peace be with you, photo by Amy CliffordMy contribution to the #WGF11 synchroblog. Check out the rest through #WGF11 and here.

The North Carolina summer heat was an unfamiliar country before I arrived at Wild Goose. And southern heat was the lens through which I experienced the festival.  Dramatic, perhaps, but the heat—the humid, sticky, uncomfortable heat—pushed me in strange and beautiful ways.

I came to the Wild Goose Festival because of friends. Friends also asked me to volunteer and get involved, which is my preferred way to experience any event. Unfortunately, my new job (that I love so much) prevented me from going all in—and this colored my whole festival experience (the dark side of my two-ness). I’m already planning how I can get involved next year.

The whole thing was a gamble: an unknown event with an unpublished schedule, in a sweaty locale, out of my element as a participant with only small involvement. But I had hopes and expectations:

  • I hoped to spend time with friends: some meeting face-to-face for the first time or adding flesh to the disembodied voices to whom I’d been talking. Some were chosen family from far-flung places (Nadia, Paul, Mike, ACliff, Jim & Stuart, Seth, Hilary, and more).
  • I looked forward to meeting a few new people. I wanted to go deep but not too wide in my meeting and spending time with others. Events in the past have left me breathless, overwhelmed, and sheepishly trying to remember names.
  • I wanted to hear some specific speakers like Richard Twiss and Richard Rohr, as well as support my friends who were presenting.
  • I hoped my little bit* on Becky Knight’s panel discussion wouldn’t suck.

As for the rest, I had no hope or agenda. I trusted my want to be there, but had no idea what to expect.

Here’s what it WAS for me:

  • There were a lot of people talking about “the queers.” Some speakers were themselves queer, some many were not. It was the dark horse conversation that spilled into every space. This was surprising. I haven’t really experienced a Christian festival/conference/space/conversation that was so obviously hungry for this conversation. It was frustrating because I watched a bunch of posturing, smarty pants talk. Because the conversations were a bit unexpected, I experienced a lack of intentional and generative facilitated conversation, and witnessed several very my-side/your-side, ungracious conversations. Exhilarating: What? we might be able talk about sexuality and NOT relegate it to the LGBTQI community? Right. On. And needed: this conversation will not go away, can not be shoved in a closet, forced on straight people, and is important to the WHOLE of us. My hope is that Wild Goose gave flight to a larger conversation about sexuality—one that belongs to all of us—and like my friend Seth offered, perhaps the queer community can be a gift and blessing to the wider Body of Christ, facilitating healthy dialog about our collective sexual selves. Think less “queers on parade” and more Body of Christ getting down and into our fleshy, tired, hungry, awkward, sexy, orgasm-having selves. ALL OF US. Holy, broken, beautiful.
  • This was the first ever of what hopefully will be an annual event. Whoohoo and well done, organizers! Hopefully, this first event covered all that was EVER necessary of the insider, self-congratulating, hooray-we-finally-got-this-Goose-off-the-ground nonsense. Hopefully we all now know who and whose the Wild Goose Festival is: it is us, and we all belong. I’m sure much was learned about how the second event can outdo the first (and if you need tips, contact me. I’m full of them).
  • Arriving home, I found many folks who didn’t make the gamble of the Goose because they couldn’t figure out what it was, who was welcome, or how it would go. To you: please come, we missed you. Maybe it feels a little like this for you, but that might be the beauty of it?

I survived the heat, spent time with great friends, made news ones, and learned new things–about the conversation being held at the Goose, and about myself. Many moments were sweaty and uncomfortable for me. I struggled with topics and friends and myself. I struggle now to categorize my experience and write about it here. But I remember seeking the small spots of shade with everyone else and the surprising cool breezes that would blow in from time to time, like the smiles and waves of good friends across a field, the embraces of new ones, and settle into the memory of the Goose and her first flight: grateful and glad.


* the text of my offering to the panel on sexuality and spirituality

I remember my first kiss; perhaps you do too? Mine was with my childhood next-door neighbor. We were two young girls wondering what kissing would be like—you know—with the older boys. We thought we’d better practice, so we didn’t seem like babies when that first time came along. My first kiss was—I bet—a lot like yours: awkward, maybe a bit toothy and sweet.
I grew up in small town in Minnesota; my mom and dad divorced when I was 6. I had two homes, with two very different styles of parenting. My father was a hippy artist; his religion was nature, sex, and harmless acts of disobedience. He colored outside of the lines, and taught his children that there were no “lines” only guideposts and markers where others have been before.

My mom was a teacher, that kind you remember and dedicate your awards to. She grew up in a crazy family, and as a young girl was raped by a man of the cloth. The only “religion” I got from her was filled with rage and her strange attachment to the 23rd Psalm.

