Those of you who know me already understand that I do not blend well in my chosen profession. I don’t mind suits, but prefer comfortable shirts and jeans. I am mystified by the necktie. I just don’t get purpose of it other than as a target for food falling from the fork. And I will never be mistaken for a banker.
And in fact it is that mismatch that first led me into ministry. I had a clear sense that if there was room for somebody like me in the church, then maybe there would be others who would see that there was also room for them. While I have by and large experienced that there has been room for someone like me, it has not often been unconditional room. More than once I have been offered tentative acceptance, accompanied with the message that the acceptance would be heartier if my hair were shorter or if my beard were trimmed or if for some reason I would just wear a damn necktie. And through the years I have seen churches who proclaim their desire for younger people in their midst, but too often they wanted younger people who love organ music, old hymns, long sermons, and Sunday dress-ups. In other words, if those younger people would change who they were, they would be truly welcome.
So I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical when the very first words spoken at The Wild Goose Festival were “Welcome home.” I steeled myself for the coming “but.” Welcome home, but you should really change this or that about yourself to truly fit in. But there was no but there. In fact, The Wild Goose Festival was one of the few times, especially for religious or spiritual gatherings, where I blended in! There you could see hair of every length on every gender, and beards from the most meticulous hipster style to the grandest, bushiest Duck Dynasty masterpiece. And I found myself comfortably in the middle of everything. Wild Goose was indeed the kind of home that the church has not been very good at creating. If I had a sense that there was room in Christ’s family for people like me, they found their way to Wild Goose.
And that welcome is the one thing I really want to bring back from Wild Goose. I want to create a community where you can bring your doubts and hard questions and questionable language or dress and find your place at the table. The festival reminded why I got into this game in the first place, and it is past time to make it happen. The United Church of Christ says, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” The Goose is challenging us to make good on that claim.