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.
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, who is joining us at Wild Goose Festival for the first time this summer, is the Senior Pastor of the 8,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, “preaching a Black theology that unapologetically calls attention to the problems of mass incarceration, environmental justice, and economic inequality.”
As a recipient of the 2016 NAACP Chairman’s Award, Dr. Moss was named one of 5 trailblazing leaders under the age of 50 who have “given voice and vision to the mantra that black lives matter.” He is also an author, activist, filmmaker, and as he says of himself on his Twitter profile he’s a “Jazz-influenced Pastor with a Hip-Hop vibe. Saved by Jesus, inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, blessed by Howard Thurman and amazed by August Wilson.”
Last week he took some time to answer a few questions for us.
WGF: In your recent book Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World, you talk about how if the church wants to be prophetic we need to understand the blues — we need to learn to sing the blues. You say: “America is living stormy Monday, but the pulpit is preaching happy Sunday.” Why do you think that is?
OM3: The Church has been the chaplain to the Empire instead of the prophet for the oppressed. We’ve collectively been an arm of the Empire – forgive my Star Wars movie references – but the Church forgot it was supposed to be a part of the Rebel Alliance. Instead, we’ve bowed down to the Emperor and to the Sith Lords of Wall Street. This was not always the case. Christianity was born out of marginalization. It was a faith that challenged the Roman Empire. But in America, Christianity has rarely, if ever, challenged the Empire. When that challenge has happened, it comes from the marginalized communities, whether it’s black or Latino, the women’s suffrage movement, the labor movement. These communities that are connected to Christ challenge the Empire and reclaim the essence of Christianity as being a faith connected to love and justice.
WGF: Why has this happened? Why has the Church largely become the “chaplain to the Empire”?
OM3: We have faith but not love. When you solely focus on a faith dimension, devoid of love, you create doctrines that can be dangerous and destructive to people. You can be faithful…and hateful. As Paul states about faith, hope, and love, the greatest of these is love. Jesus says we are to love the Lord with all our hearts, mind and strength and love our neighbor as ourselves, and all the scripture, all the prophets hang on this statement. This is where the Christian church has fallen to the dark side by saying we are a faithful community but not being a loving community. When you are devoid of love you support policies and ideologies of people who are in power who are solely seeking to stay in power.
WGF: A lot of people say 11 am Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week. Do you think it’s possible for different kinds of people in terms of race, culture, socioeconomics and sexual orientation to worship and serve together?
OM3: White supremacy is in many ways the religion of America and one of the aspects that prevents diversity — white churches have difficulty with diversity. It’s easy for people of color to be a part of a “white church” because we understand the dynamics of being in a diverse world and dealing with different people. The great challenge is: can people who call themselves white be a part of a community when they’re not the majority, or central to the leadership? That’s the rub right there. So the “diverse churches” that we claim in America, they’re usually pastored by white men. But the opposite rarely ever happens. The challenge has really never been on the marginalized side. The challenge has been for those who idolize white supremacy and refuse to put it down. As Jim Wallis has said, “If I’m to be a Christian, I’m going to have to cease being white and accept that I’m a child of God. My whiteness is preventing me from living out my Christianity.”
WGF: Even though you ended up as a pastor, you started out studying cinematography in college at Moorehouse. It’s been interesting to see how filmmaking continues to play a big role in your life. A couple years ago, for example, not long after Michael Brown’s death at the hands of police in Ferguson, Missouri, you led a team that came up with the powerful video “Get Home Safely: 10 Rules of Survival.”
OM3: Figuring out how to merge media and ministry and activism has always been my passion. So we’ve created a production company at Trinity, Unashamed Media Group, to produce short films and documentaries. Our most recent one, “A Letter to My Son” is based on a letter that I wrote to my son Elijah that ended up on Huffington Post. After the death of Philando Castille last summer, I wrote this letter expressing my love and concern for my son as young black man. It’s about what he needs to know from his father…that though the world is open to him it’s also extremely dangerous for a person of color. We’ve created a short film around that, utilizing the letter but with parents from our community saying the words as they’re talking to their children. It’s a letter to my son, but it speaks to the needs and fears of so many parents.
