Friday, May 03, 2013
Festival spirituality stories: Spin and Fibre Festival
I’m starting a research project, wanting to collect stories of Festival spirituality. It is an extension of a brief idea I sketched in my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change (emergentYS) and which I recently developed further.
Festival spirituality (working definition): an occasional period of community gathering for celebration, in which Christians intentionally participate, seeking to make the shalom of God more visible.
This Festival spirituality story – Spin and Fibre Festival comes from Frontier News, May 2013, 8-10. It relates to the 35th Bothwell International Highland Spin In and Fibre Festival, a biennial event held in Tasmania and comes from an interview with Rev Meg Evans, Patrol Minister, Midlands, Tasmania.
Held every two years, Meg is the unofficial chaplain for the festival, which was started by a group of Uniting Church women who were spinning wool to raise funds to restore the church tower. Bothwell is one of the smaller communities in the Patrol located in the Central Highlands, 70 km northwest of Hobart. It has a long history in Merino wool production and the festival remains a huge event for both local and international visitors showcasing crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.
“On the Friday, we shear a sheep for the fleece, and then we hold a ‘Blessing of the Fleece.’ The wool is given out to people to spin during the weekend. On the Sunday I hold a service in the school gym, surrounded by all this wonderful creativity. It is just a great community celebration.”
“People come and tell me how much they enjoy it. I think the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.”
Some interesting things to note
- gift – the involvement of the church begins with “Blessing”. This suggests a thankfulness. What is blessed (the Fleece) is then given away to participants
- risk – This clearly involves risk, that the gift might not be “unwrapped,” might not be utilised. Or it might be “wrapped” in a way contrary to the values of the giver.
- theology of creation – the connection to wool, as the product of local industry, as the lifeblood of what this community, this land, produces. A celebration both of the gift of wool, but also of the creative gifts that surround wool – “crafts and skills associated with superfine wool.”
- being church as spun (interwoven) presence, first in being close enough to the land to be aan initiating participant, second in being a worshipping presence through the festival, both from the initial blessing through to the service, third in the theology of Meg, “the fact that the Church is there speaks to people.” The church began this event, but was willing to give it away. The church is willing to be one of many participants, many strands, in the fibre of this event. It does not need to own it nor control it.
So this Festival spirituality is mission as chaplain, celebrating creation, with particular attention to presence, participation, gift and risk.
Questions for discussion
- I wonder what things might be worth celebrating in your community – what gifts of “creation” and “creativity” you could bless?
- I wonder how you might take risks and invite people to participate in these gifts?
- What might an authentic presence look like? Think about this both from your perspective as a church and from the perspective of visitors and locals.