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Rick Meredith

For anyone who’s ever struggled with “worship” – we feel you.

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By Lenora Rand

One word you won’t see mentioned a lot on the Wild Goose Festival schedule this year is “worship.” That’s not because we won’t be having times in which the Goose community is invited to come together to sing and pray and speak and move and open ourselves up to God, and to each other, and to another way of seeing the world, another way of being in the world, a way that’s true and empowering, that promotes justice and makes a difference…which is an activity which you might refer to as “worship.”

We will be doing that a lot. It’s just that we won’t be calling it “worship.” Intentionally.

Why not? Not just to be different. Or difficult. It’s because we are honestly not sure it’s a word that really works anymore. It may be too weighted with history and hurt, like a broken piece of stained glass…it may still be pretty, but watch out…it cuts deep.

For many of us who find ourselves at the Goose, the word “worship” doesn’t feel right because it conjures up images of rooms full of people who all look very much alike in the color of their skin, in their socio-economic status, in their politics and world-views, where people talk about how God loves them and no one not like them, so that it seems like, when they sing words like “how great is our God,” what they really mean is  “how great is our tribe and the God of our tribe.” In these rooms what goes on is meant to make everyone feel better, reinforce a particular insular worldview, call people to personal piety, and not challenge assumptions about race, or inequality or gender or power or privilege.

It also often brings to mind gatherings where people remain silent about their unbelief, about all their doubts and questions and sadness and shame, where God is offered up as the ultimate escape, a way to avoid whatever is too painful to look at, whether that’s the NOT-miraculously-fixed-by-the-love-of-Jesus shit inside us, or the deep systemic issues of our society.

Also there’s the fact that the word “worship” actually comes out of a time of kings and rulers and gods who demanded subservience and adulation in order to let their subjects continue living…in order not to slay them on the spot. It is a word born of violence and oppression, perhaps first adopted by Christians as a way of subverting the belief that the kings and rulers of the day had any ultimate power over them, any power to harm them or to save them. It was, perhaps, a way for the fledgling, rag-tag group of Jesus-followers to thumb their noses at the whole world order. Much like many in the LGBTQIA community have reclaimed the word Queer, taking a word that was once hurtful and subverting it into a proclamation of pride, this was a way for the early church to basically say “we won’t bow down to the ruling class’s view of people, of what’s important, of what’s acceptable and good and just.”  

Unfortunately the word “worship” seems to have shaped and interpreted our gatherings through the years, more than our gatherings have reinterpreted and reshaped it. Too often in our Sunday morning worship times we sing songs of praise to God as if our lives depended on it. As if God needed it. We often seem to miss the point that our coming together is not something we do to appease the gods. Or to celebrate our power and might to win the war for our tribe, our point of view, our exclusive hold on the truth.

So, at the Goose, we have been making space throughout the weekend when we can come together as a whole community, not to appease a kingly God of wrath, and fall down at God’s feet in submission and fear, but rather to join in praise that our God doesn’t need appeasing. We have a team of people, the TOGETHERINGS Guild, who have been imagining and creating these gatherings as celebrations of the God who loves us desperately, and loves this whole wide world. Gatherings meant to disrupt the status quo and help us stop worshipping the gods of violence and greed and division and exclusion and scarcity that surround us. Gatherings meant to build our courage to live our lives under a different kind of rule –  the rule of love.

You will find these Goose-wide Togetherings happening every day on the main stage – Gathering the Goose with Nadia Bolz-Weber on Thursday night; Waking the Goose with William Barber on Friday morning; Waking the Goose with Otis Moss III and the Trinity UCC Choir on Saturday morning: and Sending the Goose with Sister Simone, Trinity Choir, a full Community Parade, Jeff Clark, and more on Sunday morning.  (If you want to sing in the choir for these gatherings, by the way, you can come to a rehearsal at the main stage Friday and Saturday afternoons at 4:30.)

You’ll also find many other opportunities to come together throughout the weekend to sing and dance and pray and lament, to offer praise and confession, share bread and wine and hopes and fears, to welcome Spirit…in all kinds of different ways, everything from a Catholic Mass to a  Christo-Shamanic Transfiguration Ceremony, to, late Friday night, a Wild & Holy Rite of Resistance with Claudio Carvalhaes (a participatory performance art meets liturgy meets music experience, culminating in communion) — and so many more it would take too long to list them all here.  

We hope you will find time to join in some of these scheduled gatherings… though who knows where and when and how many other unplanned ones will happen in tents and around campfires, over a beer or an ice cream.

Oh, and if you want to call any of these times “worship” you’re more than welcome to. No judgment. Plus, if you’d like to join in some conversations about worship and justice and inclusion, you’ll find several workshops on that topic at the Goose this year too.

Finally,  if you have any brilliant ideas for a word (or symbol) to replace the experience formerly known as “worship,” (“Togetherings”? “Openings”? “Love Feast”? “Disruptions”?) we’re all ears.

Holy troublemaker Sister Simone at Wild Goose!

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Wild Goose is thrilled to announce that Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus will be the 2017 Wild Goose Festival Sunday closing speaker! Lawyer, poet, author, and executive director of the Network social justice group – Sister Simone is a holy troublemaker – or as she proudly claims, “stomach acid in the body of Christ.” Get to the Goose this summer!

