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

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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 MTSO.edu or SeminaryHillFarm.org.

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.

Rev. Barber Returns to the Goose!

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Reverend William Barber, known around the world for his dedication to peace and his demand for justice,
returns to the Main Stage at this year’s Wild Goose Festival, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.

 As you may remember, it was largely because of his counsel that Wild Goose chose to remain in North Carolina as part of the resistance against HB2. His call to action at the DNC last July brought the crowd to tears and then to their feet, and put racial, social, and economic justice at the center of the 2016 presidential campaign.
When Rev. Barber steps up to the mic at the Wild Goose, get ready for the experience of a lifetime. Among the most beloved activists and leaders of the U.S. progressive Christian movement, this prophetic voice will challenge you to take action, and inspire you to hope–two things so desperately needed by anyone troubled by the cultural and socio-political landscape of our times.

Reflecting on hearing Reverend Barber speak, a regular Goose-goer remarked:
“When I hear him, I expect to be inspired. But even more, I know that I’ll also be educated.
He gives us all vital, perspective-giving lessons on empire and our evolving understanding of white supremacy,
and the hope of liberation that Jesus brings in his invitation to join the Beloved Community.”

You’ll never forget the summer you gathered with community on the banks of the French Broad River in Hot Springs, North Carolina to hear his lyrical, soul-stirring call for truth and justice. Rev. Barber, president of the NC NAACP and mobilizer of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, is a foundational member of the Goose community. In the culmination of working together toward common goals, we welcome him back with joy!

“We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy.
We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all. We can’t give up on the heart of our democracy, not now, not ever!”

– Reverend Dr. William Barber II, excerpt from speech at the DNC, July, 2016

For The Kids

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Bringing kiddos to the festival? Between our Kids Tent programming, playing in the mud, and creating music and art, there’s plenty to keep them busy. We recently caught up with Emily Griffin, one of our Kids Tent Co-Coordinators. Emily, Nancy St. John, and Sally Thomas, are ready to guide our goslings with tons of creativity and joy: it will be an experience your children never forget!

wildgoslings900 Wild Goose Festival: What’s your vision for your role at the Goose?

Emily Griffin: We want to invite children to see and hear biblical stories in a new way in the Kids Tent, to wonder authentically about them (rather than being told what they mean), to find their place in those stories, and to use their God-given creativity to respond in some way – whether through art or play. We use a method called Godly Play to help kids name and value their experiences of God and then practice how that God calls us to live with each other. By being playful and creative, we connect with our playful Creator!

WGF: How did you first hear about the community? How long have you been involved?EmilyG_300px

EG: A member of my church works with Jeff Clark (Wild Goose President/Producer) in one of his day jobs and told me about the need for help with children’s programming last year. 2016 was my first Goose, and I’m looking forward to coming back with at least a year’s worth of experience under my belt.

WGF: What kind of work do you do the rest of the year?

EG: I’m a priest in the Episcopal Church and work primarily with kids and families at St. Alban’s in Washington, DC. I also (along with Nancy and Sally) moonlight as a trainer for the Godly Play Foundation.

wgfkidsbubblesWGF: What’s your favorite thing about the Goose?

EG: I love the openness of the community to anyone of any age who is on an honest search for truth or goodness or beauty – who wants to help create a more just and peaceful world. No one has to leave any part of their identity behind to be here.

 

WhenGodMadeYou

And outside of the Kids Tent…Don’t miss bestselling author Matthew Paul Turner give a reading of his latest book, When God Made You. Also a gifted photographer, Matthew travels across the globe documenting the vast effects of poverty and marginalization. Written in whimsical rhyme young readers are sure to enjoy, When God Made You celebrates children’s burgeoning gifts with tenderness and charm.

Don’t forget your tickets to Wild Goose 2017!

Big Ray and Chicago’s Most Wanted

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Big Ray grew up in the South Side of Chicago and began his music career as a singing bartender, singing along with bands like Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues, Jody Christian, Willie Kent and the Gents, and J.W. Williams. As a solid drummer and dynamic singer, Ray was soon in nonstop demand. In 1995, Ray was asked to join the legendary Otis Rush blues band. They toured in Japan, Europe, and across the U.S. Currently, Big Ray tours with Jimmy Johnson, and also plays with his own band, Big Ray and Chicago’s Most Wanted. They’ve got a steady gig at one of Chicago’s oldest and most respected blues clubs, B.L.U.E.S on Halstead. Chicago’s Most Wanted is a band of world renowned musicians, and together they form the best of what Chicago has to offer.

Meet Our Volunteer Coordinator

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Say hello to our new Volunteer Coordinator, Bec Cranford, a self-identified “Bapticostal misfit preacher” from Atlanta, Georgia. Though Bec’s new to this role, she’s a veteran community member and committed to bringing radical welcome and hospitality to our volunteer family and the Goose at large.

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Wild Goose Festival: What do you consider your vision for your role or offering at the Goose?
Bec Cranford: Stirring apocalyptic hopefulness and co-conspiring subversive hospitality.

