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A Month of Festivals – Appleby, 3 Wishes, Glastonbury

The last time I was able to post an update, I had just returned from ten days at Hay-on-Wye in two festivals: the Hay Literary Festival and How the Light Gets In. I received a ride home from Dafydd who lives near Caernarfon, and after only two short days back at home in Caernarfon, I left again for three more festivals across the UK.

My first stop was Stockport. I met Dee Cunniffe and Hope Deifell, and together the three of us traveled to Appleby-in-Westmorland to visit the Appleby Horse Fair. This was my second year at what is described as Europe’s largest gathering of Gypsies. More than anything this was a learning event. I am deeply concerned that Christians go on mission without understanding the cultures they attempt to reach. Roma, Gypsies, and Travelers are among some of the most misunderstood and abused peoples in history, and if we think that that we can share the life and love of Christ with them without understanding their culture, we are desperately deceived. The fact is that many of them are deeply devoted to God and are lovely people we need to get to know better. 

Three Days in Appleby

The Shera Rom – Billy Welch

We stayed with the Pattimores. This was the second time I have stayed with Dan and Kristy just outside Appleby. After three years, the kids are all grown up, and beginning to tower over me. Hope, Dee, Kristy, and I were able to spend over an hour with Billy Welch (the Shera Rom, and organizer of the Horse Fair), which amazed us, because he is such a busy man. Billy spoke about new legislation coming into effect concerning travel trailers and other campers stopping near neighborhoods, and how new restrictions will make traveler life more difficult than it already is. The US has these similar restrictions in many states. Having lived as a traveler for almost three years, I know the struggle of living nomadically and being able to remain within the confines of the law. The Gypsy and Traveler way of life is being attacked by government legislation and, Billy Welsh shared his concerns. He believes that such strict governmental legislation has not been seen since the Nazi regime, and he is concerned for the lives and the culture of his people. We talked about ways that Christian churches might be able to alleviate the growing suppression against the nomadic lifestyle. This is something that will be on my radar for many years to come. Please pray with me for the safety of full and part time travelers, and for blessings upon them. 

During the Horse Fair, Hope and I talked with Fred, an atheist Gypsy in his fifties, who talked about how the Horse Fair was when he was younger. Today, many of the shops in the little village close during the fair. In fact, there are more closed shops than open ones during the influx of thousands of Gypsies, Travelers, and the accompanying visitors like us who come to experience the Horse Fair. Fred told us how the Village was welcoming when he was young, and how over time the town became less welcoming, and shops began to close. It saddened me to hear that the village is less welcoming than it once was, and I find myself praying that there might be a change in this attitude at Appleby.

Photos from Appleby

3 Wishes Fairy Festival

Following Appleby, Hope and I made our way down to Cornwall––barely. I say barely, because just across the harbor from Plymouth, which is in Devon, is Torpoint, which is the first edge of Cornwall. We had initially arrived in Bristol, and Diana the “Goth Vicar of Glastonbury” picked us up. We spent two days preparing decorations for the soon coming Glastonbury Festival, and then arrived at Torpoint to help with the set-up of the 3 Wishes Fairy Festival. I was tasked with managing the smooth running of the Main Stage, which was a circus Big Top. From mid-morning until after midnight, I made sure the bands, the sound team, and the Swamp Circus team from Cornwall all got along and that the schedule remained relatively on-time. On Friday and Saturday night of the festival we ran a silent disco from midnight until almost 2am (okay, it was closer to 3am on Saturday). Things went well, and it looks like this might be something I might be doing again next year. 

This was my third time helping at the Fairy Festival, and like many other festivals, it felt like I was coming home to serve alongside old friends. After a three-year hiatus from the festivals, many of us remarked that it seemed as though there was never a break, and never the isolation of the COVID season. Things were almost back to normal. There were discussions about spirituality with musicians, and people who self-identify as “Fairies”, “Pixies”, and even “Unicorns”. The Fairy Festival is a gathering of individuals and families who generally identify as Neo-Pagans of one tribe or another and come dressed in the regalia of a fairy world. In the future, I am hoping to connect more with the Swamp Circus and to visit the alternative community they have in Cornwall. 

