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Rick Meredith

Ruby Sales, Jen Hatmaker, Otis Moss III, Brian McLaren, and The Red Dirt Boys

By | 2018 Announcements, 2018 Festival | No Comments

What happens when you add Ruby Sales, Jen Hatmaker, Otis Moss III (along with the Trinity UCC choir), Brian McLaren, and the Red Dirt Boys (Emmylou Harris’ band with Phil Madeira and the Barber twins on horns) to Amy Grant, Jacqui Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor, and John Pavlovitz? Well, you get to decide – but it’s going to be special, it’s going to be the 2018 Wild Goose! We’ll see you by the river!

Ruby Sales

Perhaps no one is more rooted in history, engaged in the present, and leaning more intentionally into the future than Ruby Sales.

Ruby is a public theologian, historian, activist, social critic, and educator. She answered the call to social justice as a teenager at Tuskegee Institute as a member of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and worked on voter registration in Lowndes County, AL. She looks at her work as a calling not a career.

She received a B.A. degree from Manhattanville College, attended graduate school at Princeton University, and received a Masters of Divinity degree as an Absalom Jones Scholar from the Episcopal Divinity School. While there, she developed a reputation as a preacher and preaches often at churches and cathedrals around the nation.

She founded, and still directs, the SpiritHouse Project, a national nonprofit organization.

Her work as a social justice activist is cited in books, journal articles, and films including Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68Broken Ground: A Film on Race Relations in the South; Dan Rather’s American Dream Segment; and the newly released, Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights (Rich Wallce and Sandra Neil Wallace).

She is a co-founder of SAGE Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, has appeared on On Being with Krista Tippett, and is a frequent guest on Sirius XM Radio’s Inside the Issues. Her writing has been published in many journals, newspapers, and magazines and she has received numerous awards and honors.

An oral history of Sales is housed at the Library of Congress and she was selected as one of fifty African Americans from the Civil Rights Movement to be spotlighted.

Jen Hatmaker

It’s easy to say Jen Hatmaker is a widely read and enthusiastically followed author (New York Times bestseller), speaker, blogger, and television presenter (My Big Family Renovation).

These things are easy to say and they’re also true – and it’s also true that Jen Hatmaker is one of the most courageous faith leaders in the world today. Jen took a stand and she keeps standing and speaking, and every time she stands in the crosshairs of thousands – yet she still stands and she still speaks.

In April of 2016, with a huge Evangelical following, Jen called for the full inclusion of LGBT people into the Christian community, calling same sex relationships holy in the eyes of God. She reiterated her position in October 2016, and as a result, LifeWay Christian Resources, the Baptist Bookstore organization, among other retailers discontinued selling her books.

Since the 2016 presidential election, she regularly makes public statements critical of Donald Trump and challenging evangelical Christian attitudes towards LBGT people. She has been featured for an alternative Christian perspective in The Atlantic, TIME Magazine, Politico, Washington Post, RNS, and Relevant Magazine

Otis Moss III

Otis Moss III is a great preacher – some say he’s the greatest preacher alive today – he’s also a great “practicer.” As part of his community engagement through Trinity United Church of Christ, he led the team that came up with the “My Life Matters” curriculum, which includes the viral video, “Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival” created in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of Ferguson, MO police.

Moss is part of a new generation of ministers committed to preaching a prophetic message of love and justice, which he believes are inseparable companions that form the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Civil rights advocacy in his DNA and he’s built his ministry on community advancement and social justice activism. As Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, Otis Moss III has spent the last two decades practicing and preaching a Black theology that unapologetically calls attention to the problems of mass incarceration, environmental justice, and economic inequality.

Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren writes the books that are the bridge of faith recovery for thousands upon thousands of people. His clarity is unparalleled and his generous spirit manages somehow to both calm and confront.

As an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian, this former college English teacher and pastor, is a passionate advocate for “a new kind of Christianity” – just, generous, and working with people of all faiths for the common good.

Notable among the many books are: A New Kind of Christian, which won Christianity Today’s “Award of Merit” in 2002; Everything Must Change tracing critical ways in which Jesus’ message confronts contemporary global crises; and We Make the Road by Walking, marking a turn toward constructive and practical theology. His 2016 release, The Great Spiritual Migration, has been called his most important work to date.

