I am back in Toronto after a pretty busy week of travel, talk and terrifying people with my acting skills! Yes, I was at the Wild Goose Festival hanging out with a lot of very nice people. I love congregations of diverse people - although, racially speaking, the Wild Goose looked somewhat pallid, in comparison to the communities I passed through on my way to join her. I am sure that is something remaining under discussion.
I was there talking about CPT, and in fact doing a 1 hour slot about the Aboriginal Justice Team. I was joined by long-serving chums Kathy and Tim and some new faces; Helen, Rick and Karima from Chicago.
My spot in the programme included my bio, a smiling picture, and a lack of information about my talk. I was very pleased when I saw the picture. I had taken it here in the office, sitting at Esther Kern's desk, (it was the nicest desk and she wasn't in), looking as if I am hard at work. Unfortunately the monitor is very clearly turned off. In the printed programme the offending monitor was cropped out, so that I didn't end up looking like this chump:
Thanks to futuresandpasts for that one.
My bio referenced King Arthur, Christian Anarchism and my personal spiritual theories, following my practice of offering enticingly vague promises of quirky theology with one hand while aiming the hard cudgel of praxis at the head of the enthralled masses with the other (I promise to refrain from both tortured metaphors and use of the word 'praxis' from now on). I had to apologise at the beginning for not talking about any of those things. However, no-one seemed to mind much and we got some pretty good questions.
Unfortunately I was up in that time slot against Tony Campalo. Sorry, Tony! Hope that a couple of folks stopped in, maybe to eat their lunch in your empty tent.
Speaking of big names, John Dear was behind me in the line up to register. I played it cool and didn't tell him that I was reading 'Jesus the Rebel'. Although now I think about it, I should have got him to sign it. And then begged him to tell me everything he knows.
By a weird co-incidence that I didn't figure out until later, I met all three people involved in putting together the book 'Common Prayer: a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals'. I met Enuma Okoro the day before the festival, but she didn't let on, she just handed me a salad and sent me off to a potluck. Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove were also there. I met Jonathan the day after the festival at his community house. Guess I missed a chance to get all three to sign a copy for me!
I do regret not going to more of the sessions. I was staffing the booth a lot, or otherwise going to some sessions which I felt I ought to go to rather than ones I wanted to go to. There was certainly always something great on, but as usual so much of the important work was on a person-to-person level. Everyone was totally open to talk about who they were and where they were coming from.
We had some nice collaboration with the booth next door, which was a permaculture project. There was only the one guy running it, and as I have an interest in permaculture I sort of took over his booth some of the time. People would come over, attracted by the stylish sack-cloth-and-coffee-bean decor, I would tell them what little I knew about permaculture, encourage them to sign up, and then direct them into the CPT booth! Jammy!
The highlight of the festival for me was something we cooked up on the last day. Brian McLaren, whose book 'A New Kind of Christianity' is gearing up for its second reading by me, agreed to have us interrupt his Sunday morning talk with a roleplay.
He was talking about Paul and Silas being arrested and how they dealt with the process. Midway through a sentence, we stormed the stage. Me in a rather fetching beret, flanked by four others in various bits of camoflage, dark glasses, guns. I turn over narration to my alter ego:
I took the microphone as my minions moved McLaren to one side.
"I am the head of the regional security forces. I require your immediate attention and your compliance with all instructions. No-one is to leave this area.
We have recieved intelligence that there are subversive elements at work in this festival. For your security, we will begin an identity check. All men between 18-30 must report to our processing area."
McLaren came forward as my minions leapt off the stage and began to line up the hang-headed young men. He started to speak. I cut him off. "I can assure you... it will go much easier if you comply. Continue!"
I heard him resume his topic after advising that his audience carry on. Meanwhile, they had lined up the men. They were the usual suspects. We checked their ID, taking our time about it. Once they had explained their presence here they were allowed to sit in our sun-drenched stockade, so long as they didn't look up or try to talk to one another.
Before long we had found a likely suspect. Getting him onto the ground, we confiscated his ID and sunglasses and hauled him off to our enhanced interrogation section.
By the time I made my way back I could see another one lying on the floor. It seems that one of the guards accompanying me had felt it necessary to administer some attitude correction. We started to haul this one off as well. "Continue your cultural or religious event" I called to some of the stall-holders who were looking on with curiosity.
Then a woman came out of the crowd. "You can't take him! He's my son!" she exclaimed. She stood in our way. Several other crowd members also came out to join her. One was a solid man who stood in our way and kept talking about justice. He didn't seem to understand that we were there to enforce justice and security for all!
Within a few moments I decided to diffuse the situation by releasing the young man into the mother's custody. Yet this act of clemency did not satisfy what was quickly becoming a mob. We noticed more and more people coming to surround the marked out area with all the detainees. As we hurried down to move them away, they started to form a line, blocking our way through. Then I noticed the last of our detainees disappearing into the forest!
We went in to try and break up the mob and arrest the leaders, but they were too many for us. Then, they started praying for us.
At this point I and three others made a tactical redeployment to the north, abandoning our military attire. One soldier was left behind. When last seen, he was surrounded by people laying their hands on him. What more could we do?
We finished the roleplay by having Kathy introduce us and name that this is an everyday experience for our partners, especially in Palestine. She had just returned back from Kurdish Northern Iraq with the team there. We invited everyone back to our booth for some debriefing.
It was so cool. We had planned the roleplay with Brian, and with the two folks we dragged off, both of them people with some CPT connections. But the people intervening? The nonviolent force that released the prisoners and sent the soldiers away? That was entirely spontaneous... or should I say, inspired?
It was fantastic. Our debriefing afterwards gave some insights. People talked about how Brian's words made them feel that they could ignore what was happening even as their friends were pulled away. Others said that they understood CPT's work much better from that simple demonstration.
For me, it's on to the Mennonite Church Canada gathering, spreading more mischief and hoping for a glimpse of a grey-feathered wing, here in the north...
I am part of a 'synchroblog', apparently. Here is a link to the directory of the rest. I think I might be meant to put them all on here individually but that's a lot of typing.