We’re honored and EXCITED that she’ll be joining what promises to be a powerful and passionate conclusion to the Wild Goose 2017 weekend. From the speakers to the music to the incredible, inclusive community gathered together once more, the 2017 Wild Goose Festival promises to be a life giving, life changing, and genuinely co-creative experience.

Censured by the Vatican in 2012 for promoting “radical feminist themes,” Simone and fellow nuns, determined to continue their activism and advocacy, responded by launching “Nuns on the Bus,” a yearly cross-country tour. Simone and Nuns on the Bus travel far and wide each year fighting for the voices of everyone on the margins to be heard. Sister Simone Campbell speaks truth to power, and is known to raise holy hell when the situation calls for it.

Sister Simone Campbell has appeared on 60 Minutes and The Colbert Report, testified before Congress, spoken at the Democratic National Convention, has been invited to a one-on-one Oval Office meeting with President Obama.

We’re ready to be holy troublemakers, shakers and movers – co-creators of justice, peace, equality, and love right here and right now! Let’s do this!

Reaching for new metaphors: An interview with Diana Butler Bass

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Perhaps no one looks through the past to the future more clearly than Diana Butler Bass.

Diana Butler Bass, who is returning to the Wild Goose this summer, is an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Duke University and has written nine books, including the influential Christianity after Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (2012) and the award-winning Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution (2015). She also writes at both The Huffington Post and The Washington Post, and comments on religion, politics, and culture in the media including USA TODAY, Time, Newsweek, CBS, CNN, FOX, PBS, and NPR. We were happy she could take some time out of her busy speaking and writing schedule to chat with us.

WG: One of the things we love about your books is that you bring so much knowledge to the table, but also new language…so much beauty and metaphor and lyricism.

DBB: Thank you, I struggle and slave over that part of it but it matters to me. And to me, probably the biggest problem in the church right now is that the metaphors have failed. The metaphors have come to wound people.  The metaphors make no sense, in relationship to science and the way we live in the world today. In order for a metaphor to function, it has to be able to connect to our hearts and to our minds. So, reaching for new language is a serious part of leadership in faith communities today. It’s a big deal.

WG: That seems to be at the heart of what you’re doing in your newest book, Grounded.

DBB: Yes, Grounded is about an attempt to find a different kind of metaphor… the driving question of Grounded is, “Where is God?” For centuries in Christianity we’ve had an answer to that question and it’s a metaphorical one.  It’s an answer that shaped theology and worship and it shaped the way we did church and that answer is, “God’s up in heaven.” I think that’s one of the central failed metaphors of our own time. People don’t get that. People don’t believe that. People don’t even think of it as a metaphor any more. People just think of it as being some sort of…I don’t know… pious lie.  And so in Grounded what I tried to do is say, “Okay. Where is God?” And then I went the other direction and I said, “Well God is with us here.” And that’s a very legitimate personal, theological, and biblical answer to that question because it draws off of the doctrine of the incarnation.

WG: So instead of the metaphor of God in heaven you offer up some different metaphors…

DBB: Yes, Grounded was looking at God in nature and God in and through our neighbor. I think it’s such a better way of trying to address our spiritual lives and God, than the idea that God lives in the clouds far away in the highest heavens.

WG: Though it is the image most of us grew up with…it’s got some history.

DBB: There are historians who argue that the first 1000 years of Christianity was actually marked much more with the idea of the earth being the primary location of divine presence. They built their churches as domes. And the whole architectural vision was that the dome of heaven rested right here on earth. Western architecture didn’t go that way. We went with the steeple. And the steeple is like an elevator shaft up to sky…God’s way up there and we’re way down here. And we’ve got to figure out how to ride that elevator right up into heaven.

WG: It’s like we’re spending all our time looking for the up button…

DBB: Yes, and so something else needs to emerge. And I think that’s what we’re struggling with right now. With the shape of faith. What’s the deeper spiritual structure of faith going to be as we move forward?

WG: So do you feel hopeful? Do you think it’s going to be possible for something new to emerge?

DBB: I actually kind of vacillate on my hopefulness. I am hopeful for what I believe the church ultimately is… the living, breathing, organic body of Christ, animated by the power of the Holy Spirit, and moving towards the original intent of God for all of creation, which is compassion. Jesus embodied compassion in a unique and beautiful way and if we, as human beings follow and imitate the body of Jesus in that regard, that becomes the church. And the church becomes a community not an institution. And right now, although I know there are clergy and amazing churches and remarkable congregations, I think that overall the institutions are further from that sacred intention than they should be. And whether or not they can bring themselves back in line with that, I really don’t know.

WG: Many of your books, including Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, have talked about the demise of institutionalized Christianity. What do you think is causing so many people to leave the church these days?

DBB: I think we’re living in a time of the most intense spiritual longing that American society has been in for at least half a century and maybe the whole century. But there’s this huge gap between institutions that are worried about having enough money to keep the roof on the building and making sure the coffers are full, and then, on the other hand, people who are trying to connect with meaning and purpose and gratitude.  But they don’t find those things in the institutions we have.

WG: So do you think it’s possible for this to change?