Rushing to Glasto

On Monday morning after the Fairy Festival, we had to make haste and head to Glastonbury town to pick up the decorations Hope, Diana, and I had prepared for the Iona Community space at the Glastonbury Festival. We got a quick shower, licked up our gear, repacked for Glasto, and grabbed a pizza for the road. When we arrived at the festival, we were told that the gate for early arrivals was closing in ten minutes. We were about 12-minutes’ walk away, and so with all our gear, Hope and I set off in haste to get to the gate. We arrived huffing and puffing to discover that it was still open for another 4 hours. Upon entering the gate, I pointed to a distant location of the festival, and told Hope, “We are somewhere in a copse of trees––way over there.” Sometime late in the night, after the setting sun of the second longest day of the year, we arrived in the dark at the Iona Community.

We helped set up camp, we decorated the little area with shiny apples made from bags like ones I had once bagged tea in. Diana had created a series of seven framed art pieces representing the seven last words of Jesus, and there were hula-hoops with ribbons resembling dreamcatchers hanging in the trees. With Christmas lights strung in the trees it was all quite dreamy, and when the festival started on Thursday, people came into our little Iona Community (link) copse to relax from the heat of the midday sun or sit by a warm fire in the cold of the late night. The Iona Community space sits on the edges of day and night-time events, and at the edges of the live music stages and Green Futures field. It perfectly represents the spaces in-between the worlds of high-technology and ecologically minded concern, between the light and darkness, and between wild abandon and thoughtful meditation. Friday and Saturday nights rolled into Saturday and Sunday morning, and we finally said goodbye to the last of our visitors at 4am on Saturday morning, and 5am on Sunday morning. As the sun rose, we went to sleep grateful for the deep discussions about spirituality and life with the hundreds of people who came to visit us. Debbie Chaloner is the Iona Community leader who oversees this event, and among the eight of us there were three vicars a pastor and loads of experience in festival outreach settings. Hope was new to this event, but as I knew would be the case, she became an indispensable part of the team.

Like the Fairy Festival, Glastonbury was a reunion of friends, and a reconnection with people who remembered us from previous years. I cannot over-emphasize the power of connecting with people in the places they visit for their inspiration. The festivals of our world have become the expressions of “church” for the unchurched. And this should be no surprise to us. Like the Feasts of Israel that were established by God as a gathering space for the Jewish people, the festivals of our world are becoming yearly gatherings where people reignite their zest for life in a community of like-minded people. It is my contention that these places are under-represented by Christianity, and it is now our responsibility to change that. But as we change that, if we do it in the classical manner of 20th Century Christian evangelistic outreach, we will only prove to the world that we do not care to understand them. In fact, it will be evidence to them (whether true or not) that we do not care for them at all. Our responsibility includes developing an anthropology for the subcultures of our changing world. May we learn to learn once again.

Pics from Glasto and Iona Community

Eleven Days in the Hay

Phil the Board, as Frank Skinner named me

You haven’t heard from me for a couple weeks because I was volunteering and sharing work, life, art, and philosophy at Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Marches. This is a place I have been going each May (with a COVID break, of course) for the last eight years. 

The first week, I was volunteering as a Steward at the Hay Literary Festival. This is a place authors and thinkers come to share their stories and present their provocative ideas. The team I work with at the Hay Festival feels like a family, and I am grateful for the leadership of our BBC and Sky Arts tent crew, which comes in gentle encouragement from Paul, and Steve. Along with Gerald, I have somehow become a sign artist for the group. Black wooden boards stand at the entrance to events, and the stewards hand draw titles of events and names of participants. A few of the festival teams go a step further and turn the board into a work of art. I am certainly no artist, but I am decent with fonts, and a bit of doodling. Somehow my doodles caught the eye of comedian and Sky Arts presenter Frank Skinner. My event board and I ended up on stage at the end of the third day of Sky Arts Big Hay Weekend. Frank gave me the nickname Phil the Board, and apparently the interview will end up on the show on the weekend of June 18-19.

