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Rick Meredith

Rev. Barber Wakes the 2019 Goose

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Rev. Dr. William Barber, II – Saturday morning – WILD, Wild Goose!

Rev. Barber and testifiers from the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will “Wake the Goose” on Saturday morning! It will be monumental – it will move us – it will disrupt us – and we will be better equipped and more urgently empowered to create the world in which we want to live.

No one alive today understands more clearly the hidden community held in place by the systems of poverty and no one more urgently lifts us and leads us into action than Rev. Barber.

Winter Ticket Prices end soon – March 21. Get yours now!

Southern Identity and Doing God’s Work

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Guest Post by Layton E. Williams

A couple of weeks ago, I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time since leaving the job that had kept me in D.C. for two years. Last fall, I left that city to move back to the South—the region in which I’d been born and raised—to Charleston, South Carolina, which my family has called home for a number of years.

When I arrived back in D.C., I fell easily into the rhythms of my former life. One morning, I put on my clergy collar and a stole and attended a rally and march to the White House led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II. Then I spent three days attending Sojourners’ Summit for Change, a convening of faith leaders dedicated to seeking justice for all people and the transformation of the world. It was invigorating to be back in such powerful spaces, surrounded by others who share my convictions, united in a singular effort to counteract a harmful administration and fight for a better reality. It was motivating, empowering, and frankly relaxing to return to that world—where “fighting with” generally means “fighting alongside” rather than “fighting against.”

When the week ended, I hugged my progressive Christian friends goodbye and drove through the winding mountain highways of Virginia and North Carolina back down to the marshy waterways of low country South Carolina—a home where almost no one I know and love shares my set of political, theological, and ideological beliefs. Some disagree with my queerness; others disagree with my perspective on the current administration and its policies; and still others disagree with my convictions about our primary calling as Christians to love and seek justice. To my D.C. friends it must seem strange that I chose to leave behind my life of daily justice work and protests in favor of returning to a region that isn’t exactly known for its commitment to rapid progress. Yet this is the place God called me to return to, as minister and truthteller, to do my part in the hard and unending work of putting this broken world back together.

During a time in which the injustices and brokenness of this world seem overwhelming, the problems insurmountable, and the solutions intangible—life in D.C. gave me endless opportunities to respond and take action. It was good, important, exhausting, and inspiring work. But I couldn’t shake a growing nudge that it was time to return home to the South. On the one hand, I had friends and fellow activists telling folks that we needed to “come get our people” and on the other hand, I had the very real fear that, if the world divided entirely into factions of the like-minded, I would find myself separated across that gaping chasm from the people I love most—my family. I also knew, deep down in my bones, that for all its flaws, the South holds a particular kind of deep capacity for transformation and growth.

I have always challenged talk of coastal elites as if those of us living in big cities are all one homogenous group of intellectual urbanites, disconnected from the realities of the rest of America. Most of the people I’ve known in the big cities I’ve lived in come from smaller places, working class families, and complex and nuanced backgrounds. And I’ve been similarly frustrated by the rush to write off the region I come from as a lost cause—hopelessly racist, isolationist, and bigoted. Like my friends in the coastal cities, the South is complicated. It has a painful history and some very real painful realities in its present. But I’d argue that in a way, that sets up Southerners to be particularly capable of wrestling with the complex issues that face our country and our world now.

The South can’t hide from its past and it can’t fix it, so those of us who claim the South as home are forced to reckon with its hard, unresolved, complex realities, its scars and wounds, right alongside its beauty. We carve out life in the midst of all of that. Communal life is so crucial here. We show up for one another. And it’s true, that there can be distrust toward outsiders, but it’s also true that differences—even very significant differences—can be overcome and even embraced as community between people develops. With that embrace of community, we sow the seeds for real transformation and justice.