DBB: I think fear is probably the largest inhibitor of this kind of change. It’s hard to move forward when churches, pastors, and committees are terrified that if they change something their biggest givers will leave the church. Jesus is calling the church into change, and the church says, “We have to check the budget first.” And I get it. But really church people need to be braver.

WG: We hear you’ve been at Wild Goose before…

DBB: Yes, I was at the first one…

WG: …and in fact you were even in on some early conversations about the festival, and what it could be, before it was ever born…

DBB: Yes, actually…about 12 years ago, I was with some people at Washington National Cathedral and somebody asked me a question about how to open up creativity in the church… and I said “What if we took the Cathedral Plaza in front of the Washington National Cathedral, and turned the whole thing, for maybe three days, into a sort of gigantic medieval festival village, and do it in a very interesting contemporary way where you would have stages, and medieval mystery plays, and you would have preaching, and you’d have art booths, and you’d have all this stuff happening. It’d be sort of like Greenbelt meets medieval cathedral meets city, urban space.” Three of us ended up going to Trinity Church on Wall Street in New York, and presented them with this idea, and Trinity then gave a first grant that eventually went to Sojourners to plan something along the lines of Greenbelt.

WG: And that ended up becoming the start for Wild Goose…

DBB: Yes. I was dreaming of a whole different way of storytelling and embodiment…. So I’m really happy that Wild Goose has sort of become that.

WG: We’re so happy you’ll be back with us this year to see how Wild Goose has grown and developed since its beginning.

DBB: I’ve truly been dreaming about this kind of thing for a long time, about new forms of performance of faith in public. I actually wrote about that in Christianity After Religion, how that would be the way into what I call the Fourth Great Awakening. And I think of Wild Goose as one of those places, one of those kinds of stages, one that could address spiritual longing and also bring us along a path to new metaphors and a deeply lived theology.

2017 Wild Goose Music Lineup

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The 2017 Wild Goose music lineup is fresh, hopeful, and more fun than you can handle! It might just be the most eclectic, diverse, dance-worthy, celebration style mashup in Goose history!

The 2017 Wild Goose music lineup is fresh, hopeful, and more fun than you can handle! It might just be the most eclectic, diverse, dance-worthy, celebration style mashup in Goose history!

Only at the Goose can you hear “The Voice” favorite Sarah Potenza’s blistering, get-on-your-feet rock, hip-hop artist J.Kwest’s eloquent calls for justice The Collection,’s soulful lyrics and folk-inspired melodies, welcome back Goose favorite the amazing Jennifer Knapp, lose yourself in the high energy of John Mark McMillan, and dance to Big Ray and Chicago’s Most Wanted and more and more, including folk legend Tret Fure, Melissa Greene, iStar, Namoli Brennet, Lyric – and a gospel choir from the gospel choir capital of the world, Chicago, IL – all in one amazing weekend?

And more and more – yes, we’ve already said “and more and more” but with the addition of a new “side stage” at “Main Stage” we have more than 30 musical experiences on the schedule this year.

Music unites us. It inspires our courage and our spirit to keep working for justice and peace. Martin Luther King, Jr., Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and so many others understood this. They made a conscious effort to develop a soundtrack for the Civil Rights movement. And it made a difference. That’s what we’re trying to do at Wild Goose, too, help make a playlist for this movement to create a more just and generous world. By welcoming established and emerging musicians alike, together they’ll help us sing along, march along, and keep moving forward.

Music of the Goose

The CollectionCombine the orchestral ingenuity of Sufjan Stevens with the powerful vocals of Mumford & Sons and you get the best description of this Greensboro, NC based band.

Jennifer Knapp Grammy nominated, Dove Award winning artist with a powerful voice, Knapp’s albums include Kansas, Letting Go, and Set Me Free. In addition to crafting music, she advocates for others: in 2011, Jennifer launched Inside Out Faith, an advocacy organization for LGBTQ people of faith.

J.KwestLives in the space between soul music and souls period. As an artist, this Chicago native and Morehouse Man; Pastor, advocate, and EMMY Award winner has used his unique rhythm to tell stories of deep meaning inside and out of the church.

LyricWhen words fail, LYRIC sings. With an enlightened mixture of pop, soul, and FUNK; LYRIC awakens an undiscovered spirit within their audience. Described by many as the best band in Asheville, LYRIC delights crowds across the region.

Sarah PotenzaSarah Potenza is a singer songwriter based in Nashville, Tennessee. Rolling Stone stated that “Potenza is to the Blues what Adele is to pop.” Sarah wowed judges and fans alike in Season 8 of The Voice, causing a sensation with her powerful, soulful voice. She recently released an album, Monster, and is currently touring the US.

John Mark McMillanA singer songwriter who’s not afraid to explore difficult subjects. His songs have been described as “…an ongoing dialogue with God, ever-wrestling for some kind of blessing and usually at volumes most suited for rock clubs.” Don’t miss Mercury & Lightning, his upcoming release.

Big Ray and Chicago’s Most WantedA huge presence in the Chicago Blues scene, Chicago’s Most Wanted is a band of world renowned musicians. Big Ray’s charismatic style and soulful voice knows how to draw a crowd, and along with his band, they form the best of what Chicago has to offer.

