The Sept. 18 edition of The Living Church is available online to registered subscribers. In this issue’s cover essay, John Zambenini writes about the annual Burning Man festival in Nevada:
America’s most visible countercultural experience included its first Eucharist this year. Burning Man is a festival — there’s no better word — of self-expression, art, radical self-reliance, and partying. About 70,000 devotees trek to the Nevada desert each summer for the festival, which culminates with the burning of a giant, a stylized sculpture of a man. The festival meets on the last Sunday in August through Labor Day.
A small but committed cadre of Episcopal clergy and laity who have become Burners are beginning to express their faith at the pop-up desert community on the playa. The word describes both the festival’s landscape (a flat-floored bottom of an undrained desert basin) and its ethos (in Spanish, playa means beach). The playa is a thin strand between what Burners call “the default world,” known for its jobs and automobiles and consumption, and an ocean of imagined possibility for what a community might be.
This year marks the first time there has been a concerted effort to organize an Episcopal presence at the temporary city that appears in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for a week. Boasting a dozen members, a Facebook group banded around a Eucharist at the Burning Man Temple. The Very Rev. Brian Baker, dean of Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, celebrated the service Sept. 1.