#DCFW13: A Free-Range Camping Retreat

DCFW13 Free-Range Worship

What began as a silly “protest committee” over dinner about an Internationally known spiritual festival withdrawing from the West Coast turned into an equally light-heartededly named spiritual camping retreat organized and run by those gathered that night – Domesticated Chicken Fest West 2013. As in, “Why the hell not?”

Too many times it seems, our churches and organized spiritual communities are structured in ways that empower a few to run the religious life of many. Pastors preach (more like a speech), governing boards maintain sole leadership, churches (i.e. a gathering of a spiritual community) meet in set-apart buildings with face-forward theater-style seating for the main once-a-week worship service. 

So, naturally, we did things a little differently.

To make our structure more “of the people,” we only allowed folks to lead, play and in any form facilitate an activity or discussion to those who would participate in the whole event. As we sought people to join and share at DCFW13, we could only say “yes” to their leadership if they planned to be with us for the duration.

Here’s a list of several folks who shared at Domesticated Chicken Fest West, held at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, north of Santa Cruz, CA, July 21-23:

Jer Swigart of The Open Door Community and The Global Immersion Project shared on the topic of Everyday Peacemaking. He described his family history and involvement in social justice and went on to speak of ways some current friends and colleagues in Palestine have extended themselves to others, blurring hardened ethnic/religious lines and simplistically, but poignantly, erasing unnecessary division.

Laura Kirk, co-organizer, gave an overview of the Enneagram personality (and dare I say spiritual) system and provided individual contemplative exercises as well as small group prayer practices based on type and similarity. Participants were given opportunities to take online tests and read materials to prepare beforehand if they so wished, while others brought material to assist in personality-type assessment during DCFW13.  

Martin Reed, a fish monger, discussed his experience and expertise on Ethical Eating. Owner of a sustainable fishery in San Francisco himself connecting fisherman and customers online, Martin shared the troubling waters of certain kinds of fish and their industry branding. Take away? Eat lower on the fish food chain and generally make sure whatever fish you eat is wild caught in the USA, which has tougher standards compared to most of the world. 

Elizabeth Hunnicutt, musician and singer-songwriter, accompanied by her acoustic guitar provided music and song during a worship service and communion on Monday evening. Later that night she performed several of her own songs as we lingered around the campfire, enraptured by her voice. Tripp Hudgins also perfectly joined her on a song with one of his skiffle-making stringed instruments he brought along (maybe he’ll comment with what it’s called?).   

Debra Avery and the aforementioned Tripp Hudgins curated and facilitated prayer and worship services throughout DCFW13. Using a blend of scripture reading, Benedictine Daily Prayer book, other selected readings, Taize and Taize-like songs, even a Mumford & Son tune or two (I assisted here), and their own words, the content of these communal prayer times was supplemented by the growing and shifting hands-on art prayer stations above and around the campfire.

Everyone was encouraged and enabled to add to our worship space throughout our 2 night and 3 day stay. 

Everyone could chime in during the presentations. Many conversations were started during the lecture/discussion periods and continued throughout DCFW13.

Everyone joined in a cooking or “food group” for eating and cleaning during meal times, even sharing home-brewed beer and tasty specialty coffee morning, noon and night.

Now, granted, many who were part of DCFW13 are pastors and professional theologians, but many were not… and that’s not counting children either.

There’s some wind of thought about doing this again next year. Perhaps we’ll change the name to something a bit more obviously spiritual, like Mother Hen Festival (my vote), but perhaps not. We’ll see what those involved think.




#rethinkchurch: world

Today I have felt the need for rest and rejuvenation. Or retreat and solitude. Our Midtown community of The WordHouse has been focusing on spiritual disciplines or practices during its worship gatherings. This is my world.

So right now, I’m under a blanket in our living room. I’m also staying connected to others, not including my thoughts of them, through Social media and the occasional text. Perhaps a bit too much, as I’ve been distracted by these media from my impromptu retreat. But it’s not all bad from where I sit. I just need to close my eyes, pray, and rest.