This past Sunday marked my very first exposure to bluegrass. Since being appointed as pastor to Grace United Methodist Church here in Winfield, I have been told by church members, former Winfield residents and even some strangers on the street that the Walnut Valley Festival is the most exciting, joyful and chaotic experience that Winfield has to offer. The Sunday before the festival begins, Grace UMC has a tradition of inviting members of Carp Camp, one of the largest camp jam sessions of the festival, to lead worship. I had no idea what to expect for one of the most anticipated Sundays of the year.

When the day finally arrived, and 30 members of Carp Camp started rehearsing in the sanctuary, I felt this sense of excitement knowing that the God-given gifts of these musicians, whether they regularly attended church or not, were about to be unleashed on this sacred space. As the service progressed, I couldn’t help but think of the theology so deeply rooted in Celtic Christian thought which is best described as the blurring of the sacred and the secular. For Celtic Christians, the dualisms of the world cease to exist with the commitment to see God in the ordinary things of everyday life. This is what I witnessed on Bluegrass Sunday at Grace UMC. 

For one hour, the sacred and the secular converged, the church and the world became one as the brilliant symphony of guitars, autoharps, violins, digeridoos, hammer dulcimers, mandolins and a piece of vinyl drew all who bore witness closer to the sacred, to the God who calls us to sing and shout and dance. 

This week, as folks from all over the world arrive in Winfield for the festival, whether you are a bluegrass fan or not, I pray you see God in the ordinary. I pray you see God in the chaos of thousands more Winfield residents, in the joy of singing and dancing with strangers and friends, in the sea of tie-dye, and in moments mirroring on earth what it is in heaven.


Maddie Johnson is the Pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Winfield.

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