Need a respite from your hurried, worried life? Members of the Wild Goose Christian Community in Bonsack invites you to join them on Thursday evenings.
“In our new worshiping community, a circle of rocking chairs replaces pews; lively Celtic music or soft jazz brings a smile,” say the Wild Goose organizers. “After we gather for a supper together, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Then there’s time for quiet prayer and a lively discussion of a Biblical theme for living today.”
Wild Goose has been meeting since early November in the former Peace Presbyterian Church on Cloverdale Road– high on a hill in the Bonsack area.
The group is non-traditional, informal, and inclusive, “welcoming folks who are not attending any traditional church as well as those who seek additional or alternative worship times; yearning for a deeper grace, a sense of belonging, and encounters with the sacred.”
Wild Goose requires no statement of faith; it has no set creed to subscribe to; it is non-denominational.
They meet at 6:30 for A potluck dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the “Gathering” for worship at 7:15.
Wild Goose had its beginnings in Floyd County with the Wild Goose Indian Valley worship community formed by the Rev. Edwin Lacy. In addition to being a minister, he was a banjo musician. A worshipping community of fellow musicians who were “unchurched” grew up around his leadership. He wanted to try something similar in Bonsack, on the edge of an urban setting.
When Lacy relocated to Baltimore, he asked retired Presbyterian ministers Bob and Dusty Fiedler to adopt and adapt his vision for Wild Goose in Bonsack. They say he left them with a one-page outline of his plans to build on and the subsequent desire to discern where God is leading them.
The Fiedlers served as co-pastors at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Roanoke for 19 years. Upon their retirement, members thanked them for growing it into “the vibrant, generous, and serving congregation it is today.”
Dusty Fielder originally attended seminary because, as a high school English teacher, one of her ninth-grade students became pregnant; she decided on a year of seminary to become licensed to open a home for pregnant teens. Once at seminary, she decided to become a minister, becoming a pioneer for women in leadership positions in the church.
Bob Fiedler went to seminary for a “trial year,” but decided on a full-time commitment after he completed field work with three small churches near Hot Springs. He says he developed a “kitchen ministry” where he visited folks in their homes, ate homemade pie, talked with them about their lives and faith, and built relationships “over a second piece of apple pie.”
The Fiedlers plan and lead the Wild Goose Gathering with the assistance of a planning committee. All are volunteers.
The Wild Goose Community is supported by Peaks Presbytery and the national Presbyterian Church, PCUS, whose goal is to establish 1001 “New Worshipping Communities” across the country with the challenge of “helping the church to grow in new ways.” In fact, the mission of the Presbytery has taken on many shapes to meet community needs with Hiking Churches and Running Churches established in other localities.
The Presbytery of the Peaks includes 122 churches, spanning parts of Central Virginia, Southside, the New River Valley, and the Allegheny Highlands. Other members are Campbell Memorial Presbyterian in Vinton along with Presbyterian churches in Fincastle and Montvale.
As for its name, Dusty Fiedler notes the wild goose has been the Celtic Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit since ancient times– a “pushy” bird– not “the peaceful and serene dove landing on Jesus at his baptism. The early Celtic churches, which formed “communities of work, prayer and hospitality,” chose the “strong, challenging, strident, and sometimes raucous” wild goose.
Fincastle artist Brett LaGue created their wild goose symbol and has also loaned several of his paintings to the group for display in the sanctuary.
One goal of Wild Goose-Bonsack is to connect with people unchurched or perhaps “over-churched” who have burned out with the demands and obligations of church membership, or those who have simply tired of traditional worship. They offer a smaller, more intimate Christian community. With traditional church membership on the decline nationally, Wild Goose hopes to connect with people “where they are.”
The Fiedlers say that the Wild Goose Gatherings are a “pick-me-up during the week– a place to renew and refresh,” which doesn’t conflict or compete with Sunday or Wednesday services at traditional churches.
Bob Fiedler says that the potluck meal preceding the worship service is a fellowship of nourishment and community. They started off with catered dinners for those attending, but as the community has grown, the change has been made to potluck where people sit down together, bringing “their best dish” or something thrown together on the fly.
Potluck is followed in the Gathering afterward with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, by the passing of the bread and wine around the circle– another form of nourishment and fellowship.
The atmosphere is restful with the room/sanctuary lit by candles and dimmed lamps.
The Wild Goose services feature a variety of musicians to deepen the worship experience. The February 1 service included the trio of Lori Turner (piano and guitar) along with her 13-year-old daughter Olivia (mandolin), and Allan Paterson (bass)– their first appearance together.
Their program ranged from the rousing “I’ll Fly Away,” to “This Little Light of Mine,” and “I’m Gonna Live so God Can Use Me,” to “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,’ along with soothing instrumentals.
They led the circle in “Take, O Take Me as I Am,” by John Bell from the Iona Community in Scotland– a retreat for many Christians around the world which focuses on ecumenism, social justice, healing, and worship renewal. In fact, Bell was a member of the Iona Wild Goose Worship Group. The lyrics of his hymn reflect the Wild Goose philosophy: “Take, O Take me as I am; Summon out what I shall be: Set your seal upon my heart; And live in me.”
The Gathering continued with periods of quiet prayer and “peaceful, refreshing meditation” culminating with examining a Bible passage. Their current Scripture series focuses on “Things you wish Jesus hadn’t said.” That night’s “directive from Jesus” under discussion was “Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you” from the Book of Matthew– hard words to follow and not especially trending in the world today.
One member of the group shared advice from her childhood on criticism, “Taste your tongue before you say something,”
At the February 8 Gathering, the group will take up the challenge from Jesus to “Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.”
All ages are welcome at Wild Goose. The Gatherings so far have included children, teens, and adults from young to Baby Boomer. They have pastors and physicians among the regular attendees, looking for some solace in the midst of busy schedules.
The Bonsack Wild Goose Christian Community invites people to “come with an open mind, and leave with an enriched soul, building a community by bringing people into circle of love and fellowship.”
In addition to the Thursday evening gatherings, Wild Goose-Bonsack will be doing a Lenten Bible Study on Sundays, beginning on February 18, at 4:30 with conversation, soup and sandwiches.
The location is 5646 Cloverdale Road, about a mile from Route 460 East and four miles from I-81 in the other direction.
More information on Wild Goose-Bonsack may be found at https://sites.google.com/view/wildgoosebonsack.