I,StarI,Star’s performances are a dynamic interplay of hard-hitting rhymes weaving through evocative refrains, building to harmonies in the hooks. Their wholly original “folk-hop” carriage bears keen commentary on personal and global spiritual transformation, stewardship of the Earth, social justice, and visionary love.

Tret FureOne of the most prolific artists in the contemporary singer-songwriter arena, Tret Fure has released 15 albums and CDs over the course of her 47 year career. In addition to being a gifted songwriter, Fure has engineered and produced countless recordings by a variety of artists, including her own work.

The ManyWeaving together indie-folk, pop and gospel into one unique sound somewhere between them all, The Many deliver songs for people to sing together, filled with questions, doubts, laments, and longings for justice and restoration, always with an eye out for the God who so loves the world.

Namoli BrennetDubbed, “Among the best folk-rock artists in the US,” songwriter Namoli Brennet has been touring with her own brand of moody and inspiring music since 2002. She’s a breathtaking and moving performer, and her sweet, road-weary voice is as quick to deliver her wit and humor as it is a turn of phrase. She’s been described as a cross between Patty Griffin, Lori McKenna and Amy Ray, and Zocalo magazine calls her music, “Gorgeous and introspective.”

Melissa GreeneMelissa Greene was a part of the Grammy Nominated and American Music Award wining Christian Music Group, Avalon, for almost 7 years. Now she serves as the associate pastor and pastor of Worship and Arts at Gracepointe Church.

Ken MedemaKenneth Peter “Ken” Medema is an American musician and singer-songwriter who has been performing in the United States, Canada, and Europe for more than forty years. Some of his best known songs began as live improvisations.

In Solidarity with Standing Rock

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By Jeff Clark
Water is indisputably a core element of our existence, crucial to every part of our lives on this planet. It ripples throughout our human story, a fundamental relationship that inextricably connects us to the earth and to each other.

Credit: Sacred Stone Camp Facebook

Photo credit: Sacred Stone Camp Facebook

When such an important relationship is threatened, when the racist underpinnings of a situation are thinly (if at all) veiled, when basic human rights are challenged, as people of faith and as members of the human family, we cannot look away. And I personally must stand in solidarity with the protectors of Standing Rock.

As you are probably aware, Sacred Stone Camp in Cannon Ball, North Dakota currently sits at the heart of a protest sparking national attention. In an attempt to halt the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, thousands of people have gathered in land held sacred by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. The pipeline would transfer as much as 570,000 barrels of crude oil daily from North Dakota to Illinois, and is proposed to travel underneath the Missouri River, a primary source of drinking water for millions. Facing a high possibility of water contamination, the desecration of burial grounds, and broken treaties, the protectors of the area include indigenous and non-Native people alike. The pipeline presents a multifaceted dilemma in the arenas of public health, environmental stewardship, and indigenous rights.

There are many ways to stand with our brothers and sisters in this crisis. #NoDAPL lists a number of solidarity actions on their website. The Atlantic magazine also reports that Standing Rock protesters have requested people “contact leaders in the Army Corps of Engineers and the Obama Administration in opposition to the pipeline.”

To these I would add two more: lament and pray. Lament the racism and injustice that indigenous people have suffered and continued to suffer in this country. And pray for change. As Mark Charles, a friend and past contributor of the Goose wrote in a recent blog post, what is happening to the Standing Rock Sioux is part of a broader systemic problem. May we all join in prayer that this broken system is repaired and may we also be a part of working to let “justice roll down like water.”

In Solidarity,

Jeff Clark
President & Producer
The Wild Goose Festival

Open Call for 2017 Contributors

By | Goose News

Entries are now closed.
You can expect to hear from us in the first week of April. In the meantime, if you have any questions please contact us HERE.

It’s time to let us know what YOU would like to do at Wild Goose!  The contributions of our “self-submits” each year are at the heart of what make the Goose a unique co-creation experience, surprising and unlike other “festivals.” This is a festival where people come together to make things,  wonder and ponder and discuss, cross boundaries, fire up imaginations, undo expectations.

This means that in your submissions, think about how you can design experiences that engage rather than lecture, raise questions rather than shut them down. How could you tailor your work to involve your audience, making space for participation? How can you go outside normal boundaries to increase the level of interactivity? Whatever your role – artist, musician, speaker – push beyond the expected in ways that will actively involve your audience. See yourself as an instigator not a “presenter” and invite others into an experience of co-creation.

Because this festival is about the intersection of Spirit, Art, Music and Justice, we ask all our submitters to consider how they can create integrated experiences – so you might, for example, want to look at justice through the lens of spirit and/or music, or at spirituality through the lens of art and/or justice.  And in whatever you do, keep in mind the power of Story. We introduced the “Story” theme last year. But it’s more than an annual theme – it’s part of the Goose DNA: What are our shared narratives? How have they shaped us?

Stories bring us together, stories can change us – whether we’re telling them or hearing them. We believe stories can change the world. So we hope that you will let the power of story weave its way into any type of experience you bring to the Goose.

We’d like to also suggest that you keep these words in front of you as you craft your contribution: Lament. Welcome. Identity. Evolve. Revolution. Love. What do these concepts say to you and how might you integrate any of them into your performance or presentation?