After a week at the Hay Festival, I walked across town with my hammock tent (yes, a tent that swings between two trees!), and just barely over the border in England, How The Lights Gets In, a philosophy festival happens. This was my first experience of volunteering as a Steward at Hay-on-Wye, and this festival is a different kind of family. It’s a little wilder in the evening, with dance parties, DJs, and significantly more drinking. It’s also a place where discussions regularly pop up about spirituality, theology, life philosophy, and assorted God and human experience topics. Like each year before, the festival and my network of friends did not disappoint. We talked life, spirituality, God, the devil, definitions of authenticity, and assorted other life and intellectual values.

I am now back in Caernarfon for a couple days. Tomorrow, I hit the road again with Hope Deifell (who is visiting the UK from Black Mountain, North Carolina) and Dee Cunniffe. Both talented ladies have been part of Burning Man teams, and other festival events I have been a part of. Dee will come with us, or I should say, take us, up to the Appleby Horse Fair in Appleby-in-Westmoreland. Here we will spend some time with the English and Welsh Gypsies, and Irish Travelers. Dan and Kristy Pattimore are once again offering a place for wayfarers to stay. Like everything else over the last two years, friends will be united, and ministry will reach the festivals and events once again.

Following Appleby, Hope and I will head toward Cornwall and the 3 Wishes Fairy Festival where we will be helping with the stage, and stewarding and following the lead of my talented and crazy friend from Glastonbury, “Diana the Goth Vicar”. After the Fairy Festival, Hope and I will be headed to the humungous Glastonbury Music Festival. We will arrange the decorating of the Iona Community space in Glastonbury, and through the four days of the festival, we will help provide a quiet and safe space for festival goers, with a warm fire under trees.

I will send updates about the festival experiences as I am able. It is not always easy to find dependable internet service, or even the time during the festival weeks.

Some people might ask, “Would Jesus go to a festival?” I would answer, “Isn’t that what he did during Passover, Pentecost, and the other Jewish festivals?” They may have been different kinds of events, but they were the places the people of Israel gathered. These festivals are the places the people in our world are gathering today, and I believe that Jesus is already there. He is just waiting for some of us to join him.

Slavoj Žižek at HTLGI
A gig at HTLGI
Frank Skinner at Hay

I Can Never Surprise You: the story of my life outside the church walls

I’ve spent a good deal of time with people who are not Christians, and in fact don’t have any interest in appearing to live by biblical standards. But most Christian pastors I know have limited contact with the wild world of subcultures I frequent. 

I know only a few pastors who have been to Burning Man. The Christian connection with the world of Burners is slim, and typically, it is a negative experience for the Burner. 

The preponderance of church leaders I know have no idea what today’s Pagan is (or ‘Neo-Pagan’, to use an anthropological identification). When they use the word ‘pagan’ or ‘heathen’, they typically mean godless hedonistic people. It’s a negative identifier for someone who drinks and parties a lot and should be avoided because they are a bad influence.

My friend Jim Henderson used to arrange discussions with atheists in churches. He would ask the pastor to find a few atheists to discuss their view of Christianity and the Christian church in front of the congregation. Jim came to our church in Salem about 12 years ago. He asked me to find three atheists for the panel––no problem. I found a few friends and acquaintances, and they were ready to be part of this public discussion. Jim was surprised that I found the atheists he needed. Apparently other pastors he had dealt with didn’t know any atheists, and Jim would have to visit coffee shops or pubs prior to the event to fill those slots. I was as surprised as Jim. He was surprised that I knew three atheists in Salem. I was surprised that other pastors couldn’t find anyone to join the discussion.

The other night, I was hanging out with one of my Witch friends in Salem. This Witch friend enjoys a rather hedonistic alternative sexual lifestyle. This is not necessarily standard in Pagan circles, but neither is it uncommon. After being told a few tales of sexual exploits, my friend remarked, “I just can’t freak you out. You never get surprised.” My friend occasionally tries to freak me out, and tests me with these stories.

