I have spent 20 years on the road in various denominational conferences, congregations, and colleges. I met a lot of wonderful people, some of whom I’ve disagreed with theologically, and perhaps politically. But the saying, “traveling artists leave their theology and politics at home” is usually good advice. What is odd however is when it’s a Christian event —a conference, church or Christian college or university, where there are commonalities assumed. Again, our theology usually stayed at home. So we felt many times like we were strangers, just mercenaries, or as we like to say on occasion, theater whores, taking the money without ever being emotionally involved with the event. To be fair, this happened more often in conferences, than in churches.
In 2001 in the fall Lee Eshleman and I were guests at a conference in Seattle sponsored by The Ooze.com. It was Solarize: A Conversation. The speakers were Sally Morgenthaler, Brian McLaren, Tom Sine, Leonard Sweet, and Richard Rohr. Workshop leaders included Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt. Almost for the first time, I felt like I was at home. The theology, the fact that they had a theology pub where someone brought a keg and handed me a beer, the social justice awareness, and the deep appreciation for Anabaptist theology throughout made us feel as if we were home. The whole weekend blew me away— truly a life changing experience. Brian, Sally, Doug, Tony and Richard have all become friends. The reason I bring this up is to illuminate the speaker lineup at the Wild Goose Festival in June. Richard and Brian and Tony and Doug will all be there.
At a pastor’s conference several years later we were in the green room, waiting to perform. The green room was just a curtained off area beside the stage that was built at the huge convention hall in San Diego. A woman walked in, wearing worn jeans, with long dirty blonde hair, carrying a battered guitar case. She was the most interesting singer we had seen at that conference in several years. I didn’t know who she was, but when she walked on stage, hit the guitar strings and opened her mouth; it felt like God was being released. It was Ashley Cleveland, and she’ll be at the Wild Goose as well. Her version of Gimme Shelter makes the hair on my neck stand up: Available on her Grammy nominated live album.
In 2005 we are performing at a church in Santa Barbara California and we met the worship staff before the service to go over the order. It was somewhat informal, one of those hip evangelical pretty loose kinds of congregations. Before the service we were introduced to a couple standing off to the side. They were to sing after we performed. They said they were touring the country in a motor home powered by vegetable oil with her 13-year-old son, raising awareness for new album as well as raising money for a conflict transformation conflict transformation program at Maryland University. Cool, we said, we’re Mennonites, graduates of Eastern Mennonite University, who also has a conflict transformation program, isn’t that interesting. While I was talking to the woman Lee was studying the husband, standing off to the side blowing his nose because it was obviously he had a cold. When there was a pause in the conversation Lee asked, aren’t you David Wilcox? It was…. we actually opened for David Wilcox that day. He and his wife Nance sang a song by Peter Mayer entitled Everything is Holy Now and it was one of the greatest worship experiences I’ve ever had.
And David Wilcox will be at the Wild Goose as well.
One of my heroes years ago was like Mike Yaconelli, when he was editor of Wittenberg door, the Christian satire magazine. He and a friend started youth specialties, and when Lee and I started performing with YS, he and his wife Karla became good friends. It was Karla who invited me to be at the Wild Goose Festival. Mike passed away a number of years ago but Karla, and their son Mark will also be at the wild goose.
And Diana Butler Bass, whose book I used as a resource for a show I wrote in 2009, and Phyllis Tickle, who is probably the coolest Episcopalian you’ll ever meet, and Gillian Welch, T-Bone Burnett, Over the Rhine……many others……will all be at the Wild Goose.
PS I’ll be performing there as well: “I’d Like to Buy an Enemy”
Check out the website:
It will be an amazing weekend.
Thanks for your time, hope to see you there!
Upper Middle Aged Anabaptist Radical