WGF: Trinity has a very intergenerational congregation and unlike a lot of churches these days, includes a lot of Millennials. Why do you think so many Millennials seem to have given up on church?
OM3: It’s because the Church has, in many ways, chosen to be chaplains to the Empire and because the Church has suffered from horrendous PR. The Church is beholden to primarily white evangelicals who have claimed to be the Moral Majority but have been more like the Immoral Minority, and they have framed what the Church is to be. As a result Milliennials, who are deeply hungry for spiritual connection, do not recognize the Church being connected to Jesus. I preached a sermon a while back entitled, “I love Jesus but I can’t stand the Church.” I received so much feedback from Millennials about that sermon. They said, “That is it! I love Jesus. I just can’t stand the Church. The Church represents judgment and racism and homophobia, classism and patriarchy, but when I look at Jesus, Jesus is love and justice and fighting for equality, Jesus is demanding that I not only become a better person but that I engage the world. And I just can’t deal with the cognitive dissonance that is happening, this disconnection between Jesus and the Church.”
WGF: So, in some ways, Millennials leaving the Church is a wake up call. They are rejecting what being a Christian or being in the Church has come to mean.
OM3: Yes, we may have to stop saying we’re Christian and just say we’re followers of Jesus. Because the Church is meant to be a Luke 4:18 community. The spirit of the Lord should be upon us to preach good news to the poor, freedom for the oppressed, recovery of sight for the blind, and to proclaim the year of Jubilee for everybody.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ready to continue the conversation? Make sure you take advantage of our winter ticket special – $229 includes festival admission + tent camping.
We’re thrilled to announce that Diana Butler Bass, Otis Moss III, and William Paul Young will be at the Goose this year, sharing their wisdom, insights, and unique voices with the community. Want to get to know them a little better before the festival? Check out some snippets of their stories and what they’ve been up to lately. (And don’t forget your tickets!)
Diana Butler Bass
Diana Butler Bass keeps busy as an author, speaker, and independent scholar specializing in American religion and culture. The late Phyllis Tickle called Dr. Bass’ most recent book Grounded “…a wise and beautiful book. It is, in fact and in places, almost an anthem to the sacred unity of the physical and the spiritual in the formation of human faith and in the maturation of the human soul.” In this discovery of the sacred unity of the physical and spiritual, Dr. Bass notes:
Much to my surprise, church has become a spiritual, even a theological struggle for me. I have found it increasingly difficult to sing hymns that celebrate a hierarchical heavenly realm, to recite creeds that feel disconnected from life, to pray liturgies that emphasize salvation through blood, to listen to sermons that preach an exclusive way to God, to participate in sacraments that exclude others, and to find myself confined to a hard pew in a building with no windows to the world outside. This has not happened because I am angry at the church or God. Rather, it has happened because I was moving around in the world and began to realize how beautifully God was everywhere: in nature and in my neighborhood, in considering the stars and by seeking my roots. It took me five decades to figure it out, but I finally understood. The church is not the only sacred space; the world is profoundly sacred as well. And thus I fell into a gap – the theological ravine between a church still proclaiming conventional theism with its three-tiered universe and the spiritual revolution of God-with-us (Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution).
Otis Moss III
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III has “civil rights advocacy in his DNA” and built his ministry on community advancement and social justice activism. As Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL, Dr. Moss 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.
Dr. Moss says that his father’s role as a civil rights activist “had a huge impact on [me.] I grew up believing it was the call of the church to make an impact in the immediate community and in the world. I also grew up thinking most churches were highly into the community and politically active. It wasn’t until I got to college and realized that there were some churches that didn’t engage at all and that was a part of their theology. There were other churches that didn’t have any concept of prophetic ministry—they thought prophetic ministry was telling the future versus speaking truth to power. That was a shocker to me growing up knowing Andrew Young, John Lewis, Coretta Scott King, Daddy King and Wyatt T. Walker. Every person involved in organizing the Civil Rights movement was part of our extended family and they were connected to the church. I thought it was normal…until I went to college. I assumed the only way you could love Jesus was to demonstrate your love instead of speaking your love. Demonstrate it through how you love those who were the most vulnerable in the community.”