The Red Dirt Boys with Phil Madeira

Red Dirt Boys, made up of Chris Donohue, Will Kimbrough, Bryan Owings, and Wild Goose favorite Phil Madeira is the name Emmylou Harris gave to her band. The street cred of this musical collection is tremendous. The Red Dirt Boys combined songwriting, band, and session credits are astounding, including Emmylou Harris, Tom Jones, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell, Taj mahal, The Phil Keaggy Band, Alison Krauss, Mat Kearney, Old Crow Medicine Show, Garth Brooks, Toby Keith, Keb’ Mo’, Amy Grant, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Civil Wars, Julie Miller, The Band Perry, Mavis Staples, and many more.

The Red Dirt Boys will be joined by the Wild Goose return of Roland Barber on trombone and Rashaan Barber on saxophone.

So let’s see, to recap, Wild Goose 2018 has already announced:

Amy Grant

Jacqui Lewis

Barbara Brown Taylor

John Pavlovitz

And now Wild Goose 2018 adds:

Rudy Sales

Jen Hatmaker

Otis Moss III (along with the Trinity UCC choir)

Brian McLaren

The Red Dirt Boys (Emmylou Harris’ band with Phil Madeira and the Barber twins on horns)

Group Tickets

Discounted tickets are available for groups of ten or more. Email Vanna for your special discount code.

Adult – $169.00

Senior 65+ – $149.00

Student – $99.00

Youth 13-17 – $49.00

Children 0-12 – Free

Post and re-post – share and talk – grab all your friends, pile up in a van, and head to the Goose!  We have so much good Goose to come. Stay tuned for more announcements soon.

Amy Grant, Jacqui Lewis, Barbara Brown Taylor, and John Pavlovitz are on their way to the Wild Goose Festival!

By | 2018 Announcements, 2018 Festival | No Comments

Amy and Jacqui and Barbara and John – it almost sounds like a chant, but a happy chant, on the road to Oz – and that’s just the beginning of the AMAZING 2018 Wild Goose festival lineup!

Haven’t bought your tickets yet? What are you waiting for? The Winter ticket special ($229 for festival admission + tent camping) will end soon. Do it now! Re-post, share, tell, send, spread the word – at the 2018 Wild Goose the mountains will ring with wisdom and even the trees will call us to the battle for justice – and we’ll have a lot of fun, too.

Amy Grant
Amy Grant’s long and tremendously successful career is built on music that matters. From the time she burst on the scene as a fresh-faced teenager the Nashville native gained a reputation for creating potent songs that examined life’s complexities with an open heart and keen eye. She became the first artist in “Christian” music to have a platinum record and then she went on to become a crossover sensation, her musical gifts transcending genre boundaries to make her a household name. An “Amy” tour on the web points to song after song with hundreds of thousands and MILLIONS of views.

Jacqui Lewis
Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis will challenge the Goose with her exuberant preaching style and her prophetic voice. The mere mention of her name creates a ripple of enthusiastic anticipation. The Senior Minister at Middle Collegiate Church, a 1000-member multiracial, welcoming, and inclusive congregation in New York City has been featured in media such as The Today Show, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, The New Yorker, Essence and The Huffington Post and she’s is a frequent contributor to MSNBC.

This powerful activist, preacher, and fierce advocate for racial equality, economic justice, and LGBTQ equality is just right for Wild Goose-land!

Barbara Brown Taylor
Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times best-selling, award winning author, teacher, and Episcopal priest. What’s your favorite of her books – is it Leaving Church, or how about Learning to Walk in the Dark, perhaps When God Is Silent – maybe it’ll be Holy Envy (coming this year from HarperOne) – or any of her many others. Whatever your favorite, there’s a really good chance that Wild Goose people will play the popular “my favorite Barbara Brown Taylor book is . . . “ game a lot this year!

She was featured on the cover of TIME magazine and she’s been included on the annual TIME list of Most Influential People. Her work has been translated into five languages.

John Pavlovitz
John Pavlovitz is reaching literally millions of people with his Stuff That Needs To Be Said blog. The writer and pastor and 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry is committed to helping the Church become a more compassionate, loving environment for all people. His first book, A Bigger Table, was released last October to wide acclaim. It’s often said of someone that so-and-so will “tell it like it is” – for that to really be true a person has to know how it is and then have the courage to tell it. John Pavolvitz passes both standards with high marks.

Are you as excited as we are? Help us spread the word!

A glimpse of 2018 – and Last Chance for Fall Ticket Price!

By | 2018 Festival | No Comments

If there’s one thing you can expect from the Wild Goose, it’s the unexpected.