At one point during my time in D.C., I couldn’t name the last time I’d interacted with someone who didn’t share my political views. In Charleston, I do that every single day: my hairstylist, my favorite bartender, my neighbors, and my family members all identify as something other than liberal. And on Sunday mornings, I show up to church and minister to a group of people who intentionally come together to confront and wrestle with the hard questions of faith—from reckoning with racism and bigotry to who deserves mercy—even across their deeply different perspectives. Change in the South does feel slower, more incremental, than I experienced in D.C. But it happens through relationship, on a human level, which gives that change a strength of foundation, a transformative power, that abstract concepts cannot achieve in the same way. And I have privilege that allows me to do this work in this place. My whiteness, my southernness, and the fact that my queerness isn’t readily evident allow me to move with relative freedom in spaces and conversations in ways that others aren’t able to. And that is part of why I recognize that this hard and holy work is mine to do.

In the closing sermon of that D.C. conference I attended, Rev. Traci Blackmon said this about our call to justice and faith, “Activism is part of discipleship, but the difference is that our goal can never be the annihilation of other people. As followers of The Way, our goal is the redemption of all people…even those who stand against us.”

I don’t believe the way to a better world will come from forcing a hollow unity that delays justice, silences truth, and offers only superficial inclusion to those on the margins. But I also don’t believe the way forward is to annihilate everyone unlike us…or anyone for that matter. The way forward is through relationship—complex, honest, human relationship—which allows us to persist in and learn from our state of disunity and hold on to both our firm commitments to justice and to one another. And I believe the South, with its deep roots in hospitality and community, can show the way.


Layton E. Williams is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a writer. She is the author of Holy Disunity: How What Separate Us Can Save Us, forthcoming this October from Westminster John Knox Press. She earned a MDiv from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary and currently lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

My Real New Year Comes in July

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A New Year! It’s a time to reflect and reset, to close the mental door (as much as possible) on struggles from the year before; to refresh, planning for better days ahead, and to celebrate – excited about what the New Year could bring. We gather with friends, we break bread together, we put on good music and we dance.

As I joined with friends around a bonfire to celebrate the hope for a better next year, someone said, “a good fire feeds our souls.” Oh man. Yes, it does. And it made me think about the next New Year – my personal real New Year which happens six months from now – Wild Goose Festival.

For many of us, Wild Goose Festival is that good fire, a refresher of things that really matter; a cup running over, powered by freshly charged spirit-filled batteries. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come and where we believe we can go. A wonderful opportunity to gather with friends, eat, drink, discuss, laugh, listen to good music and speakers, and dance.

A Wild Goose friend echoed the thoughts of many when he said he was worn out from the struggle of being in the world and couldn’t wait to get to the Goose. For him it was breathing fresh air after 12 months of sifting through polluted input. An empty tank being filled. The beginning of a new spiritual year. Maybe that’s what William Barber meant when he called Wild Goose Festival “a watering hole for tired saints.”

Wild Goose Festival speaks to the inner needs of our souls, providing that good fire. Art, in so many expressions, is everywhere – and much of it is created real-time, right before our eyes, including paintings, pottery, songs and tattoos!

A display of tattoo prints along with their stories – stories of struggle, courage, triumph and love – is one of my Wild Goose favorites. I really like county music singer Ty Herndon’s tattoo, Journey On. I remember his rise to success and I remember the backlash when he came out in 2014 at the age of 52. His tattoo represents the determination to move forward and be true to who you were meant to be – to love and be loved authentically. That’s a core Wild Goose message.

Music is a huge part of the festival as well, and can be experienced by dancing the night away at Silent Disco, or by singing at the top of your lungs at Beer and Hymns each night, or simply by taking in the wonderful musicians and singers that the festival brings in. I was over the moon when it was announced that Amy Grant would be there in 2018. Of course Amy performed, and she also spoke and she also served in our closing communion. And she camped and hung out with us for the weekend – that’s just one of those Wild Goose things.

Co-creators, well known and unknown, (some places might call them “speakers” but not Wild Goose), are everywhere, on level-ground with everyone else, are hosting conversations, participating in panels, discussing their books, and working on their projects.

I participate in the Mama Bear Den, a group of Mamas of LGBTQ kids who fully affirm their orientation, knowing that it’s simply part of how they were created and has nothing to do with their ability to practice faith, Christian or otherwise. We’re keenly aware that not all parents have responded this way and we’re there to fill in the gap with snacks, cool water, listening ears, and hugs. So many hugs!

