I had a fantastic time attending the second-ever Wild Goose Festival in rural North Carolina this weekend. It was hotter than Hades as we camped, listened to speakers and sat around talking theology, but it was worth it. Here are ten things I learned from Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Over the Rhine and a particularly revelatory S’more.
1. Brian McLaren is as strong a worship leader as he is a writer and speaker. (Brian can sing! He plays the guitar! Did we know this?) He also rocked the house with his moving session on interfaith relations, which is the topic of his book coming out in September from the new Emergent imprint Jericho Books. I picked up a galley & will be blogging about it in a couple months.
2. No deep-fried funnel cakes for Goosey folks. Most of the food vendors had a granola-y flair – curry and samosas at one stand, vegan muffins at another.
3. Some folks from Obama’s campaign came in order to see for themselves that there are religious folks who care about progress and justice. Judging from the numerous Probama bumper stickers in the parking lot, the campaign reps found their peeps.
4. Emergent is still one of the least racially diverse movements I’ve ever seen. One participant jokingly summed this up as “Emergent: Saving the Church for the White People.” That’s gallows humor about something that needs to change.
5. If there is a person alive who does not adore Phyllis Tickle, I have not met him or her. When Phyllis got off the stage, I was waiting to catch up with her, but had to fight my way (in a loving Christian manner of course) through her other fans. She is so lovely, inside and out. And I will cherish the memory of Kathy Helmers shouting, “PREACH IT TICKLE!!” from the back of the tent after Phyllis had given a masterful talk that ranged from the emperor Diocletian to the birth control pill. (You had to be there.)
6. I had the best S’more of my life at Wild Goose. Our group had forgotten to put the Hershey bars into the cooler, so they melted. Some of us might have abandoned the dream of S’mores because of this. But no! One person (a youth group leader, natch) snipped off the corner of each Hershey bar and piped melted chocolate on top of our graham crackers and toasted marshmallows. It was a Eucharistic revelation.
7. Over the Rhine is going to record their song “Johnny and June” on their next album. In their word-and-music concert with Lauren Winner (photo at right), Lauren said that she always begs them to sing this gorgeous song about marriage whenever she sees them in concert, but that they’ve resisted recording it until now. They also hinted that the album after that will be hymns. Yes, please.
8. In the OTR Q&A, someone asked what everyone is reading right now. So here goes: Linford is reading a book called American Canopy, a history of the United States told through our trees. Karin is halfway through Crazy for God by Frank Schaeffer (whom I paid $10 to dunk in the dunking booth on Saturday). Lauren is reading a “middlebrow mystery novel” with a detective who used to be Amish, and also James Cone's new book The Cross and the Lynching Tree.
9. InterVarsity Press is offering a Wild Goose book special right now, severely discounting the Kindle editions of books from Mark Scandrette, Margot Starbuck, Julie Clawson and others for $2.99. Also, my own publisher, Paraclete Press, is offering “wild prices for Wild Goose” until June 28 for books by Pete Rollins, Lauren Winner, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Carl McColman (whose session on contemplative prayer was wonderful), Troy Bronsink, and me. So if you want copies of Flunking Sainthood or other books at 50% off—plus free shipping if you order three or more books—go to www.paracletepress.com/wildgoose and use promo code WILD2012.
10. Tripp Fuller’s Homebrewed Christianity podcast is a hoot. I already knew this in theory from just having met Tripp, who, in a case of full-blown nominative determinism, is a trip. But now I know it firsthand, having attended one of his live podcast recordings and watched him mix it up. He’s a great singer and the consummate theological entertainer. Who else blends the blues with Derrida? Who? I ask you. (Tripp is pictured at left [red shirt] with Steve Knight of Knightopia [blue shirt].)
And the best part of the Festival was the deep impromptu conversations with total strangers who are now friends. Chuck and Donna, if you ever read this, thank you for great conversation and laughter even after I ruthlessly stole your table in the shade at the Coffee Barn.
Setting my calendar for Wild Goose 2013.