My Witch friend was not the first person to make the comment that I was not easily surprised. I’ve heard that several times over the years from people who are trying to push my little Christian pastor buttons. It is almost as if I am being tested to see whether I can practice what I preach about loving people unconditionally.

From Burners, to Witches, to Atheists, to general non-believers, and occasionally from Christians who practice such alternative things as open-marriage, I have heard some variation of these words: “You never get surprised.” Typically, what they mean beneath that comment is that I do not reject them, and that I can accept them as friends.

It is true that I am not easily surprised by the weird things people do. I am also not easily offended. I do not need people to agree with me for them to be my friends. Perhaps being surprised easily and being offended easily are closely related. Even if they are not, the world around us that does not follow Jesus appears to think that they are related.

Perhaps our little Christian world is too little. Perhaps it is too narrow. Perhaps that is why we are surprised when we hear things that are part of the world of alternative sexuality, alternative religious beliefs, hedonistic partying, radically differing politics, violence, or criminality. I may walk a narrow way to Christ. In fact, it is narrower than most people think. But this way intersects the broad road in many places, and my lack of surprise and offence is just one more evidence to the non-Christian that I truly love the wide-road walkers I know. We are good friends because I am not surprised by what they believe and how they live. 

Perhaps my lack of surprise is simply a shadow of grace in the storms of judgment and bias raging in our world. Sometimes I wonder why I am so calm in the face of hedonism and heresy, but mostly I am thankful. That calmness allows me to go places that many other Christians can’t imagine.

Interested in more stories from outside the church walls and a theology of wild mission? Check out Love Big or Go Home.

God on the A Line

I’m visiting Long Beach, CA. I lived here for two years recently, and occasionally had to take the A line from Long Beach to Union Station in LA. Last night, I had to take it again. Previous times taking the A Line, I usually boarded the train early in the morning. The train was fairly crowded at 5:30 am. It was filled with homeless people in the seats with their heads on their knees, and their hoodies pulled over their heads. I saw this half a dozen times on my travels from Long Beach to LA.

Last night, I traveled from Union Station southward just before midnight. People who previously had their heads in their laps in the morning were now boarding the train and taking their seats. They’ll stay on the train until it’s last stop. Late in the night people board and take a nap. First ride in the morning, people board and quickly assume the curled-up position for the hour-long ride. 

A thin middle-aged black man talked and screamed and cackled like a cartoon villain to his reflection in the train window. An older Latino gentleman took a swig from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. He smiled and chatted briefly with me. A younger woman and the man with paper bag night cap chatted in comfortable familiarity. A young man had a loud conversation on his cell phone with a girl he loved. He desperately begged for her to give him a chance. Bikes started coming aboard with their current owners. They were dropped on the floor or leaned against the exit doors. Something about the careless treatment of the bikes suggested that the current owners might have picked up these bikes for free recently. The bikes appeared to carry no intrinsic value to the riders.

Across the world, the homeless catch a snooze wherever they can. They sit long hours in late night coffee shops to stay warm. They curl up in the inset store-front foyer cubby-holes. They bundle up on sidewalks over the steaming grates to stay warm in freezing northern cities. They once covered up with newspapers on park benches, but the world of online news has chopped the newspaper industry back. Finding a thick Boston Globe or New York Times isn’t as easy as it used to be.

I wondered how many pastors and concerned Christians make time for the population living on the trains. It’s far sexier to create an outreach to surfers, and far more profitable for the church to reach the middle-class and upper-middle-class neighborhoods. It’s more acceptable when our new congregants don’t smell so bad that your eyes burn, and there are fewer interruptions when the man in the third row isn’t screaming and cackling at his demons.

The next day, I met a small group of friends at Fat Stogies––a cigar shop in Long Beach. A homeless man walked up to the railing of the outdoor patio and asked if he could do a job to get a bite to eat. Ru, part of a circle of friends at Fat Stogies spoke up. “I got you. Don’t worry about it.” 