Wild Goose Festival is not a crafty little Christmas in July show. It’s a no holds barred, get in the trenches with likeminded (or maybe not) fellow human beings event, where together we reset, refresh, and explore how we can do it better, around a bonfire that is the festival itself, for the start of our Spiritual New Year. We come together to leave behind and let go of what hasn’t been working, what hasn’t gone well, and together we look forward to what can be better.

Christian Piatt describes it in Sojourners: “it’s a sort of annual jubilee, one in which we cast off our denominational and other distinguishing identities, flattening out the architecture of hierarchy and privilege, in order to stand, shoulder to shoulder, on holy, common ground.”

Wild Goose Festival is throwing a party in July 2020 and everyone is invited! Come and gather around the fire that lights our spirits – the fire that warms us through the art created, the topics discussed, and the wholeness experienced simply by the coming together of people who want to do better and be better. It will be a really good fire, and I can’t wait to see you there!

Robin B. Schuster

Robin is a writer and 3 year Wild Goose Festival attendee; a member of Serendipitydodah – Home of the Mama Bears and host of the 2020 Mama Bear Den at Wild Goose Festival. She lives in North Florida and is the founder of (coming soon!)

The 10th Annual Wild Goose Festival is off to a great start!

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Valerie Kaur’s challenging ask “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb but the darkness of the womb? What if the future is not dead but still waiting to be born?” will invigorate us and her new book, See No Stranger (release date, June 2020), will equip us for Revolutionary Love!

Michael Gungor leads an up-close and personal interactive Café session around his newest project, “Five Rhythms from Planet Moon,” an experimental ecstatic dance album – Can it get Goose-ier than that!

Diana Butler Bass, among the highest impact public theologians of our day, brings two of her incredible, high impact, former students to the Wild Goose
– Jennifer Harvey (Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation)
– and Reggie Williams (Bonhoeffer’s Black Jesus: Harlem Renaissance Theology and an Ethic of Resistance).

Jim Wallis defines the public faith agenda like no one else. When Jim talks, he literally creates the common vocabulary for our contemporary faith conversations.

If you haven’t already watched AND bookmarked Valarie’s 2016 Watch Night Service message, do it now.

Barbara, Yvette, Brian, Stephanie, Racquel, and Phil – More Wild Goose Excitement!

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Wild Goose #10 is more of what you’ve come to expect –
and a lot of what you don’t expect – that’s because it’s the Wild Goose!

It’s a mix of first timers – Racquel Gill and Stephanie Tait – and regulars and “near regulars” – Barbara Brown Taylor, Bishop Yvette Flunder, and Brian McLaren.

And Wild Goose musical favorite Phil Madeira has a new album and Wild Goose has Phil!

Accessibility at Wild Goose Festival

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When Carrie Craig first attended Wild Goose Festival in 2013, she didn’t know what to expect.

Would there be accessibility? Would there be help if needed? Carrie has been disabled since birth.  She spent her first few years getting around by crawling or being carried on her daddy’s back or shoulders until she was about 4 when she received and began using her first wheelchair.

Being an Episcopal Priest for over 20 years, Carrie was confident that the festival would align well with her spiritual needs, given the attitude of acceptance; the spirit of connecting people of all backgrounds and religious leanings; and the relationship she had with festival planners, but whether or not it would meet her physical needs was an unknown.

Carrie visited Hot Springs Campground, where the festival is held, several days before the start of the festival and determined that it could work.  Not knowing what to expect, she had not planned to stay on site, so she commuted each day back and forth from her home in Asheville, NC. She quickly realized that the plan she had made was not the best way to get the most from Wild Goose and determined to make a better plan for future festivals.

A few months after that festival in 2013, Carrie was approached by members of the Wild Goose Festival team asking if she would be willing to work as the Accessibility Coordinator for the festival, assisting with and consulting on issues around ADA compliance. Given her focus on independence as a priority and her lifelong commitment to accessibility for disabled individuals, this was an easy YES!  

With purposeful intention, Carrie worked on building an environment that was open to consider options for accessibility at the festival. As the contact person she began to develop relationships and saw the community with personal interest in faith and disability grow.  She works hand in hand with Joanne Ciccarello who oversees ASL needs for attendees to the festival. Over the years, other festival attendees such as Heather Morgan, who comes from Canada to attend the festival, have joined in to add their voices and perspectives to the conversation.