Powerful and prophetic, Jacqui Lewis is our closing preacher; Jen Hatmaker, one of the world’s most courageous faith leaders, will challenge the status quo (see recent Politico article); Civil Rights icon Ruby Sales will help us see our past and project our future; and the imaginative John Pavlovitz will provoke our spirit and stir us to action – and we’re just getting started!

From the second you step onto the grounds, you feel the vibe. This is the place where we have life-changing conversations – experience amazing performances – interact with global thought leaders – participate in art, music, and storytelling – and enjoy the affirming presence of community.

There’s no place like the Goose anywhere, any time. Don’t miss it. Come and co-create with us!

Ticket prices will never be less expensive. Our fall ticket price of $199, which includes admission and a camping spot, ends at Midnight PST, Wednesday December 20.


Jacqui Lewis

Jen Hatmaker

Ruby Sales

John Pavlovitz


By | Goose News, Guest Post | No Comments


Why I have a Wild Goose Tattoo
By Richard Kennel

I didn’t fit in anywhere. My progressive, independent science-loving free thinking spirit had become spiritually flat, drained, and lifeless. The churches and groups with whom I had been involved were too conservative; too religious; too exclusive. So I went online trying to find if there was some church or group where I could feel I belonged, that didn’t claim to know the truth, and wasn’t exclusionary.

Somehow in my searching I came across the Wild Goose website. I could not believe it. I thought, “Holy shit! You mean there are real people out there like this?”

So I drove to the 2014 Wild Goose. As soon as I hit the grounds, I knew I was in the right place. The people, the music, the speakers, Beer and Hymns—all confirmed that this is what I had been missing. This was what I’d been looking for, but had been unable to define.

My defining Goose Moment that year came when I went to Reba Riley’s presentation: “Post-traumatic Church Syndrome.” Reba used a mirrored “disco ball” as a metaphor for people’s’ understanding of God. I heard her say, “Each of us sees a small bit of the reflected light, but no one of us grasps the entire scope of God’s essence.” For some reason, that hit me like a hurricane! It felt as if the heavy yoke of years of searching, struggling, and oppression were lifted. I was emotionally overwhelmed. Then Reba said, “Now turn to someone next to you and talk about what this means for you.” I turned to the woman next to me and choked out: “I think you had better go first.” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “No—I think YOU need to go first.” At that I broke into tears and sobbed uncontrollably. The sense of being home at last was too overwhelming. I was unable to utter another word, but God bless her—that woman just sat with me and was present for me. I dearly wish I’d gotten her name.

When I came home after that experience, I knew I was a different person, and I could not return to the church I had been attending with my wife. At the time, she was in Florida visiting a friend, so I decided to start church shopping. To this day I don’t remember how or why I chose the church I did, but that first choice was it. When I was sitting in the pew in that first service and heard the (female) pastor begin her prayer with: “Mother, Father God…” I knew I was where I belonged. I’ve been attending ever since.

I felt I had to commemorate this life-changing experience somehow. In all my 61 years of existence, I never once had any desire whatsoever to get a tattoo. Now, however, I knew that was exactly what I needed. I now have the Wild Goose logo from that year on my forearm as a permanent reminder of my own personal burning-bush experience.
Richard Kennel

Do you have a Goose tattoo? Tell us about it!

Open Call for 2018 Co-Creators

By | 2018 Festival

It’s time again 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 co-creators 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 – 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. Freedom. Liberate. Resist. Believe. Converge.

What do these concepts say to you and how might you integrate any of them into your performance or presentation?

Entries will close on February 1, 2018.

Dream the Dream that will Co-Create the world.

Something so cool it’ll register on seismic meters

– or at least will be fun or challenging

or perhaps even a bit unsettling.


Here’s how the process works

There’s no fee for this initial phase of entries. Use a new entry form for each idea, and submit as many ideas as you like.

Our programming team will review the submissions and you’ll be notified of your status by March 15. If accepted, you’ll be asked to create your own personal login to our system and submit your personal bio, a photo, and a detailed description of your presentation suitable for publication in our program and on our website.

You’ll also be asked to submit a $40 payment to cover administration costs (this can be waived if it makes participation difficult for you – your ideas are more valuable to us than your money). All co-creators (that’s you) who are selected are entitled to one free festival pass including a campsite and plus one (please use the “plus one” for “actual plus ones” not a random free pass). This includes yourself and any band members or co-leaders for your session.

Questions? Click HERE to contact us.