Ru walked down the street and bought the guy ribs and corn on the cob. He sat on the curb and waited for Ru to return. I walked out to meet the guy. I sat down on the curb next to him. 

“Hi. I’m Phil. What’s your name?”
“Hi. I’m Daniel.”

We talked. Daniel told me about getting robbed recently. He told me his history, and said he’s had money and good jobs in the past and spoke about places he’s traveled. He complained about the difficulty of his situation, and how dehumanizing it felt to be in such desperate need. He vacillated between questioning why God put him in this situation and saying there must be a lesson in it all. Daniel cried. I told him that I couldn’t completely understand, but that my recent years on the road in Priscilla the Winnebago taught me about the struggle for dignity when you’re getting chased out of neighborhoods and parking lots. He told me about the loneliness, and how it was difficult to look people in the eyes because of the shame. He bemoaned the fact that others didn’t want to look into his eyes either.

The space between the haves and the have-nots is a shame-based gap. The poor feel like their dignity has been stripped and they have nothing to offer. The better-off, at every level, from stable lower class to rich, feel like they don’t know how to help. I would suggest that if we don’t struggle with that shame, then we don’t have a heart, and something is wrong with us. But I would also suggest that the relief from that shame is not discovered in evading the problem. It is discovered by looking it in the face. I sat down with Daniel to hold a conversation and learn his story. Ru bought him dinner. He cried at both acts of kindness. Ru and I both faced our internal desire to be a solution head on. We did it in different ways, but we did it. Daniel profusely thanked Ru for his generosity. He profusely thanked me for sitting and talking to him like he was a regular guy, because “nobody does that with me anymore”.

Perhaps the deepest desperation of poverty is not the actual lack of money, but the invisibility. The have-nots can’t look into the eyes of the haves because they are ashamed. The rich don’t look into the eyes of the poor. I hope the rich are also ashamed because they are not sure how to help, but it could be that some are simply judgmental.

I rode the A line the other night. God was on the A line for the last trip south. And I wondered how many people recognized him when he talked to his own reflection in the train window. (Matthew 25:37-40)

See article from LA Times about the homeless on the Metro system.

The World of Festivals Slowly Pops its Head Above Ground

Photo by Matthew Bornehorst at Unsplash

Since early 2020, large gatherings have been curtailed. COVID stopped our social lives in a time warp, and there are many people who feel that we might not be able to return to the way things were. Others are excited for the possibilities that lie ahead.

Burning Man will return, but it will have an attendance at 2012 levels, and that is intentional. Things had slowly been feeling like they were going astray, and this is an attempt to draw back to the core values. Glastonbury is going to return after a two fallow years in a row.

Do you feel like the cicada coming out of its 17 years in larval nymph form? Are you ready to stop burrowing beneath the soil, and break out into the world to sing?

Many of us feel this way, but we’ve come out into a new wild, and seemingly, more dangerous world. Some of us greet the new day with zeal, but remember, not everyone is popping out of the ground to sing. Many of us will peek out of our holes slowly like the groundhog coming out of hibernation.

To All the Pastors Quitting: Welcome Home. We’ve Been Waiting for You.

Peter Wehner’s article in The Atlantic, Evangelicalism is Falling Apart provides no new insights to the ongoing cultural struggle for the heart of the Evangelical Church, but it has eloquently packaged together a handful of critical issues facing Evangelicalism in America.

We might well look back on this season and see Evangelicalism in the throes of what has already been labeled by some as a post-Evangelical season. Dave Tomlinson wrote about the struggle of The Post Evangelicals in 1995 as he defined and talked to those who were leaving the fold to remain faithful to God.

Is the current refocus upon this the result of the Trump season and the rise of political interests over the foundational Evangelical concern for the salvation of souls? Perhaps, but Molly Worthen’s book Apostles of Reason outlines other earlier political tensions American Evangelicalism was torn by. The dynamics of the pro-life movement, and the Religious Right did their best to simultaneously martial Evangelical forces, and divide the church, but today, things seem even angrier than the 80s to many of us who were there. Issues of Women’s rights and equality are outlined in Wehner’s piece and those topics continue to be foundational to the Evangelical struggles. Of course, it may be that the church will be most deeply affected by a post-COVID season.

