|by the coffee barn - at the Wild Goose Festival 2011
Often times, to expedite the initial pleasantries of getting to know someone we label ourselves as a means of introduction. I am a single (read that divorced) mom of 4, a Christian, Trinitarian, Wesleyan and borderline contemplative. I am also an Evangelical who leans toward the Emergence Church movement. The problem with labels is that they come with baggage. Once we proclaim ourselves as something or someone that is loaded with politically charged images we invite all sorts of scrutiny and scorn - shutting down the avenue to open dialogue and authentic sharing - geesh!
This is why recent post from more traditional conservative evangelical groups about the recent Wild Goose Festival are problematic. I attended the Wild Goose Festival last week. I did not go as a United Methodist, or even as a pastor, but as someone who is part of the Christian faith. I first heard of the Wild Goose Festival from Brian McLaren during a conversation with our Eastern Iowa Emergent Cohort. Brian invited us to come to North Carolina and be part of something new and exciting coming to the United States.
Modeled after the UK's Greenbelt Festival, the Wild Goose Festival was a 4 day event in the hills of north central North Carolina. Nationally known speakers were on hand to interact in an open air venue that allowed for some interesting, and frankly exciting dialogue. There were also a number of bands, great food, camping (for those who were up for camping in the 90 degree temperatures) and times of daily prayer and praise.
Mark Tooley, a fellow United Methodist who is the president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy wrote: “Much of what ‘Wild Goose’ features is not new or novel but old-fashioned liberal causes, freshly repackaged for young evangelicals. Most Religious Left groups that advocated leftist policies in past generations are now in severe decline, and their activists are now targeting evangelical youth Influenced by gnostic beliefs that Christianity has repeatedly rejected, many ‘Wild Goose’ voices flatter themselves with fanciful dreams of sophistication and praise from secular elites. Their 1960s-style hoopla is supposedly updated for the 21st century. But ultimately this featherless old Wild Goose won’t fly.”
I was there for all 4 days and that's not what I experienced. I don't think Tooley really attended Wild Goose for himself, and frankly, unless he was willing to be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, I am not sure he would have gotten much out of it. What I did find is a group of folks who love God and deeply care about God's beloved children, so much so that there was room to work things out in the words of John Wesley, "in fear and trembling."
What I saw was an exciting and varied list of speakers from all sorts of backgrounds and denominations fully accessible to those who attended. Never was dialogue censored, nor questions shot down. What I saw was people sharing ideas and ideals, dreaming big dreams and casting a vision for the future, a vision that may appear idealistic, yet living into orthodox Christian faith based on scripture. If old fashioned liberal causes include balm for our broken and hurting world, encouragement for life's journey and a call to living intentionally as people who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned and provide cold water to the thirsty (see Matthew 25:31-46), well then - I guess that's what I saw.
Were some of my more conservative sensibilities challenged, of course they were. But we only stretch and grow when we enter into open and intentional dialogue with folks, not lurk around on the fringes or come to a place such as the Wild Goose Festival with an agenda that is inflexible or full of fear and anger.
I will post later about some of the ways that I was stretched...let it suffice to say that the Wild Goose Festival gave me nourishment for the journey so that I may live more authentically into the call that our Triune God has placed on my life - to share the love of God with others and walk alongside my sisters and brothers so that we may be a part of the solution to some of the challenges our world is facing. If this means that I am a liberal or progressive, so be it...but I think it means I am just a beloved child of God working things out in fear and trembling, just like everyone else.
Peace, love in Christ,