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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Ticks and Chiggers, and a Wild Goose Errand

Last year, a local boy, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, was a speaker at a conference in England called Greenbelt.  In conversations, I learned a bit more about the conference, and I looked up the lineup.  I was pretty impressed with the mix of artists, activists, preachers, and intellectuals.  So a few months later when I heard there would be an attempt to hold a similar event in North Carolina, I thought it would be worth a try.

I sent information to my daughter, Lydia, who would be living with me in Durham while I stayed there to teach summer school, and she said it looked like something she would like.  Thus, the two of us got tickets to the Wild Goose Festival at Shakori Hills, not far from Carrboro or Pittsboro, NC.  There were lots of big names on the program, and quite a few not so famous people who I also knew about. 

The first session we attended dealt with the question, "Why can't the church be a place where people can find healing for their darkest struggles?"  That may not be the exact wording, but it gets the point across.  I was not so sure how it would go, but some very good insights came up along the way.  When one of the discussion participants offered a testimony, he ended his comments with a question he wants his church to be able to answer affirmatively, "Can I trust you with me?"  (I burst with pride later when I spoke with him to find out he is a Shaw University Divinity School graduate, from before I was at teaching in divinity school.  But I digress.)  Not long after that, floods of memories washed over me about regrets in certain relationships, and I could not hold back tears.  It was an unexpected grace to begin thinking and planning about how to respond to those thoughts and emotions.  Afterward, I told Lydia some of what had touched me, and I commented that if the first informal discussion would hit me that hard, the rest of the conference looked promising.  We were not disappointed.

I admit to being an old fogey in the realm of popular music.  I've become a news junkie when it comes to radio.  Consequently, I do not really keep up with pop music.  A couple dozen musicians played on the main stage or in other side venues.  I had never heard of any of them, except Psalter.  Still, the music was great.  We had a couple of nights out under the stars listening to the last band.  I enjoyed what I heard from several:  Derek Webb, Over the Rhine, Tom Prasado-Rao, Ashley Cleveland, Agents of Future, Psalter, and David Bazan.  With every band or soloist I heard, I thought, "I could listen to a CD of this music."  On a blanket, watching the clouds go by,  or tracing the Drinking Gourd constellation, even mediocre music would have sounded better.  As it was, we heard some great performances.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Rev. William Barber shared a stage one morning.  Their story of a friendship is interesting to hear on its own, but Barber did not disappoint with incisive analysis of race relations and contemporary politics, especially the politics of health care and education.  Shane Claiborne told stories to a crowd that burst out of the tent shelter and into the adjoining woods.   I got a brief portion of Richard Rohr speaking about two halves of our lives, and it was just enough to make me want to hear more.  Friends like Nancy Sehested, Jane Childress, Linda Weaver-Williams, Joyce Hollyday, Diana Butler-Bass, Nick Liao, Jesse Deconto, and Amey Adkins also made the time worthwhile.

One theme of the conference that still intrigues me was a collection of speakers who come from exquisite Evangelical pedigrees, only to undergo faith crises and end up far away from their previous theological and ecclesiological homes:  Bart Campolo, Jay Bakker, Frank Schaeffer.  I heard Campolo and Bakker, and I read some remarks by Schaeffer.  I sometimes wonder why we don't hear more stories like these.  I suspect that for many who undergo a crisis of faith, coming anywhere near the church is not something in which they have any interest.  But stories like these represent one of the authentic paths of faithfulness in an era when so many churches are thoroughly co-opted by empire.

When my Dad used to take us kids to the State Fair, I remember asking in the parking lot, "What ride is your favorite?"  His response puzzled me, with my concrete and physical reasoning about rides and having fun.  He said, "I just enjoy seeing you all have fun."  I remember thinking that was strange, when the real fun would be on the Ferris Wheel or the Sky Ride.  But at 53 I know just what he meant.  Even if I had not enjoyed the festival at all, spending it with Lydia and seeing her enjoy it was the best result I could have hoped for.

Oh, yeah.  I picked up a couple of ticks and a large clan of chiggers while out in the country.  It was nothing to get upset about, although the chigger bites kept me itching for a week or so.


Jason Hammer said...

Nice reflection on Wild Goose! I've read your blog for a couple of years, now, and I wish I'd known you were there. I would have liked to meet you. It sounds like we were at many of the same talks. I saw Wilson-Hartgrove & Rev Barber, Bakker, Campolo & Schaeffer among others. I guess there's always next year!

Henry J. Rodgers said...

Ticks and Chiggers, and a Wild Goose Errand

My first impression was: what is a Wild Goose Festival? Further reading revealed that it had nothing to do with a wild goose. The thought provoking question: “Why can’t the church be a place where people can find healing for their darkest struggles?” caught my attention and fueled my interest. Dr. Broadway, what was the response of the gentlemen from his church and others that attended the festival?
At first glance it seemed that the festival could possibly be a wild goose chase but your transparency made the reading worthwhile, triggering some memories of my own. It is amazing how rewarding humble experiences can evolve into a transforming experience. I had a similar experience while attending a preacher’s conference in Hampton, Virginia in 2004. I had a God encounter that change my life – God spoke through the speaker and directly to my heart, and since then the situation and I have not been the same. I learned anew and afresh that where two or three are gathered together in Jesus’ name, He is in the midst.
What you described was in my opinion, a God encounter, a time of faith confrontation, reflection and conformation. I would love to hear those stories you mentioned. Thank you for sharing your life lesson from your childhood. It continues to inspire, and hopefully Lydia will be able to express the same sentiment. Real joy is being the source of others joy and in your case you proved although it cost (ticks and chiggers) judging by your comments – the risk was well worth the dividends. Thank you for sharing.

Roosevelt Ethridge said...

I believe this blog culminates the stimulating question which was presented by the Shaw Graduate: "Can I trust you with me?" I believe that your daughter ultimately proved the trust factor. Going to a foreign place to experience an event with just hope of a great experience being the deciding factor. However, witnessing an impacting event that produces joy and excitment from seeing your love ones impacted by its atmosphere; that is rewarding and can't be compared to anything.

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