Thank you for all your ideas.

Wild Goose Co-Creation Starts Here

Looking for a summer weekend event for your youth group?

By | Goose News | No Comments

Looking for a summer weekend event for your youth group?
The Wild Goose Festival is it!

The Wild Goose Festival is an art, music, and story-driven transformational experience grounded in faith-inspired social justice. The Youth Tent is located in the middle of this festival of co-creation, faith, and spiritually fueled fellowship.

The Youth Tent provides programming on subjects that matter to teens. Few other events speak so much to the passions of teenagers in the church with open conversations about gender identity, active collaboration on faith inspired justice work, and authentic open dialogues on the topics that matter to them most.

Some reviews from teens who attended last year’s festival

“These were all things that may not be discussed as much as they should be.”

“We got to discuss things I couldn’t discuss with others.”

“They were incredibly honest and vulnerable and
offered incredibly safe space for questions.”

“This experience has transformed me. The kids each bring a new perspective.
I will greatly treasure these moment we shared in the youth tent
and Wild Goose as a whole.”

This unique opportunity for youth groups becomes a favorite event of the year, bonding them together in a way that only a four day camping trip uniquely can. You’ll find that after your youth group’s first trip to Wild Goose, they’ll keep talking and telling stories about it all throughout the year.

For Wild Goose Festival 2018, we’re working to make attendance as accessible as possible for youth groups. That’s why we’re now offering an all-inclusive plan that covers the costs of tent camping and 3 meals a day, as well as your students’ tickets.

covers the cost of one student festival ticket.

provides you with a ticket plus everything needed for camping for four days (tent, air mattress, camping chair, evening fire).

gives you everything listed above as well as all meals from Thursday morning to Sunday afternoon.

Interested? Contact Us.

Find a quiet place to read this

By | Guest Post | One Comment

May the Sacrament of the Word and the hunger of our hearts meet, leading us ever more deeply into your heart, O God. Amen.

Guest Post by Gwen Fry

Having grown up in The Episcopal Church the most cherished memory I have as a child in the pew was hearing the sentence at the end of our Gospel reading today spoken/read during the service out of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. I distinctly remember setting aside the weekly hang man game I was playing with my friend in the pew when the service neared that point in the liturgy in anticipation of the incredibly freeing and hopeful string of words. This is how it sounded to my youthful ears all those years ago. “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.” I can still feel the lightness in my heart and weight off my shoulders as those words of comfort washed over and through me.
I was happy to see that with the Book of Common Prayer revision that the comfortable words were still there in the Rite 1 Eucharist. What I did not expect was what appeared with the new addition of Compline to the prayer book. This office instantly became my favorite daily office because of its pastoral tone and ease with which it flowed as the last office of the day. It really did, at least for me, make for a “peaceful night and perfect end.” I think part of that was because of the prayer that begins “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night”…. But the biggest reason was because of one of the reading options. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And so I’ve carried these particular verses as a touchstone throughout my life. I never totally understood the profound transformative effect they have had on me until rather recently. I mean, I knew they were restful and brought a deep sense of peace to my inner life. But it wasn’t until two years ago that it was literally made manifest in my life. It was in July of 2015, the first time I attended The Wild Goose Festival, a four day festival at the intersection of spirit, justice, music, and art, in Hot Springs, North Carolina. I was invited to be a panelist in a session titled Sacred Wounds: Healing from Spiritual Trauma. I was scared to death, for many reasons that summer, and I don’t mind letting people know that in the least. I had never participated in a national event before. I wasn’t sure anyone would be interested in what I had to say. I didn’t know how hundreds of festival attendees would react to me. My experience everywhere I went drew attention from people. And in those days it wasn’t positive attention. What I experienced upon my arrival at the festival was nothing short of transformative. The first thing I noticed was that those few hundred I thought that were going to attend was more like 5,000. And there wasn’t one single smirk or stare. No sideward glances or people pointing at me and saying something to their friend. It was so noticeable because of the absence of those things.

For the first time in a long time I was accepted, no questions asked, and I felt absolutely safe in that space. As luck would have it my session was on the first day of the festival. That first evening I was introduced to an event called Beer and Hymns. Yes, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. People gathered and sang good old time Gospel hymns while having a beer. Well, most of them were gospel hymns. The one that drew me into the circle like a magnet was actually a song by U2 off of their Joshua Tree album titled I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. It is an amazing song, well gospel hymn. Listen to it if you haven’t heard it before. It’s a song about searching for God, searching for Christ.