Worried you won’t have enough time to get your application in to us? The deadline for self-submits has been extended until Monday, February 27th at midnight. There’s a $40 application fee to offset programming costs. Questions? Click HERE to contact us.

Thank you for all your submissions.

APPLICATION FORM

Four ways we can stand with the movement for Black Lives

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crutcherThose of us in the Wild Goose community are reeling from the horrifying and tragic events of this week: the police shootings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte, two more names on a list that seems to grow longer and longer every day.

We abhor the racism and violence that is tearing our country apart and we call for those responsible for these killings to be held accountable. We follow a God of inclusion and love, and we stand in solidarity with all those who work for restorative justice and for building the beloved community.

We know that many of the people of color from the Wild Goose community are in unbearable pain right now, feeling hurt, angry and betrayed, nearly hopeless, and deeply afraid for their very lives.

Many from the Wild Goose community who have been raised white are weeping with their brothers and sisters of color, want to stand in solidarity with them and are sick to death of the systemic anti-Black racism that has authorized and empowered the targeting, assault and killing of black and brown bodies in this country.

And thankfully, many from the Wild Goose community are in Charlotte, deeply engaged in practical, productive, on-ground support.

But many of us are spread out across the country and unsure how we can stand with each other. How we can cry out for justice. How we can say “No more.”

Here are four things we believe the Wild Goose community can do together, wherever we are:

1. Lament
Rev. Jennifer Bailey, minister, community organizer, a Founder of the Faith Matters Network has said, “The type of healing we need can only be borne out of lament — a lament that holds space in the deepest pits of our beings for the piercing sorrow and rage being expressed by black communities, cultivates empathy, and puts restorative justice at the center of our collective action.”

It’s time to weep and mourn and cry out to God in our pain, grief and confusion, and yes, also, confess our complicity in a system of injustice. We invite you to stop and take a few moments for a simple ritual of lament and prayer each week, to light a candle and name the names of people who’ve been killed.

We have created a prayer of lament for you to use if you wish, which you can download here. Or come up with your own words.

You might want to do this with your family or gather with some friends around a table. You might want to kneel. You might want to create your own wailing wall or a jar of tears. However you do this each week, to remember that we are lamenting as a community, please share a photo to our @WildGooseFest Instagram page tagging it #WildGooseLaments.

2. Learn
Jim Wallis, author, preacher, and Sojourners magazine founder and editor, has recently written a book called America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America.  If you haven’t read it already, order a copy here. Then, starting Next Thursday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m., Jim is inviting us all to join him on Facebook Live for the first in a series of conversations that he’s calling “ Race, Faith and 2016.” These discussions, about how issues of race and faith are playing out in society today and are reflected in this fall’s political campaigns, will continue each Thursday night between now and Election Day.

3. Listen
A survey on values by the Public Religion Research Institute not long ago reported that 75% of white Americans have “entirely white social networks.”

Despite what some of us might want to believe, we live in an incredibly segregated society. To change that, we have to start talking about important things… and listening, truly listening… with people of different colors than our own. Yes, it may be awkward. Let us be brave enough to be awkward. And when you do, let’s share our experiences with each other in the comments section below.

4. Love
Let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.” That’s the call we hear from our scriptures (1 John 3:18, The Message). And as Dr. Cornell West has said, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” We can practice real love in many different ways. Speaking out against racial injustice on social media, in our schools and offices and churches. We can also participate by getting involved with groups dedicated to ending racial injustice like the #BlackLivesMatter movement…they have many local chapters. As does the group, Showing Up for Racial Justice. There are many other local grassroots efforts going on across the country. Tell us about ones you know about and invite fellow Wild Goose folks to join you through our Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis of Middle Collegiate Church in New York has said, “Love looks like this: Prophetic grief. Tears falling heavy. And activism that ends racism.”

Join us in letting the tears fall, in confession, in action, in real love. And please join the conversation in the comments section below.

Plans are already very aggressively under way to make sure racial justice will be front and center at the 2017 Wild Goose Festival. Let’s fight this fight together – in every way possible!

Brian McLaren talks about his new book, The Great Spiritual Migration

By | Goose News

Brian McLaren talks with us about The Great Spiritual Migration

A conversation with Lenora Rand and Rick Meredith | Wild Goose Creative Team

Already garnering some great press, including this article in The New York Times, Brian McLaren’s new book, The Great Spiritual Migration, just released this week, is one that Rachel Held Evans believes “may be his most important work yet.” Richard Rohr has called it a must read because it will “assure you that you are not crazy…in what you’re seeing and suffering today.” And Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City has said, “This well-conceived, intelligent, warm, truthful book is our guide to a space where a life of faith is defined by love-in-action.”

book-squareWe sat down recently with Brian, a long-time supporter of the Wild Goose Festival, for a conversation about the book.  Ok, to be honest, we sat down with him virtually, through the wonders of the internet. We will also admit that it might have taken us longer to come up with the questions than it did for him to answer them. He’s just that good.

Lenora:  If I had to summarize your book in a sentence or two I’d say it’s all about how the church needs to be less about belief and more about love. We need fewer believers and more people willing to be lovers. Did I get it – is that the gist of The Great Spiritual Migration?