Each year, there is work done to improve the festival for those with various types of special needs. The team strives to learn from each festival about what could be improved to make the next year better. Improvements through the years include medical electric campsites, increased organized shuttle service, and a specific ADA site area. The most significant contribution this team makes to those attending with disabilities is the relational aspect.  Knowing individually who needs what creates confidence for festival goers that attendance is not only possible, but that a great experience can be expected.

Writer Stephanie Tait says to others with disability, “You are a kingdom asset, not a liability. The Body isn’t simply tolerating you, we NEED you. You reflect a key facet of our huge multifaceted God – without you, we would see God less clearly, less whole, less true to who God is.” This is a belief wholly embraced by Carrie and her team.

At the Goose, you will find a camping area specifically set aside for those who need to support electrical devices; a team of volunteers ready to help set up campers in this area and available throughout the festival for needs as they arise; ASL interpreters for sessions where attendees have requested this service; and motel space set aside for people who are unable to camp. New at the Goose in 2020 will be increased resources for access, hospitality, information, and a calming space for those who need to separate from the noise and busyness of the festival.  

Marginalized communities are valued at a premium in the space where Wild Goose Festival exists, and this includes those with disabilities. Whether something as simple as directional signs that indicate the easiest path to take, or the implementation of spaces and tents for specific sessions or informational purposes, every year brings something that creates a better experience for those in this community. This year, Carrie and her team are extremely excited to have several sessions led by disabled presenters – expanding and highlighting the voices of those from the margins to our diverse lineup.

If you, like Carrie in 2013, are intrigued by Wild Goose Festival and would love to attend, but have reservations about the space and its ability to meet your physical needs, please know that your needs are a priority to Wild Goose, and there are many working to make sure the festival is as prepared as possible to meet those needs. Please contact Carrie Craig at with any accessibility or general ADA related questions or to request interpreting services. 

We hope to see you at Wild Goose 2020 and are working to make sure it is an experience defined solely by the power and tenderness that lives there. #Wildgoose2020

Year-Round Conversations

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For many of us, the thing we love most about Wild Goose Festival is the conversations in which we find ourselves spontaneously and unexpectedly engaged. It seems as though they’re always derailing us from our carefully planned agendas.

Can we make this a year-round experience? Imagine you’re walking down Main Street or through the campground. You encounter a lively conversation around a couple of picnic tables. In true Goose style, someone calls out, “hey, come join us!” People scoot over on their bench to make a little space for you. You’ve never met these folks before but there’s an immediate trust and openness and acceptance. The conversation flows. When you leave, you feel a little lighter. A bit transformed. Even energized!

Details - Wild Goose Festival Community Page

Let us know what you think. Please leave your comments and suggestions below.

2020 Postponement

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Festival Postponement – What We Know and What We Don’t Know

We’re not ready to say “It’s Over.” But we know we can’t have a festival in July. 

So for now, we’re postponing. We’ve narrowed it down to two possible dates: September 10-13, 2020, or July 2021.

What are the chances of an actual September festival? We don’t know. We know we’re looking at a “new normal” for a long time. We don’t know what that will look like in September.

Why don’t we just cancel? Because we don’t see any downside to leaving the September possibility open while “the new normal” evolves. So much of our planning for this year is already complete, it allows us to work with a shorter go/no go lead time.

We do know this, above all else: We will not have a September festival unless we can meet all the criteria of “safe.”

So, please save the date but write it in pencil, and keep your eraser nearby.

We hope you’ll hang in here with us while we sit this out. We’ll make a final decision on the September dates early this summer. At that time, we’ll offer several options for those who have already purchased tickets.

For now, we’re working to develop the Wild Goose Community, an online experience of conversation, music, 24/7 drop-in spaces, scheduled sessions, and whatever you can think of – kind of a Do-It-Yourself Goose. We want this to be heavily community-driven – we’re building the highway but you have to drive on it! CHECK IT OUT HERE

Please keep yourselves safe. We still have a long way to go. Hang in there.