friendship, civility, hospitality, creativity, exploration, learning, dialogue, justice and worship. I remember feeling frustrated that after all the years of planning, working and launching the Wild Goose Festival, I couldn’t take it all in. There were so many conversations, concerts, speakers, artists, events, shows, movies, prayer practices, panels, and productions happening all the time that it was impossible to experience it all. The festival not only existed, but it had taken on a life of it’s own.
I love our Wild Goose flock, staff, volunteers, the board, and the contributors who have embraced the Wild Goose because they see the vision of what it is becoming. I believe that the Wild Goose Festival is pregnant with potential to alter the face of Christianity in North America and change our culture’s view of what it means to be a person of faith, hope and love.
Mike is in his 36th year in youth ministry and serves as President/CEO of Youthfront. Youthfront is a community committed to creating holistic, missional environments for Christian formation. Mike also serves as the Executive Editor ofImmerse: A Journal of Faith, Life and Youth Ministry, is an Elder in his church – Jacob’s Well, serves on several boards, including Chairman of The Wild Goose Festival, and is an adjunct Professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City. His current book is Presence Centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation (InterVarsity Press). Mike and his wife, Vicki, live in Kansas City, Missouri. They have two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law and a granddaughter.