These were my first and primary teachers of spirituality, and though they had no discernible faith, and their first attempt at marriage failed, my parents were together and individually focused on one thing – LOVE. Specifically, their love and hope for me. They told me that I could be anything; do anything. There simply were no limits on the possibility of me.

At the ripe old age of 11, I gave my life to Jesus. With my new boyfriend JC by my side I would continue down the road that my parents set me on, the path of love. He would teach me about love for neighbor, love for the other, love without lines of who deserves it and who doesn’t. He told me following him would be filled with color and risk and heartache, but it would be worth it. I said sure, I went all in.

Love. This is the foundation of my identity, rooted in God and my parents, bound up in the possibility of who I could become—these were the messages I grew up with.

Perhaps you can tell, I am a sucker for LOVE. My first love was a boy, Mark: a sweet, adoring, chunky kid with a wicked sense of humor. After Mark there was Chris, Augie, Ian and Michael. Oh Michael, my first fiancé. Yes, I did say first, he was the first of 5 marriage proposals. My beloved Ratchet says its not the third but fifth time that is a charm. Anyway—you get the picture—I was active in dating and love as a young person.

In 1994 I fell in love again. But this time he was a she, and she was my best friend. I had just moved home from living in the US Virgin Islands. She still lived there, and now I was at home, in Minnesota. My heart ached being apart from her, like it ached when a boy broke up with me. What on earth was this feeling—cripes—I had never even kissed her! But I knew it was her heart, not her gender that mattered to me.

I’ll never forget telling my mom, she was my best friend and person I told all of my secrets to. Unflappable, she told me it was either a phase, or I was queer: a lesbian or bisexual maybe. Then I remember how she held me while we cried, and not because I was different, but because I was heartbroken. She never skipped a beat, never struggled with what was my first “coming out” moment.

I told my friend that I thought I loved her; it didn’t go well, freaked her out actually. I didn’t understand her reaction. She was angry and ended our friendship. I was devastated BUT knew that something had shifted in me.

I was hurt, but open.

When inviting us to this panel, Becky asked us to answer the question “If I could say only one thing about sexuality and spirituality, it would be … dot dot dot.” Well it is a long way to get here, but this is what I want to share:

I believe that God is in fact love, and that love is what we are here to participate in, share and give away, lavishly and unbound.

I believe that God is a genderless God, one that has aspects of he and she, but is in no way limited to these constructs of gender.

I am a follower God in the way of love, who is best reflected to me in and through the life of Jesus.

I have a gift, bisexuality. I do not experience the limitations of gender when the topic of love, more specifically sex, arises. I believe it is a gift because it has given me eyes to see a much needed way of viewing the world, church and people—not in binaries, black or white, but in full color.

My parents and Jesus taught me to be not afraid and now this is MY message. Be not afraid of your love, your bodies, your sex and your imagination for what love is “supposed” to look like. Where else do you see “supposed to’s” and “should be’s” living up to their promises anyway?

I have had moments of certainty in my faith. I am super Christian, hear me roar. And then, out of nowhere, I am knocked flat on my ass—a parents death, a love lost—and I am left with nothing but grief and questions.

I have lost my faith, in God and life. Still … here I am.

I have had moments in trying to figure out my identity that have offered the same type of certainty. I would proclaim to my eye rolling friends “I am a lesbian!” and then weeks later end up retracting my bold proclamation, citing my new love Tim or Ken or whatever his name was.

I have learned that these moments of certainty are not at all certain, and cannot be taken individually, nor do they define the whole. They are just that, moments. Each meant to be lived faithfully, with grace and openness.

Now, the only “I AM” I proclaim in any sort of certainty is that of the capital I AM. I believe in God, and in God’s unrelenting love for me and the world.

You’ve no doubt heard the Woody Allen quote “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Well my friends, when it comes to sexuality and spirituality, perhaps we would all benefit from stopping our bold proclamations and assertions, about what definitely is and what isn’t, and just settle into love, the kind that passes all understanding.

The rest of the amazing and beautiful Wild Goose Festival posts are as follows:

6 thoughts on “goosed

  1. “the surprising cool breezes that would blow in from time to time, like the smiles and waves of good friends across a field, the embraces of new ones …” I love love love that image, and it transports me right back to Shakori Hills, in that field with you, Rachel, and so many others. I too am grateful and glad. Thanks for sharing these reflections!

  2. There’s a million conversations that went on during the fed short days in Shakori Hills. Here’s to more of same next year.

  3. Rachel, thank you for your blog reflection. Thank you also for posting the text of your panel discussion…I really wanted to be there in person for is, but….well, I guess the Goose had other things in store for me that hour and I think it involved a golf cart–haha. Anyway, I was just blessed so much now to read and learn more about the person of you that I had the pleasure of meeting/colliding/stumbling with at WGF2011….can’t wait to see you there again next year!

Comments are closed.