But perhaps, as some have suggested, these many and competing experiences are simply highlighting and bringing to light the problems already inherent to the system. Wehner’s article highlights the fact that the contributing external forces to Evangelicalism’s crumbling state is already found in ourselves. Perhaps we are responsible for the momentum toward a post-Evangelical America, and Evangelicalism is the largest contributing factor to its own demise.

There are many of us who have felt that we did not leave Evangelicalism as much as Evangelicalism left us. I am one of those. Even while I championed its most valuable resources in the small churches across America, and the ability to navigate cross cultural relationships for the purpose of introducing the Nazarene to a new generation of spiritual but not religious people, I was treated as a heretic for calling us back to our roots of radical relational evangelism. I was not alone in being rejected, and discovering that there were powerful forces in the leadership of the church afraid to live like our Evangelical and Early Christian forefathers.

If you are one of those who is ready to give up, because the people in the pews and the leaders in the lodges of power seem to have moved away from the simplicity of Christ, welcome back home. There are a number of us out here in the desert, and we will gladly welcome you in.

Traveling Toward Cymru (Wales)

Since my last email update there is much to report. I spent time in Texas. I am now in North Carolina, Salem is coming up, and my first trip in the transition to Wales has been booked.

Let’s walk backwards through this story:

Leaving for Wales – Part 1

Yesterday, I booked a flight to Wales for arrival on August 19th. I will spend my first two weeks in South Wales helping my friends Andrew Thomas and Dawn Wood prepare for Between the Trees festival, which is a mixture of music, science, philosophy, and spirituality. It doesn’t get any better than that for a festival focus, does it? 

After Between the Trees, I plan on spending the rest of my time in and around Caernarfon, North Wales. The focus of this part of the trip is to prepare for my move, which I am hoping will happen at the beginning of this coming year, and to set up plans for all the crazy ideas that fill my head with how to be a positive influence in this town that has captured my heart so deeply.

It is my goal to hit the ground running wherever I go, and of course, this means much of the preparation for ministry must happen long before one lands on the ground. Before moving to Salem, Massachusetts, I sent some years traveling there, and bringing my friends with me, before we all moved. Fortunately, I have made friends and acquaintances throughout Wales over many journeys to the land of my heart, and I have been preparing the way to be able to start working in ministry as quickly as possible. 

North Carolina

Right now, I am in Greensboro, NC with my dear friends Gail and Charles Bretan. I so deeply appreciate their kindness to host me in their home as I jaunt about the state. I have spent long hours with Charles talking about life, religion, philosophy, politics and just about every bunny trail of thought. His Jewish/English professor’s views on the world are always a challenge and encouragement to whatever I happen to be studying and writing. During this time, I have hung out with his podcast partners, Chris Henson, and Rev. Helena––the ampersand of reason. We even did a podcast together, which is a good thing since my own podcasts have come to a halt during this traveling season. This will be posted on their podcast page: A Jew and a Gentile Walk into a Bar…Mitzvah. ––> https://charlesandchris.net

Papy has graciously loaned me the use of his car, and I have been able to spend a couple days with him. I was able to hang out with his parents who are wonderful and dong well, and then we’ve twice now with Robert and Kelly Williams. It was like old home time with one of the Salem outreach teams.

I spoke on Sunday morning at Fellowship of Christ in Cary, NC. I am grateful to have spent time with this wonderful church. You can access the message online at their website ––> https://www.fellowshipofchrist.org/sermons. On the sermon page, you can find the morning I spoke on the 2021/07/25 video in the right column of the page, and I begin at about the 30-minute mark. Spending time with Pastor David MacLean, John Craichy, and other friends from Fellowship of Christ was the real highlight of my time with them. I always feel as though I receive more edification from others than I give, and I am so grateful for all the good people I know around the world.