Brian: You nailed the gist of the first third, and that sets the stage for everything else. I might tweak your statement to be “less about beliefs” (plural) – because I think there’s a deep and important difference between belief/faith and beliefs (as I discuss at some length in the book). The middle third of the book deals with the question of God … our understanding or vision of God, and specifically, God’s relation to violence. Then the last section takes all this and asks how we put it into practice in our faith communities and the world.

Lenora: You mentioned the Wild Goose Festival in your dedication. What role do you think Wild Goose has played/is playing in The Great Spiritual Migration?

Brian: In the last third of the book, I talk about movement dynamics, and how movements relate to institutions. One key element of a healthy movement is “movement culture,” and Festivals like Wild Goose play a key part in creating and expressing movement culture. Wild Goose creates a liminal space, a zone of experimentation, what some have called a “temporary autonomous zone” where people can practice a different way of being alive. That’s what so many of us experience at Wild Goose. It’s not the only expression of the spiritual migration we need, of course. We need migration in our academic communities, in our congregations and denominations, in our NGO’s and informal networks … but I think a place like Wild Goose plays a critical role in this. You think of Woodstock in its relation to the counterculture movement, or even Davos in relation to the global economy (for better or worse), or the role that summer camps and youth camps and mission trips played in many of our lives. These intense, extraordinary experiences stretch our imagination and give us a taste of something beautiful and possible and new.

Brian McLaren Photo by Courtney Perry

Photo by Courtney Perry

Rick: In chapter three, “Learning How to Love,” you imagine the church of the future as anything from a weekly meeting in a cathedral to a annual retreat or even a daily online experience – a “studio” where people interactively learn how to live a life of love. This sounds almost like a description of what Wild Goose could be. Could you expand on how Wild Goose might best embody this ethos?

Brian: Great question. In many ways, I think Wild Goose is already doing exactly this. First, it is providing an experience of intensity that complements our usual experiences of regularity. Regularity without intensity becomes a bit boring, and intensity without regularity can become irrelevant. But put the two together – an intense week, once a year – and you can start to feel that your life direction and “vibe” is being shaped by that week. If I could make one suggestion in how to expand that impact, it would be to continue our focus on making kids and high schoolers and college students feel welcome, and more than welcome, central to the whole event over decades to come. That’s not easy. Events tend to start with one age cohort and then stay with that cohort as they age. But if we could always lean young, we could play a major role in the spiritual formation of many for years to come. If that sounds like too much pressure, I don’t want it to. Really, I think it’s inspiring. I know that few if any of us are just interested in a successful business venture for people’s entertainment. (There’s nothing wrong with that … but I think something more than that draws us together.)

That’s especially important because although I’m working hard (and writing hard) to help our faith communities seize the moment, I don’t think enough will do so fast enough. And that means that thousands – actually, millions – of kids will grow up without much in the way of intentional spiritual formation in the way of love. They’ll be formed to be cool, or rich, or to “make America great again” (yikes) or to be faithful American consumers … but until our faith communities in sufficient numbers pick up the call to spiritually form new generations in the way of Christ, which is the way of life, creative ventures like Wild Goose must play a significant role in filling the gap. At least that’s how I see it.

Over time, I hope the intense Wild Goose experience can help a new generation of leaders arise who build new faith communities where the justice and generosity we share for a long weekend in the summer becomes the norm for their daily lives.

Rick:  In chapter eight, “Salvation from the Suicide Machine”, you suggest that perhaps the Spirit of God is calling the church to stop trying to save itself and instead to join God in saving the world. So many churches and organizations seem to make “growing the numbers” a top priority, as a matter of survival. Are you saying we should just take action and forget about the numbers, and if we are in fact doing the right thing, our survival (and growth) will follow?

Brian: I’m not saying forget about the numbers. But I am saying that if we recruit more and more people to do the wrong things and become the wrong kinds of human beings, we’re playing successfully for the wrong team. My complaint with “organized religion” is not that it’s organized enough to count numbers, but that it’s well organized to achieve the wrong purposes, or better said, that it’s shabbily organized to achieve the most urgent purposes. If we were to organize well to achieve the most urgent purposes … developing people as contemplative love activists and lifelong love learners in the way of Christ, loving the planet more than we love money and fossil fuels, challenging privileged people to love poor and marginalized people so that together we can create a better future, and pre-empting war and violence with a profound commitment to peacemaking … if we organized for those purposes and invited people to be part, I think we would find a new vitality and joy. (And hard work and push-back too!) That’s what I think Jesus did, and that’s what I think the Spirit is calling us to do. I think the world will be a better place if 5000 or 50,000 or 5 million people are part of that than if 5 or 50 people are part of that. So for me, it’s about organizing and inspiring and training and supporting growing numbers of people for these urgent, important, and profoundly meaningful purposes.

Rick: You talk about the necessity of multi-faith solutions and dialogue. Do you have a vision for how that might better play out at the Wild Goose Festival?

Brian: As you know, I’m deeply involved in multi-faith collaboration. In my experience, multi-faith collaboration has two possible paths. The first is to downplay individual faith identity and to try to create a kind of neutral zone where people focus on commonalities and minimize their distinctiveness. It’s kind of a least-common denominator approach. The other is to celebrate individual faith identity and come together to share gifts from our different traditions. There’s a place for both approaches, although I’m more interested in the latter.