William Paul Young
William Paul Young is the New York Times bestselling author of The Shack, which has recently been adapted for film and is set to release March 3rd. Though The Shack was a story originally written for his six children with no intentions for publication, Paul’s creative re-imagining of the Trinity in the midst of tragedy resonated with millions across the world.
Paul calls his own story “both incredible and unbearable, a desperate grasping after grace and wholeness. These few facts also do not speak to the potency of love and forgiveness, the arduous road of reconciliation, the surprises of grace and community, of transformational healing and the unexpected emergence of joy.
I have finally figured out that I have nothing to lose by living a life of faith and trust. I know more joy every minute of every day than seems appropriate, but I love the wastefulness of my Papa’s grace and presence.”
Can’t wait to see them? Our winter ticket sale is happening now: $229 includes festival admission + tent camping. Hurry, sale ends Sunday, March 19th.BUY TICKETS NOW
Want to volunteer? You might just meet people that are like family…Check out the application here.
Meet Jenna. We’re pretty thrilled that she’s a part of our community. She brings an endless well of energy, and a deep love for others and for God. Jenna truly helps us create this festival – we couldn’t do it without her, or people like you!
1) Tell us some about how you first heard about the Goose and why you were interested in volunteering.
I heard about Wild Goose from my then youth pastor, now friend and mentor, Papy Fisher when I was in high school. It was first presented as an opportunity to go and practice for a trip to Romania with what my team had been training to do – bless others with free dream and tattoo interpretation. We also offered encouraging words, prayer coloring, destiny prophecy, foot washing, and really anything to bring love and peace to others. Since we were mostly all young (broke) kids, we decided that volunteering would be a great way to get tickets to the festival; and we fundraised before the festival to be able to have a vendor spot. We also saw the opportunity to love, encourage, and bless others by offering our time. I signed up to work as a volunteer with the Set-Up crew so I could have the festival off to work in our team’s tent.
2) What’s your current volunteer position with the festival?
Currently, I have the pleasure to work with Site Operations for the festival.
3) You’ve lived all over the world and have a variety of interests and skills. Can you tell us about how your travel and past work relates to what you do at the Goose?
Ever since I was 12 years-old, I have had the crazy blessing to travel and share love to people all over the world. I’ve worked with churches, missionary non-profits, festival ministry, and just being Love where, or should I say when I travel, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. To me, it seems to all be a beautiful quilt woven together. I tell most people that the Goose helped raise me. I started going when I was 15 years-old and feel like I had the unique opportunity to “grow up” at the Goose, as a wild gosling.
While I have held other jobs that are similar to my role at the festival, but the heart and love of the Goose and its community has helped build me into who I am today. Being a part of the Goose is this beautiful relationship of giving and receiving. Whether you want it or not, you get family. A dirty, hard, beautiful, and true family. I was taught to love just simply because I was loved by others. I experience community, peace, and fresh air, and ever since I was 15 I have been loved, encouraged, challenged, and supported to doubt, grow, and change. I’ve absolutely loved and cherished the support aI received from the Goose. It helped me discover who I am. When my “work” is to love and you have a group that helps you love, everything seems to work out.
4) Are you in school? What are you studying? Any favorite topics?
I am a part-time college student. I completed my Early Childhood Education credential back when I was 17 before I moved to Kenya and did a few other college classes then as well. Since being back in the States I have continued to take classes for an associates in arts degree with the hope to transfer to get an official interpretation degree for Sign Language.
