I ventured into Bushnell, Illinois last Wednesday to celebrate with thousands of folks the 25th anniversary of the Cornerstone Festival hosted by Jesus People USA. I only knew a little about their history. what I learned about them this past week has challenged the living out my faith in community with fellow Christian brothers and sisters. They were very hospitable people. I have no complaints. Normally, when I enter into cultural spaces staturated by white cultural performances I have a small feeling of unease. Although the festival was predominantly attended by white Christians I felt like I belonged there. Of course I have an appreciation for festival-esque gatherings. It is a wonderful aesthetic for free form artistic creative expression, community, and challenge.
I was only able to see a few performances on the main stage. Over the Rhine, The Dave Crowder band, The Robbie Seay band, Charlie Peacock, and the Glenn Kaiser Band. I was blown away by the creativity of the young folks showing off their skills along the roadsides of the festivals. It was pretty cool being handed fliers by aspiring young musicians trying to get the word out about their music.
A highlight was participating in the litany, lament, and storytelling of the Jesus for President tour hosted by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. We had some very robust dialogue about their confession and witness. I really appreciated the way they narrated the Bible’s story along with moments in church history and tradition where Christians pledged allegiance to the Christ and not the Emperor or State. And the way many Christians, today, pledge allegiance to these earthly powers with undying submission to meta-narratives of violence, militarism, racism, imperialism, sexism, and consumerism.
I also had some great conversation with Miroslav Volf, William Cavanaugh, Michael Budde, Crystal Downing, Jonathan Case, Dave Zimmerman. Very respected and talented theologians, scholars, and writers. I was honored to sit with them and chat. Its strange sitting with folks you’ve read over the years. Whose writings have had profound impact on the way I think and try to practice the Faith.
Really enjoyed worshipping and fellowshipping with my sister, Karen Sloan. We had some great convo about the emerging church, worship, and life in general. She’s a wise soul. I appreciate the gift of her hospitality.
As always meeting people you’ve only ‘known’ in the blogosphere is always a plus. It was great to put names to faces…and actual people.
I was moved by the sessions we had on God’s Callin’ A Bluespeople. Which was my topic. I’ll be posting more reflection on that later. Interestingly enough, the Jesus for President tour gave a faithful performance of the tragic-comic hope of the blues I was attempting to convey during our sessions. They did a better job than me with this topic, I believe. There was no coordination or anything like that. It just so happened they had the bluesy lament and hope of the negro spirituals in-between episodes of the narration of their performance. We had some great dialogue. I especially enjoyed the push back by some of my conversation partners. I did introduce some provocative topics (e.g. the now famous Jeremiah Wright controversy) that gave example of how the church in North America failed to take advantage of a moment to sing the blues with their brothers and sisters in Christ. And what happens when we do sing the blues together. More on that later.
Another highlight was the night of the 4th of July. We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the festival, worshipped together, and had Eucharist together. I was so caught up in worship and Eucharist with brothers and sisters I totally forgot it was the 4th. Which is probably the point of worship and Eucharist in the first place.
More thoughts on that later.