It’s hard to know where to start when talking about our Wild Goose experience.
Nadia Bolz-Weber helped us think through our obsession with self-improvement, helping us remember God loves us as we are (not just as we wish we were).
Diana Butler Bass reframed the Zacchaeus story as a tale of unchecked ambition, and she reminded us that anger and gratitude cannot exist in the same space.
John Pavlovitz taught us about compassion in the physical and virtual worlds, focusing on caregivers’ need for self-care. He also gave me some solid blog tips.
Rev. Dr. William Barber and Jim Wallis called us to political action in the face of systemic injustice.
Michael Waters‘ love-based community activism really touched Jessi, and she purchased his book and read it cover-to-cover in one sitting.
The teams from Brew Theology, Homebrewed Christianity, and Pub Theology gave me hope for interfaith dialogue in bars and coffee shops.
Micah Murray and Cody Burton walked with us through some beautiful sacred tattoo stories.
And Dan Rhodes and Tim Conder reminded us how, even though pastors can make a big difference in local politics, it’s moot if they don’t listen to their congregations’ needs and involve the whole church in the conversation.
On top of all that, we got to compare notes with a few dozen other Beer & Hymns musicians and participate in Beer & Hymns twice a day.
I got to help Rev. Ian Lynch brew beer while talking about charities and church buildings.
I learned about the love and liturgies flowing from Atlanta Bar Church and got some great ideas for upcoming events here in Jacksonville.
I got to take part in a long, candid conversation about racial bias and privilege among white progressive Christians. (In its current form, the festival is overwhelmingly white, but there is interest in changing this.)
I got to skip stones across a river, pick up a few dozen free koozies and stickers, and enjoy much more beer and fried food than usual.
I got to introduce Jessi to some of my favorite North Carolina cuisine (like the Cook Out Tray and Foothills Brewing). And we were reminded just how superior the Carolinas’ grocery stores are. (Jessi found actual Wisconsin cheese curds!)
I learned Lutherans in Columbia, SC go all-out for Oktoberfest, and I met a beertender who also has a dog named Cow.
And I spent an hour with an awesome group of fellow attendees at the Bar Chaplain: Holy Spirits workshop. I taught the history and techniques behind the Old Fashioned (sharing sample-size Hella Bitters in the process). We talked about the presence of the Holy Spirit in pastoral care, and I got to learn from others actively engaged in this sort of work.
The festival was not without some ups and downs.
Jessi and I went through a lot of bug spray. The absence of an internet connection and phone service meant several walks into the adjacent town so we could take care of issues back in Jax. The puppy-sized-cow had to stay home. And let’s not even touch the shower situation. As the festival is only in its seventh year, the Goose still has some organizational kinks to work out, but the occasional miscommunication or space issue wasn’t enough to derail the experience, and the festival staff actively look for ways to improve the event.
The Wild Goose Festival is a safe space for people burned by church,
frustrated with the current political climate,
passionate about protecting the powerless,
excited to engage in justice,
and eager to spend time learning from each other.
The Goose is still growing and evolving, and the intersectional conversation it fosters could truly change the world. I look forward to next year!