Before going to Cary, I spent some of my first days in Asheville. Asheville has been a home away from home for a long time. My son, Elijah, used to live here. I have Burner friends, Emergent friends from the Wild Goose Festival, Rainbow Gathering friends, and assorted others. Most of my time was spent with the Deifell family. There was a memorial service for Jey, the patriarch of the family, and fortunately, I was able to be there for this event. It was great to spend time with the whole family. My initial contact with them was Burning Man, where I first met Hope and her brother Tony. Since then, I have done several mission activities in which Hope has been a vital part of the organization and outreach. My time in Asheville is often at Heather and Richmond’s house, which is just too fun.  I am quite sure that Richmond and I start laughing as soon as we see each other, and we don’t stop laughing until I leave. It’s scary how close his humor mirrors my own…hmm, perhaps I should feel bad for the poor guy.

While in Asheville/Black Mountain, I met with a variety of other people. Hope Deifell introduced me the Dean of Spiritual Formation at Montreat College where she works, and it turns out that Rachel Toone and I had several friends in common. I spent time with fellow hippie ministers: Joshua and Shallyn Hanson, of the Rainbow Gathering Jesus Kitchen, at their new Nomads Land property outside Asheville; and then it was tacos and ice cream with Cate, who has worked in places like Rainbow Gatherings, Haight Ashbury, and the Goa. I also saw my Wild Goose festival friends Mike and Jasmin Morrell, and Steve Knight (for a second time). To top of a great time in Asheville, I got to see one of my Salem peeps who moved to Asheville a couple years ago––yes, the famous Glenn French! 

Texas

My first landing place after leaving California was Texas, and quickly I was swept away from the airport by David Brown, and we made our way to College Station. I caught the 4th of July fireworks at Texas A&M on that first night. Over the next 10 days I would also travel to Brownwood and Austin. I spent time with Chai, Shalom, and Zoe, and David, but Chris Gaston who is usually in Brownwood had already left for the Pacific Coast Trail which he is walking in full this summer.

I was headed toward Houston to see Paul and Joy Burwell, but Joy called and said they were in contact with someone exposed to COVID. Although, I am not concerned for myself, I needed to be wary for those I was visiting, because it included families and elders across the country. So, I missed the opportunity to see and pray with my good friends, the Burwells. At the end of the Texas trip I spent the days in Austin. I stayed with Robert, Kimberly, and Ian Watson-Hemphill. I was treated to some of the notable places of Austin, and Robert and I visited the Immersive Van Gogh exhibit, which is traveling around the country.

I spent a couple days with Cathryn Camisa as she in process of leaving one place for another, which was wonderful to see since it represented a season of deliverance for Cathryn. Cathryn and I met with Mike Clawson and Steve Knight, who flew in from Asheville and I would see once again in North Carolina.

Defending Befriending with John W. Morehead from MultiFaith Matters

John Morehead and I are partners in the crimes of trying to do good works that are not always perceived as good works in Evangelical circles. We've taken some hits for befriending the "radical other" - those who think and live differently than ourselves. We think that's what Jesus would do, but not everyone appears to agree.

Wild Theology Podcast: The One Who Names Himself Part 1 Wild Theology

In this episode entitled "The One Who Names Himself", I look at the frantic search for a meaning and fulfillment. Kanye West's declaration at Glastonbury that he was the greatest rock star on the planet and the Self-Help Movement are discussed as examples of this phenomenon.   You can support this podcast at https://Patreon.com/PhilWyman You can find the video version at https://youtu.be/oAZH34Zh4os  Also connect with me at: https://Facebook.com/PhilWyman https://Twitter.com/PhilWyman https://BurningReligion.com
  1. Wild Theology Podcast: The One Who Names Himself Part 1
  2. Love Big or Go Home with John W. Morehead
  3. Wild Theology Podcast – The Tattered Robes of Life: a song, a pre-Easter meditation
  4. Wild Theology Podcast -The Beginnings of Love Big or Go Home
  5. Wild Theology Podcast – Moving to Wales. The Story of this Dream.

