Goose Bumps: Opportunities Everywhere for Offense. A Fair and Objective Review
Until about a month ago, no one in my household had even heard of Wild Goose, or virtually any of the speakers that were slated to talk at the event. (My wife had read a book on Christian mysticism and started following the author’s blog, only to learn that this festival would be taking place “in our backyard” a mere two hours from our home.) We bought the tickets and made plans to attend, based solely on her approval of that one gateway. The implications of an event like this were profound, essentially a “West Coast” vibe set in the fields of North Carolina, anchored in tobacco-land, certainly southern, and decidedly country. Read the rest for my perspectives as an “outsider” who came with an open heart and an open mind.
First Impression: as we followed the GPS to 1439 Henderson-Tanyard Road, Shakori Hills, North Carolina, I began to wonder about the absence of traffic. We seemed to go deeper and deeper into the country and there were no other vehicles…none. I made the final turn, and there were still no cars in line…I followed the direction of the navigation device on my windshield and we arrived at the “X” on the GPS system, but there was no festival. I actually thought for a moment that maybe we’d been “taken.” As we kept driving, it became apparent that the error was in the sky, and not on the ground…we spotted a mailbox with the festival sign and we pulled into the driveway.
First Contact: there were about four cars in line (finally) at the entrance to the festival, and as we pulled forward, there were signs advising the various parking rates. This was disturbing, since there had been no mention of parking fees to my knowledge and we began scrambling amongst ourselves for cash. (We brought supplies, and stayed in a hotel so we only had about twelve bucks between the whole family of four.)
First Offense: I rolled the window down and was greeted by a volunteer in a green T-shirt who advised me that the festival’s ATM vendor had pulled-out at the last minute so they couldn’t accommodate payment other than cash for parking. (Arghhh!) We must’ve looked frustrated, and we rarely carry cash anymore. (Who does?) The response of this green T-shirt wearing authority really amazed me, and I am shocked even now…“It’s OK, we’re on the honor system, so I will give you the weekend parking sticker to keep in your window and you can pay $10 on your debit card when you get your wrist bands at the welcome center.” She smiled as she placed the pass on the dash and I pulled away in complete awe. She admitted too, that she didn’t even know if the website mentioned the parking fees. There really were a lot of cars there, but the parking areas were vast and cars, campers, and RVs were scattered across acres of land so there was a decidedly vacant feel to the the event as we arrived.
First Intention: the opening ceremony was officiated by multiple leaders, but the culture of the festival was cast by Gareth Higgins who stated that it was the desire of the Wild Goose festival to “Collapse the hierarchy that normally exists between leaders and audience members.” I’ve heard sentiments like this before, and I tend to hate festivals so I made a note of this and I sat back to hear more of this matter.
First Talk: the first scheduled talk was a conversation with Jim Wallis and T-Bone Burnette wherein I realized that the intentions and aspirations of this gathering are high. T-Bone shared that because of the increased pressure of politics and the dynamics of capitalism, “Artists are the only ones who can tell the truth anymore.” As a fan of Seth Godin, I couldn’t agree more.
First Heckle: In my mind, it’s only a matter of time before things get out of hand, when you have so many diverse attendees present. Wild Goose was no exception. During the first few hours, Tony Campolo was sharing his views on LGBT acceptance in the church and he commented on Prop 8, when someone from the crowd interrupted with a shout. These things are not uncommon when hot topics are discussed, so I really didn’t expect anything less.
First Impression: On the heels of that first heckle, came an impression that this convergence of art and social justice is really a movement of the Holy Ghost and the revelation that what is afoot is no ordinary camp-meeting. What surprised me…shocked me, was that THIS heckling individual later stepped forward during the Q&A to apologize to Tony Campolo for his emotional outburst, and then he asked an insightful question that opened up the subject even clearer and deeper. I’ve never seen this before…ever. (The same thing happened in another talk that Tony gave, as he was interrupted by a barking dog that someone brought to the tent…Tony finally asked them to bring the dog inside, because he couldn’t think straight (“I’m getting old.”) and at the end of the talk, the dog’s owner apologized for the dog. I’m fairly certain at this point that the Kingdom of Heaven is on the Earth, in Shakori Hills.
