Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wild Goose 1: "What if I could believe it was true?"


Wild Goose 1

Nadia Bolz-Weber gathers the Goose

The Wild Goose Festival has been described as a progressive Christian Woodstock….with showers…and like something between Burning Man and church camp. What’s clear is the gathering of some 3000 plus people, camping out for the most part, in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Pisgah National Park. Most trying to figure out what’s next while trying to live out that next now. There is a bottom line commitment to a world based on love being made real through peace and justice and Jesus is somehow central to all this. After that, everything else is pretty much up for grabs. It feels like the largest number of Goose participants are post evangelical (to some degree or another) but to anyone raided in mid century mainline protestantism, the prevailing culture and ethos of the Goose remains evangelical, even as the theology evolves. 

It is a world with its own stars, unofficial hierarchy and occasional annoying self congratulatory vibe. But for the most part the searching feels sincere. And passionate.  And that’s what brought me back for a second visit. 

The Goose is a  bit like an immersive theatre experience. You can sit in one place and watch the scenes evolve and change. Or follow one character around the festival. Or take the adhd approach and bounce around the festival checking in here and there for bits and pieces that capture your imagination.  Any option is rich.

My reports, however, will be like postcards and tweets, not fully capturing any presentation but giving a feel of being there.  

So Goose 17, part 1


While I’m still uncertain about the wisdom of making this trip current lifewise, driving north from  Asheville through the winding Blue Ridge mountain roads, Asheville outlaw country on the radio, it feels good……’

This year, I’ve hooked up with Dana’s Outdoor Adventures and there’s tent waiting for me at a campsite down by the river. And I’m met by the friendly face of Tracy. Over twenty years ago, curing a particularly bad stretch of my life, she led me back to my music. We put together a band, played a couple of shows for our churches. The next summer, we’d do a workshop together at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. I haven't seen her since. But that time was healing.  Good to see her again. The Goose is like that.


Dinner with my friend and Goosecast host Russ at a downtown Hot Springs restaurant hanging over the river, I’m not sure if anywhere else the main street of town is actually part of the Appalachian Trail. 


In the dark, finding your tent can be a real adventure. Thanks to the volunteers who gave me a ride on a golf cart after an hour of wandering…


Throughout the afternoon, I’m checking out the sound check on the main stage. A kind of all star jam band is playing with Melissa Greene handling vocals and Alyssa Clark playing a mean lead guitar. A down and dirty “Come Together” echoes over the campground. 


Nadia Bolz-Weber has the job of Gathering the Goose on the first night…I knew her from her appearance on NPR’s the Moth story show when it broadcast from West Park. Nadia is an imposing figure: tall and tattooed and commanding presence. On the Moth she had been poetically obscene with a style like a contemporary hip stand up artist.That was what I was expecting. But what I got this night was something else.

Nadia spoke to the ultimate radical importance of the pastoral.  Raising the question if we asked our community members what they  really thought an felt about themselves, what would they say? And of course, what most of us have to say about ourselves is negative. Judgmental. Non forgiving. It’s the voice of the accuser, ha Satan, calling us out to ourselves. And of course, for most of us, its easier to forgive almost anyone other than ourselves. She speaks of the radical importance of the forgiveness of sins. I realize that I have tended to soften prayers of confession  due to that deep sense of guilt. Nadia is leading me to consider  a different approach that names and acknowledges our inability to love ourselves and the proclamation of forgiveness and acceptance. Now. As we are. Who we are. And i hear a voice inside of my head  saying, What if I could really believe it was  true? What if I could really believe it was true? 


I find Russ at what will become his office at picnic table near the  craft beer tent. He’s joined by his new co host Kristen Leigh. We enjoy Melissa’s set but things are running late and it takes some coaxing to get Big Al to come out and join his Chicago’s Most Wanted band in their blues set. 

As the main stage goes dark, in the next tent the voices of a few hundred people singing old hymns in four part harmony in Beer and Hymns fills the night. It would bring joy to Luther, I’m sure. And the sound fills me, too. 

Later I’ll walk down to the Cafe tent and listen in on Brother Bear’s acoustigoose jam session/hootenanny before making my way home. 

The Goose is open.

What if I could really believe it?

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