Halloween for Christians: How to Respond to It

Reposting this article from 5 years ago. Yes, we still need to remind ourselve to stop freaking out, and start redeeming the time. 😉 For more information about rethinking Halloween see my book The Reformation of Halloween available on Amazon

Halloween has become one of the largest, most influential holidays in America, and is gaining ground in other countries as well. It is a day filled with costuming, horror images, candy, and community openness. That combination seems strangely out of synch with sensibility at first glance, but those issues may not be as far apart as we might assume.

If you come from the conservative to fundamentalist spectrum of Evangelical Christianity, you may have been raised with a fear of Halloween. You have heard stories of its supposed Pagan beginnings, and the dark sinister things occurring on Samhain (pronounced Sow-en). The Fundamentalist mind runs rampant with human and kitten sacrifices on October 31st. Churches hold Harvest Fairs, or 24-hour prayer vigils to combat the dark intentions of the Evil One on this night.

Meanwhile, families are getting dressed up in costumes ranging from bloody zombies to Disney Princesses, and they are traveling the neighborhood knocking door-to-door like vacuum cleaner salesman looking for candy for their children. The neighbors open their doors, cheerily accept a “Trick-or-Treat!” shout, give out candy, and close the doors to declare how cute the kids look. To these neighbors, your concern about keeping your kitty indoor on Halloween, or avoiding a demonic intrusion into your child’s soul seems as distant as Pluto.

Now, I will be so bold as to declare, that I know a bit more about Halloween and its intersection with Christianity than just about anybody reading this blog post. You see, I am a Christian Pastor. But not only that, I am a Christian Pastor who lives and pastors in Salem, Massachusetts, and in our little city, Halloween is a one-month-long experience. But, not only that, I have been running an outreach on the streets of Salem for nearly an entire month each year during our month-long Halloween season. And not only that, our city has real live practicing Witches, and I know many of them well. So, here goes my take on Halloween. I will not give you the supposed history of the event. You can find that elsewhere on the internet, and some of it is sensationalist (stay away from that stuff – it’s just dumb and wrong), and some of it is honest enough to say that we do not really know the origins or activities on this night back in early Pagan history.

Here are some suggestions I have for you:

1) Don’t get freaked out by the gory aspects of Halloween. Yes, some people go overboard, but then again so did Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and so did some of the descriptions of war, sickness, depravity and suicide in the Bible. There is a strong connection between death and apocalyptic scenarios in literature and film, and these connections carry spiritual meaning. From stories of zombies to vampires to monsters to antichrists we find interesting correlations to finding safety in God during apocalyptic crisis in literature and film, and social commentary is ripe in story lines like The Walking Dead.

2) Take advantage of the community openness. What other day of the year will people happily open their doors to a knock from a strangely dressed stranger saying funny things to them? In fact, they will be so happy to see you, they will give you a gift of candy. How often does that happen? You couldn’t get that to happen on Christmas Day while everyone is excitedly opening packages under the decorated piney tree.

3) Don’t get all caught up in the supposed dark intentions of the night. How many Witches do you actually know? My guess is that most people reading this will answer “none.” I know hundreds – literally hundreds. That is because I live in Salem Massachusetts, and have friends from the Neo-Pagan Witchcraft community from around the world. I have yet to encounter any dead kitty cats, or sacrificed babies. I have found very few examples of curses upon churches or individual Christians. I am not saying that there are not any examples of curses by Witches, but the Witches I know are generally kind people who want the world to be a better, more peaceful place. For this reason, I do not have to hide on Halloween to pray the darkness away.

4) Join someone doing something both fun and redemptive, if you can. Because I am in Salem, and 500,000 to a million people will visit our city in October, we will provide live music on the streets, give away free hot cocoa, free hugs, and will set up booths to offer a variety of spiritual counseling. This is our way of connecting to a searching world during a searching season.

I believe that Halloween is the most open and community oriented holiday in our culture. It is filled with wild creativity, and offers Christianity the best moment in the year to shine with its own creativity, love and giving. Don’t let that moment pass you by, because you are afraid of some bogey man of urban myth in fundamentalist garb.