I hope to not only know American Sign Language, but to continue to expand my love and knowledge of Kenyan Sign – I worked with the deaf in Kenya for 6 months. I also hope to learn some Indian Sign Languages as well, along with Swahili. It’s possible I’ll work toward having a double major in Global Sustainability or work around public policy and international relations.
The other parts of my time go to working 25 hours a week to pay bills and building my relationships and my favorite festival ministry community, Desanka.
5) Who are your favorite artists, musicians, or writers from the Goose community?
My favorite artists? Oh, there are so many. I got introduced to amazing singers, songwriters, poets, and leaders of all sorts at the festival so it’s hard to narrow it down. But a few are David Wimbish and The Collection, Songs of Water, Run River North, Gungor, The Brilliance, for music as well as wonderful friendships. For artists/speakers Emily Wimbish is a close friend and sister to me and extremely talented. While I’m running around the festival, I don’t always catch the deep discussions, but I love the representation of inclusion from all different backgrounds, styles, and beliefs.
6) If you could be an animal, what would it be?
Hmmm, to pick one animal – that is hard! I would have to say…after growing up at the Goose, having a goose tattoo and goose gauges I should say that my favorite animal is a goose, right? And in one way they are (like the symbolic way), but they terrify me in real life when I have to walk past them! While I cherish that geese are solo mate creatures, I would have to go with an elephant. That’s been my favorite since I was young.
The Wild Goose Festival is staying in Hot Springs this summer and we hope you’ll stay and stand up with us. As you may know, an attempt to repeal “HB2,” the highly controversial and offensive North Carolina “Bathroom Bill” failed in the days just before Christmas leading to some questions as to whether we should stay or go.
We’ve examined alternative sites in some other states and we face logistical and financial challenges in making them happen BUT we stay because we ought to – we stay to stand and to fight. We stay because it’s our battle and it’s our cause and it’s our calling and it’s our community – not because we find it inconvenient to go. I can’t find it in my spirit to believe otherwise.
We’re calling on you to walk toward the need, to stake your position, to show your commitment, and to DEVELOP your plan of action. We’re committed to offering practical sessions on how to run for office, how to lobby a legislative body, how to organize opposition, and more. We’ll leave Hot Springs more deeply connected, more highly motivated, and better equipped!
We‘ll stay as a watering hole for the beleaguered fighters and we’ll stay to help provide a safer space for the thousands of people hurt by this hate-filled law and the overall current socio-political climate.
Possible Economic Boycott
Rev. Dr. William Barber, a revered leader of our community, is negotiating a possible economic boycott. I’ve been in extensive conversation with him and he’s specifically given a “thumbs up” to our decision to stay.
He’s reminded me that while he’s asked the national office of the NAACP for an economic boycott, that decision hasn’t yet been made and further emphasizes that the specifics of the boycott have not been worked out. Based on my personal conversation with Rev. Barber, I’m confident that our presence in North Carolina this summer will be an important factor in this vital cause!
Status Report: HB2 Repeal
In 2016 North Carolina elected a new governor who is committed to the repeal of HB2. As I write this, I’m aware of serious on-going efforts to bring the repeal of the bill to a vote. There’s some hope for significant progress before we gather in Hot Springs this July.
When we made the decision to stay in North Carolina last year after the bill first passed, we did so in the hopes that we could move the needle toward justice by our voice, our votes, and our civic engagement and many in our community were deeply involved in doing just that in the recent election cycle. We would’ve liked more progress, more quickly but progress is being made and I think we’re in some small way a part of it.
Audre Lorde put it well, “Without community, there is no liberation.” We will stand strong, and we will do it together, a visible expression of God’s radical love for us all.
We hope you’ll join us this summer.
President and Producer, The Wild Goose Festival
Our winter ticket special will end March 20, 2017: $229 festival admission + camping. Grab your tickets now before prices increase.
Would you like to make a donation to help impact the fight? You can do so here – thank you for your support!
We are deeply disappointed that North Carolina failed to repeal HB2 in a special legislative session just before Christmas.