WGF: Can you say a little more about what that means to you?
BC: Spreading apocalyptic hopefulness manifests itself every time we offer love to others and contribute to the well-being of our community during difficult and uncertain times. It’s an unwavering optimism despite political climates or power hungry structures.

beccranford

I hope to inject volunteers at the Goose with this kind of crazy joy in action.

Volunteers will engage in subversive hospitality by making everyone feel like they belong. From making sure we feel safe, and keeping the grounds clean, to stooping down to actively listen to five year olds, we will practice a radical welcome!

WGF: How long have you been involved?
BC: Since the very first Wild Goose festival in 2011, held at Shakori Hills, NC. Anybody else remember those tics?

WGF: What kind of work do you do the rest of the year?
BC: I make my green by engaging community at one of Atlanta’s homeless service agencies (Gateway Center), hosting mission teams for educational and experiential learning, occasional preaching, and teaching a contextual education practicum for Candler School of Theology. The greenness stored up inside comes from painting acrylic and chilling with my dog, Basil.

WGF: What’s your favorite thing about the Goose?
BC: I enjoy the conversations on the trails and watching hurting souls transform into wounded healers and servant leaders of justice.

Ready to join Bec and the rest of our volunteers? Apply now or email Bec here with questions.

The Relentless Affection Of God

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Even though William Paul Young’s bestselling novel The Shack was adapted into film and will be released in theaters tomorrow, (Friday, March 3) he took some time out of his schedule to sit down and chat with us. Get out and see The Shack this weekend! And then continue the conversation with Paul this summer at the Goose.

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Wild Goose Festival: What role has creativity had in forming your faith?

William Paul Young: Creativity requires mystery. Much of propositional theology, largely the work in which I grew up, does not. The former was and continues to be essential to my faith, while the latter has been an impediment to overcome. Please don’t misunderstand me, there is a vast creative resource in the works of theologians, but to the degree that they understood that relationship itself is a mystery. The entire cosmos is brimming with creativity, and if faith is not an expression of that, we have accepted something as a temporary covering for our broken hearts.

WGF: How does our image of God impact our relationships with the earth, each other, and ourselves?

Young: I think this works in both directions; we project an image of God that is an expression of our damage and shame. My father was an abusive disciplinarian. And surprise, so was my god for many years. So we can be a source for our image of God or we can allow the creation and revelation and beauty and music and art and children and joy and longing to speak to us rather than our interpretations of our experience.

This is why Jesus, and the Scriptures that speak of him, became central in my understanding of God. This witness is outside of myself and invites me to take the risk of trusting. If the declaration of Scripture and history is true, and we understand that Truth is a Person, then what does it shout to us in our pain, and whisper to us in our longing? We hear that God has a high view of humanity and creation. If that is true then our relationship with the earth, with each other and with ourselves becomes an essential and unavoidable canvas on which we paint our understanding of God.

WGF: Your fiction work, particularly The Shack and Cross Roads, prominently features people of color not only as protagonists, but as the very reflections of God. We’ll be seeing this on the Big Screen soon as God in your fiction is always Triune and always far, far kinder than we’re used to encountering in Divinity, whether in religion or pop culture. What inspires you – as a white man – to see God reflected in the faces and bodies of historically marginalized people?

Young: What a great question, and one that many are not courageous enough to ask. Thank you! Because I have come to believe that God is only Good, and therefore trustworthy, I want to see all of creation, especially the human creation, with the eyes of God. As I have come to understand that God has an inestimably high view of the human creation, I am also learning to see that way. And what I see, despite all of our broken expressions of our own self-loathing, is too beautiful for words. This is only one of the reasons that I love Jesus; he never treats the marginalized people as projects or missions, but as friends and insiders. He draws a circle big enough to even include the religious. In fact, I don’t think Jesus ever draws a circle; we do. And God is One who respects the circles we draw, but loves us too deeply to allow our circles to remain unchallenged.

WGF: You have a nonfiction book coming out soon, Lies We Believe About God. One of the guiding values of the Wild Goose Festival is setting a table wide enough to include everyone God welcomes. What are the lies that keep us from living and loving as we’re created to be?

Young: Wow, where do I begin. When some friends talked about the lies we believe, we easily came up with at least a hundred. To your question, here are a few from the new book:

God is a Christian

God blesses my politics

God doesn’t claim everyone as God’s children

God created my religion

God is more he than she

God is good, I am not

God is disappointed in me

WGF: What’s been your favorite part about having The Shack adapted into film?

Young: It feels similar to when the novel was published; I love being invited onto the holy ground of other people’s stories. I am convinced that I didn’t write the book by myself, but God didn’t write it without my participation. So it is human and flawed and not without error, but I have watched God climb inside the words of this book and now the images and creativity of the film, and find broken hearts over and over again.

God finds us in the places where we get stuck and are wounded and lost and begins singing us into the Relentless Affection that heals. I am grateful that the book and movie are the bones that will continue to help precious people flesh out language in a conversation about God that is not religious but relational. And I hope those conversations bring hope and comfort and sometimes confrontation. We need both, so that we don’t give up, and that the dark places of our hearts can be set free.

www.wmpaulyoung.com

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