But here’s the problem. Many of our faith traditions are themselves in deep crisis. Their identities are conflicted, polarized, and paralyzed. If you try to get Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity (Catholics) and a leader in ISIS (a Sunni Muslim) and a leader in the Iranian Revolution (a Shiite Muslim) and Franklin Graham (an Evangelical/Fundamentalist) together, it’s not going to go well at all. But think of how Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama became friends, or how Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis encounter “the other.” You might say that many faiths have their Desmond Tutu/Pope Francis pole and their Franklin Graham/Bill O’Reilly pole, and until we can get more people to the Desmond Tutu pole, we won’t have many people ready for multi-faith collaboration.

Right now, we need to build a strong movement among Christians at the Desmond Tutu/Pope Francis pole. This is a matter of spiritual formation, and I think Wild Goose invites people to “fly in formation” in that direction. In that way, I see Wild Goose’s primary calling to be a progressive Christian festival … and I mean progressive in the broadest sense … to help more Christians become the kinds of people who know how to relate to people of other faiths in a (think of it!) Christ-like way. But here’s where it gets interesting. If we do that, I think we will always be welcoming people of other faiths to the Festival – to learn from them, to share with them, to enjoy life and celebrate beauty and plot goodness together. So I think of a Muslim friend of mine who came to the Festival a few years ago. She told me that she felt completely at home, that these were “her people.”

Because Christianity is the world’s largest and richest religion, and also the religion with the most conventional and nuclear weapons under its control, it’s especially urgent for Christians to deal with our identity issues. But I also hear from many of my friends of other faiths that they feel Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and others all need their own spaces to grapple with their identity in this crazy new post-al context – postmodern, postcolonial, post-industrial, post-consumerist, post-nationalist, post-patriarchal, and so on.

I love the way the Wild Goose website said it…something like: “Because we are a Christian festival, we welcome people of all faiths and no faiths.” In other words, in our understanding of what it means to be Christian, we are hospitable, welcoming, appreciative, non-colonizing, and non-hostile.

Rick: You’ve laid out a blueprint here for creating a movement. What would you name the movement?

Lenora: We were thinking the Wild Goose Movement might be nice…Ha! Not really…but, maybe?

Brian: The nature of things these days argues against branding the movement we need with a simple label, at least for now. I wish this weren’t true, because it would be so much simpler if we could just line up behind one name or brand. But the spiritual movement we need must be a coalition of many sub-movements, and those sub-movements must, in my opinion, have their own identities even while they in a sense migrate in the same direction with others.

I see many reasons for the resistance toward a single movement label, and I’m sure there are other reasons I don’t fully understand. Maybe this will change over time. But for now, I think we have to be comfortable with the ambiguity, and Wild Goose Festival has to understand itself as a key player in an unfolding process with many other important partners around the nation and the world. At least that’s my dream.We have to become who we are, joyfully, and at the same time understand our affinity with parallel communities coming together. We can’t be everybody to everyone all at the same time, but we can be somebody whose heart is full of love for everyone … Many flocks, if you will, in one migration toward justice, joy, and peace.

Lenora: Since a lot of Wild Goose folks have probably read many of your other books, why should they read this one? Do you feel like in the current political and cultural climate we’re living in now, this book is particularly important?

Brian: I was relieved when one of the first reviewers of the book, Peter Laarman, said, “Every theme that McLaren has been carefully developing for years is present in the new book, only amplified with a new sense of urgency that seems to be informed by the climate change crisis, the new Movement for Black Lives, and the rising Islamophobia that so poisons our politics.”

I’m glad he saw this as a book that consolidates earlier themes and ups the sense of urgency. That’s how I feel. For people who have been following my work for a long time, this book in many ways puts all the pieces together and issues a call to action. For that reason, for people who haven’t read any of my books, this would be the best place so far to get the big picture.

The Great Spiritual Migration is available at:
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Powell’s
BAM!
Hudson Booksellers
IndieBound

 

Singing in Discomfort

By | Guest Post

Guest post by Bekah Anderson, United Church of Christ
I spent the vast majority of Wild Goose feeling profoundly uncomfortable, and at the same time thrilled, inspired, and energized. I think that’s exactly how I should feel.

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From my post at the United Church of Christ hospitality tent, I was in a great position to meet people, because they’d come over to greet fellow UCC folk, or to ask what Queer Clergy Trading Cards are anyway, or, usually in the case of the children, to pick up free Starbursts. I loved talking to these people. I loved learning about where they were from, and what brought them to the Wild Goose. Most of them lived in places geographically far away from my small-town New England life, but in other ways we were often very much alike. We shared a common language. I could talk about being a beloved child of God without feeling like that person who just “made it weird” by bringing religion into the conversation, and I could talk about my passion for social justice without feeling like an “over-zealous” social justice warrior. Several of the worlds I usually find myself inhabiting separately merged together in those conversations, and in some ways, I was more comfortable and at home than I have been in a long time.

