Story and photo
By Candace Buell Landry
FORT WAYNE, Ind. – For nearly a year, the Lion & Lamb team has been dreaming, praying and planning for the community that would gather at the Lion & Lamb Festival at Praise Park in Fort Wayne, during the Labor Day weekend. On the last weekend in August, those dreams and prayers became a reality. The event was attended in whole or in part by more than 300 people.
The vision of the planning team was to create “an inviting space to allow important conversations to emerge” and that “these conversations will embolden us to act on issues of spirituality and justice for the transformation of our communities and the world.”
Through art, music and spoken word, participants engaged in conversations about faith, justice, hope and peace. The festival featured blogger and author, Rachel Held Evans, pastor and author, Bruce Reyes-Chow and Chris Lahr of The Simple Way, as well as music by John Tibbs, heatherlyn, and Andrew Peterson, among others.
On the community that gathered at the festival, Evans, popular blogger and author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, said she is inspired by, “seeing people take some of these ideas and do something with them. It’s changing how they relate with their neighbors and how they relate in a church setting. Seeing that and hearing their stories gives me a lot of hope.”
The open format of the festival allowed room for participants to create their own unique experience. Each morning began with worship from the main stage. During the afternoon, attendees were free to listen to music in the amphitheater, engage with speakers active in various areas of faith in the Speakers’ Tent, talk with mission and justice exhibitors or participate in conversation and prayer in the Community Tent.
The Rev. Russ Abel, lead pastor of Saint Joseph United Methodist Church (which owns and operates Praise Park), describes the festival in this way, “One of the most powerful parts of the Lion & Lamb Festival for me was ‘space.’ There was space for people to simply be. There was space to engage or space to find solitude. There was physical space. Spiritual space. Open space. In that space you could explore, rest or engage. It was outstanding.”
Abel concluded by saying, “We so often talk about Christian community as a ‘thing’ apart from reality and something that might happen sometime somewhere. At Lion & Lamb, it happened. You could see it, point to it, and join it.”
At the final evening gathering, singer/songwriter Heatherlyn sang “My hope lives strong in the freedom of love. Love, that’s moving, changing, healing. Love, that’s only just begun. It’s only just begun. This is my hope.”
And that is this community’s hope. That we have only just begun – just begun the conversation, just begun the relationships and just begun to celebrate our hope in Christ. Join the community. Like Lion and Lamb Festival on Facebook. Follow @lionandlambfest on Twitter. Watch for exciting updates coming soon.
Candace Buell Landry serves as a member of the Lion & Lamb planning team. She lives with her pastor-husband the Rev. Matthew Landry in Winamac, Ind.