In response to this and other undemocratic actions by the State of North Carolina, Reverend William Barber, a friend and mentor to the WG community, has called for an economic boycott of the state.
We’ve communicated with the management of our festival site, the Hot Springs Spa, letting them know that we are investigating sites outside of North Carolina and asking them to increase their pressure on state government leaders to repeal their offensive legislation. They have been most gracious in their response: they are holding the dates for us as they add their voices to those calling upon the legislature to take positive action.
We’ll keep you posted on the progress of both the legislative battle and the Wild Goose site deliberations.
We ask your patience and your grace as we prayerfully stand against this injustice and continue in our effort to provide safer spaces for everyone – not just a “safer festival site” but a safer life, every single day!
Be assured the Wild Goose will gather this summer!
Jeff Clark, Wild Goose President and Producer
P.S. As you can imagine, this turn of events is adding “above and beyond” expenses to our budget. Please click here if you can help.
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 Collection – Combine 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.Kwest – Lives 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.
Lyric – When 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 Potenza – Sarah 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 McMillan – A 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 Wanted – A 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,Star – I,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 Fure – One 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 Many – Weaving 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 Brennet – Dubbed, “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 Greene – Melissa 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 Medema – Kenneth 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.
By: Jeff Clark, with Jasmin Morrell
Reports from Aleppo are grim: bodies line the streets, women and children shot in their homes, aid workers unable to reach those who need them most.
What can we do? What must we do? What work can we do right now in the face of a situation so overwhelming and seemingly so far-off?
In faith narratives, for some it’s common to describe our decisions to turn toward Jesus as “asking him into our hearts.” What does it look like to bring the citizens of Aleppo into our hearts?
Pray – by all means. Hope – hope that those left in the besieged city can be safely transported out of the war zone. Remind – in our holiday conversations be intentional to remind those around us and those who lead us, of this tragic rupture in our community.
This Upworthy article, 7 Real Things You Can Do Right Now About the Catastrophe in Aleppo, is a helpful start. It lists things like ways to support the White Helmets, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Rescue Committee. Or this article from Huffington Post has compiled a list of charities working to provide food and medical care. Educate yourself and use social media to spread the word, elevating the level of attention this receives.
Move our hearts. Move our lips. Move our feet. Move, not sit – that’s what we do, because like the terrified citizens of Aleppo, we’re all immigrants. Always on the move, longing for home.
Syria has been locked in civil war for more than five years, with many innocent lives lost, and many more forced to flee or hide, living day-to-day with the understanding that death is on their doorstep. The conflict escalated to an alarming degree after a ceasefire, meant to facilitate civilian evacuation of the area, was broken. UN human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville recently commented, “We’re filled with the deepest foreboding for those who remain in this last hellish corner of eastern Aleppo.”
It’s easy to erase feelings of turmoil and fear from the mangers arranged on our mantles and in our yards this time of year. The scene is familiar and the pleasant associations undeniable. Yes, Mary and Joseph had a difficult time finding a place to birth their son, but they eventually found shelter, Magi brought gifts, and we’re happy to celebrate the child whose arrival shapes our faith. But Jesus’ childhood was far from a cozy Christmas card scene.
As the story goes, when Herod ordered all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem to be massacred, Mary and Joseph fled their home, taking refuge in Egypt. Political unrest, innocents slaughtered, and fleeing refugees…the age-old Christmas story is remarkably resonant with the bloody reality of what is happening today, right now.
St. John of the Cross, a sixteenth century Carmelite friar, writes:
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
“I need shelter for the night, please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”
Then under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
As she grasps your hand for help, for each of us
is the midwife of God, each of us.*
Each of us can help bring God into the world. And there is no better time than now.
The Many, band and long-time community members of the Goose, have offered their single “Room For Us All” in response to the crisis. Available for free download on Noisetrade, all tips will collected will go to The International Rescue Committee.
*Ladinsky, Daniel. Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices From the East and West. “If You Want,” 306. Penguin Compass: New York, 2002.