First Blood: on the fourth and final day, my daughter was stung by a bee. She asked the first-aid team for some assistance and was given Tylenol, antiseptic, and topical pain killer free-of-charge. She texted me seeking some essential oils that her Mom keeps on-hand, but she found the first-aid folks first. I am thankful and grateful for their support.
First Festival. First of Many: If this is the shape of things to come, then the future holds the promise of a better tomorrow and I can hardly wait to the see sun rise on Wild Goose 2012.
Summaries and Final Thoughts:
Tattoos, Hair, and Prayer: My family doesn’t fit the motif and falls somewhere in the minority of an uber-modern gathering like this one. In spite of the fact that we seem to stand out, in reality we tend to blend in very well with the left-leaning populace. If there’s anything that you find in common, you can build a bridge, and with our vegan diets we quickly came across others who aspire to eat raw and living foods. Many at the festival expressed concern for the planet and the environmental impact of corporate greed and I can assimilate quickly into these communities of conversation.
Guitars, Sitars, and Tibetan Bowls: the inclusion of world music brought a depth to the lineup of speakers that made the calendar an adventure. We heard some great musicians in settings that can only be called intimate. The opportunity to pick and choose from five or six potential gatherings at any given hour of the day or night made the entire event a lively and challenging proposition but we managed to catch some great worship, jam sessions, and traditional praise.
SBNR and LGBT: Defining the strategy as Spiritual But Not Religious explains the full inclusion of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender communities, while the cornerstone and theme of the Wild Goose is an enlightened understanding that the spirit of God moves without regard for the desires and intentions of man. The wind blows where it wants to, and so it is with the Goose of God. Is this new for me? Absolutely not. I was an outcast during the Charismatic renewal, and I remember being dis-invited to a baptist church that I respected and admired when I shared that I had decided to join the church in town that embraced the gifts of the Spirit. I also remember the difficulty in shifting to veganism in a culture of omnivores. Am I going to disinvite ANYONE from the Lord’s Table? God-willing, NEVER. Come one…come all.
Missing Elements: there were a few things that I felt were conspicuously absent from this week, so I feel it only fair to bring them to light.
No Blatant Littering: scarcely anyone left trash on the property.
No Religious Hype: apparently everyone in this circle is “real.”
No Personal Prophecy: gatherings tend to attract this, but I witnessed none.
No Nicolatianism: the separation of laity and leadership was addressed by Jesus in The Revelation to John, where the Christ advised us that He hated these deeds. At the closing ceremony, the crowd was invited to the platform to join the musicians and board members in the Communion Table. My daughter ran forward, and enjoyed the company of tear-filled leaders who struggled to keep composure as the festival came to an end.
No Judgmentalism: no one looked down on anyone else. (Not even the unruly dog, who actually stopped barking when he/she came into the tent.)
No Criticism/Schism: the order of every meeting, every event, and every talk seemed to flow in divine harmony. I’ve been around the block for over 20 years and this is not a typical happening. Especially with the number of speakers and the tight schedules that allowed mere minutes between events.
Christianity is coming apart at the seams. Church is boring and everyone knows it.
There is little that “church-ianity” can offer a suffering world, and few seem to care as long as the budgets are met and the people keep coming back for more pre-digested sermons. There have always been centers of influence in Christendom where the masses gathered and focused their attention. Those were the men who defined the moves of the past: Luther, Wesley, Finney, Wigglesworth, Branham, Falwell, and Graham. These men have made their mark and their movements changed the world…could it be that the move of the present moment is not one of a singularity but a massive shift to a blended culture of community without regard to the individual vessel.
Have we reached the point where we finally regard the contents more than the container? We have this treasure in earthen vessels…or in the modern vernacular, we carry the Kingdom of God in styrofoam cups. While Christianity tears itself apart, another group (that has always existed) is gathering among the fringes of the flock. The fringe likely consists of greater numbers than the core, because many if not most of the members of the community of doubt have come from the church-proper to now stand slightly outside the fire. The simple conclusion that I have drawn is this: the circumference is greater than the center. We need to understand that exclusion is a dangerous game, and that we are called to love; not judge. When we reach the stars, we will learn that only when we touched the unlovable with compassion, did we truly meet Jesus face-to-face. In my opinion, the movement that is the Wild Goose is touching that vein, and feeling the pulse of The Christ in the Earth and approximately 1,700 of us participated in this life-changing moment that might become known as the Woodstock of the next generation and the new order of ministry.
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