At the same time, I was deeply uncomfortable, because my feet were killing me. I spent much of the weekend on my feet at the entrance of the tent, and by about midday on Friday I knew that my body was not going to forgive me for it any time soon. On Saturday we rearranged the tent so I could sit down instead, but for the most part I opted to stay on my feet. Mostly, this was because I felt that people would be more likely to come talk to me if I was standing, waiting for them, but I also felt somehow that my discomfort was part of the point. Should I really be comfortable in a place where so many hard conversations were happening, so many great ideas were being shared, so much of the future was being dreamed? If I stayed comfortable all weekend, it probably meant I wasn’t learning.

I did leave my tent a few times, the first time to attend Stories and Mental Health workshop. Even giving my feet a rest, I was anything but comfortable. The stories I heard that morning were powerful, inspiring, and heartbreaking. They were stories that brought me into contact with experiences and viewpoints I rarely see, and at the same time they reminded me viscerally of my family’s own experiences with mental illness. Sitting in the back of that tent, I was close to tears, moved by the bravery and pain of those around me, even as I remembered my own pain. And this, I realized, is what the beginning of allyship feels like. When you listen to others, when you realize that their pain and experiences are not separate from yours, when you know that for you to be liberated, we all must be.

And later, I attended Set the Captives Free: A Christian Call to End Mass Incarceration. Again, my body was comfortable but my mind was not. Anyone who can be comfortably listen to a discussion about how our criminal justice system targets, imprisons, and disenfranchises black and brown men and other groups is not truly listening. I found myself perched on the edge of my seat, not sure if I wanted to get up and run away from this truth, or rush towards the presenters and beg them to tell me how to dismantle this terrifying, pervasive system. And much to my surprise, they did tell me. They told us all that we can best fight this system when we combine political advocacy and policy work with real human connections and direct support to those who have been caught up in mass incarceration. Hearing these words, I breathed a sigh of relief, although I was still poised at the edge of my chair. “Okay,” I thought. “There’s something I can do. Now I just have to go and do it.” And this, I realized, is what social justice combined with faith feels like. A call to action, a heavy burden of truth, and a spark of hope in our own abilities.

The last moment I would like to remember here is the end of the closing liturgy, where we all stood in a circle and held hands as we sang, “I am.” This, I know, is what community feels like. The circle, linking us all together, and our voices rising and falling together. Singing has always felt like community to me. When we sing together, we can hear that everyone has their own particular voice, their own place in the song, and we can feel that that is right and good. When I sang in that circle, I could hear some people singing the melody loud and proud, others adding sweet harmony, others just slightly off-key, others singing quietly but steadily, and I would be willing to bet that some people weren’t singing at all, but swaying and listening to the music around them with a smile. All of it—and I mean all of it—was right and good. There is no one right way to sing, just as there is no one right way to be a member of a community.

And yes, I was uncomfortable, even as I sang. My feet still hurt, my face was slowly developing a sunburn, and the song was just a little too low to sing easily. And still I felt this was right.

Sometimes, discomfort is purely negative and must be assuaged. But at other times, discomfort is productive. Sometimes, it pushes us to action. When I was singing in that circle, I didn’t want to leave and put on sunblock; I wanted to stay, singing, and add my own harmony. In the mass incarceration workshop, although part of me wanted to leave, I knew I couldn’t really hide from this; I wanted to do something about it. In the mental health workshop, I didn’t want to push away the presenters and the feelings brought on by their stories; I wanted to pull them closer and learn more. And standing in the UCC tent with my aching feet, I actually didn’t want to sit down; I wanted to run down the street, skipping and dancing, sharing my energy with the world and giving my feet something else to do. My hope for all of us, when we are far away from Wild Goose in this uncomfortable world, is that as often as we can, we choose not just to stand, but to run forward, through the discomfort, into our shared future.

Bekah Anderson is a young writer studying religion and creative writing at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. She is currently interning with the Congregational Assessment, Support, and Advancement department of the national office of the United Church of Christ. She hopes that the new, queerer church will have shorter job titles.

Wild Goose 2016 Reader from Chalice Press

By | Guest Post

Is your spirit still on the Wild Goose mountaintop?
Are you still thinking about the new friends you made, the new ways you think about your faith and your purpose in life?

Are you ready to go back next year?

Freemium-booklet-3D-WildGoose2016ReaderHere’s a way to take some of your Wild Goose experience home … Chalice Press and CBP Books are offering a FREE compilation of chapters (more than 100 pages of great content!) from eight amazing authors who led sessions at Wild Goose Festival 2016:

  • Rachelle Mee-ChapmanRelig-ish: Soulful Living in a Spiritual-But-Not-Religious World
  • Chris CrassTowards the “Other America”: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter
  • Sarah Griffith Lund Blessed are the Crazy: Breaking the Silence About Mental Illness, Family, and Church
  • Nicole Massie MartinMade to Lead: Empowering Women for Ministry
  • Teresa Pasquale MatheusSacred Wounds: A Path to Healing from Spiritual Trauma
  • Julie RichardsonAvailable Hope: Parenting, Faith, and a Terrifying World
  • Joerg Rieger and Rosemarie Henkel-RiegerUnified We are a Force: How Faith and Labor Can Overcome America’s Inequalities

Go to chalicepress.net/WildGooseReader and find out how to receive your FREE copy of the Wild Goose 2016 Reader.