The opening lyrics are:

I have climbed the highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for

Later in the evening the Episcopal tent at the festival hosted the nightly Compline service. There were about 100 people gathered in a circle as we prayed. Lord, grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. And then, those amazing peaceful transformative words, those particular verses that have been a touchstone for me throughout my life, washed over and through me like never before.
While I walked back to my room for the night it suddenly all fell into place for me. We all are constantly searching for God and the sacred in life and rarely do we find what we are looking for. We carry the heavy burdens that fill our lives with us wherever we go and they weigh us down to the point that it doesn’t seem possible to take another step or climb yet another wall in our search. But there will be that day – and time – and place – where those words of comfort and comfortable words become manifest. When you least expect it as you find yourself in a very scary place in your life that touchstone will be there waiting for you. And the word will become flesh before your very eyes. It will be obvious to you because there will be no stares or sneers, no pointing and whispering. There will be only total unconditional acceptance where you will discover that heavy yoke has been lifted and replaced with one that is easy and light. It will be made manifest in your presence and look like 5,000 people gathered because they too have come there searching hurting and carrying their own heavy burdens to find them loosed in a place that gives them rest for their souls. It will be obvious, oh so obvious, because when you least expect it Christ will be made manifest before your very eyes with outstretched arms saying; “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

I return to the Wild Goose Festival for a third year this coming week and I can already feel that lightness and peace.

Gwen Fry

The Reverend Gwen Fry is an ordained Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Arkansas. Her experience coming out as a trans woman of faith makes her keenly aware of the necessity for the equality of all God’s children.
Experiencing the effects of discrimination first hand, she has been actively involved in the work of justice in the transgender community both in Arkansas and across the Episcopal Church.
Gwen is an advocate and activist for the transgender community who was a leader in the coalition of organizations who fought back the anti-transgender bills introduced in the Arkansas General Assembly this year. She is the Vice President of National Affairs for Integrity USA. She is a board member of Pridecorps, an LGBTQ youth center in Little Rock, Arkansas. An active member of TransEpiscopal, Gwen, also serves on its steering committee.

At the center of a just world, there is a farm.

By | Goose News, Guest Post | One Comment

We’re from Ohio!
When you read the word Ohio, what do you think of? You might think of cows and corn, or of a particular university which refers to itself as “The” university in Ohio. One summer afternoon I was sitting in a classroom on the campus of that university, listening to a young activist/historian lecture high students about colonialism. He was teaching about the violence necessary to wield power over an indigenous people in a foreign land and what it takes to mount a political and economic revolution against such a power.

Suddenly, he said something that blew my mind.
He explained that, when it comes right down to it, there are two basic economic resources: land and labor. As I reflected, it made sense. Of course, resources like food, water, clean air, shelter, and the care of others are critical to physical life, but land and work, and the connection between the two, are the stuff of economic development and power. Taking power over an established culture requires controlling its land and its labor.

From our earliest sacred stories until now, land and labor have been in constant tension.
In the beginning, God provided perfect land for humans. In fact, humans were made of the very humus of the Earth. As we rejected the self-sustaining, self-creating nature of God’s new world, and instead assumed control over it, we found the work harder than expected. In fact, working the land became a primary sentence for human Sin.

A context for injustice.
In the sacred Hebrew stories, we find a people taken from their land and put to work building and serving foreign powers in Egypt, Assyria and elsewhere. And, in the American story, we find that very same thing; people separated from their land and forced to work for the benefit of a violent, profit-driven foreign power.

Also a context for reconciliation and Reign.
It is certainly true that land and work are the basic resources of exploitation for power and profit. But, it is also true that – when used in relationship with God and others – they are the resources for a flourishing community. They are the basic earthly ingredients for a new economy, for God’s will being done on Earth.

For us, farming is at the center of a just world.
At Methodist Theological School in Ohio, we understand farming as a way to reconnect people with land and life, a place where humus and human remember each other. Through Seminary Hill Farm, MTSO’s 10-acre, USDA-certified organic farm, we grow fresh produce and gather fresh eggs for our community. At the intersection of our learning and work in economic, ecological, food, racial, and other forms of justice, we resist…by tending the soil. It’s our practical contribution to God’s “just society.”

Come and see. And, if you see justice in what we do, come and learn with us.
For more information about MTSO and/or Seminary Hill Farm, visit or

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

By | Goose News | 4 Comments

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.