wild goose christian community center
Believe it or not, I went to church. Tuesday night church with rocking chairs instead of pews. Walking the length of the room, I was thinking, a dangerous place for cats. My friend Edwin Lacy is the minister or whatever he calls himself. I don't think Edwin calls himself anything in that regard. Edwin is an old-time banjo picker truly in the tradition and truly in his own style. It is important in the tradition to have your own style to interpret the tunes your own unique way. Edwin's banjo pickin is his own. Edwin is an artist in the form of music. When Edwin plays music, it is music, too. I mean by music, what we all know. When I hear Edwin play, I hear music, music I feel inside, music that makes me tap my feet unconsciously, good drive. There are bands that play well, good musicians, but sometimes there is just something a little bit short of music. Like at an old-time fest, some bands force people to run to the front to dance. Other bands, people sit back, listen, enjoy it, but it's short of music. When my friend Jr Maxwell heard a band like that he'd say, "Aint no music in it." I mean by music when it forces people to dance, leaves no choice. Even if I don't jump up and start flat-footin, I'm feeling it inside. Sometimes when the music is really moving, I sit as still as if no music were happening. I was called on it once at an old-time venue when the music was really going, I was grooving good, sitting still soaking it up, like donkey Jack bathing in the sunlight. An old summer-resident neighbor of mine from Florida jumped on me for not moving. How can you not move to this music? One of those moments when everybody looks at you. I was in bliss and she pulled me right out of it. Back to Edwin. He's an ordained Presbyterian preacher, went to seminary in Indiana, or anyway, that's where his first church was. Maybe the seminary was in Ohio. I've never been clear on exactly where the seminary was. Up north. He was gone for several years. He found a way to have himself assigned to a church in Bristol, bringing him closer to home and his musician friends who missed him like crazy. After a few years at Bristol, he found his woman, Roye, married her, found an old empty church way outside Hillsville, Virginia, rural as it rural is. Southwest Virginia is beautiful landscape. Edwin declared the church his own, however that is done, calls it the Wild Goose Christian Community and meets on Tuesday evenings, good potluck dinner brought by the women at 6:30.
forty or so people sat in a big circle all the way around
Mac and Jenny Traynham made some music during the meeting. They are in the corner in the picture above. First thing in the meeting, he played an old tune on a fiddle, old-timey hillbilly fiddle, the kind of slow fiddle playing that moves my heart, where sometimes he plays two strings at once. It chokes me up remembering it. Later, Mac and Jenny picked guitars and sang. Edwin does not preach. He spoke of the attitude that the people there were intelligent people who have valuable insights. He chose for the theme some verses from the book of James, The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position. Very interesting discussion followed, different people providing insight. It was one of those moments I felt was a celebration of our individual diversity. Everyone who spoke had their own insight. The diversity of points of view worked toward unity instead of division. Edwin's scripture he uses to state the purpose of what he calls Wild Goose Uprising, came from a prayer by Jesus: May those who believe in me be brought to complete unity, Father, one as we are one, I in them and you in me. This was at the top of the sheet of paper passed around to everyone with the outline of the service, words to a song all were to sing together. Reading the scripture, I realized that inside a year Edwin has pulled together several people who really do gather in unity into community. I did not know Edwin's intent to gather a community of people who care about each other, though this falls in line with the Edwin I know. I felt like Edwin's integrity as a "minister" carried the least ego of any preacher I've ever heard. He was not about look-at-me. He's more in line with look-at-you. He did not need to be in the midst of everybody with their attention on him. He turned the attention back to the people themselves. It was never, Let me tell you how much I know. He was saying, Tell me how much you know, enrich me with your insight. He would start a song leading it until everybody was in the flow of the song, then he backed off from the lead and let everybody sing. I'd only known Edwin before, person to person, and him a musician I admire the highest. It felt just right in his circle, true to the Edwin I know. I already knew he was not ego-tripping as a preacher. I felt the satisfaction that he approached his spiritual role with the same humility he lives his everyday life, even on stage. He's a humble stage presence, tells good jokes, sings as good as he picks a banjo. He's there to make music, not to make a spectacle of himself.
edwin a-pickin and a-grinnin
mac and jenny traynham
I've been wanting to make it to Edwin's Wild Goose Uprising since he started it. It's a daunting drive, sixty miles of mountain road, the only kind I like to drive, a little over an hour and a half. That's really no drive at all, but I am so jealous of my home time that a 3-4 hour round trip and a couple hours of sitting and standing around was no lure at all. Sometimes I'd say, This coming Tuesday I'm going. Tuesday comes around and I'm not feeling like committing to six hours at the end of the day, leave at five, home at eleven. Some years ago I heard about a friend here who was teaching yoga. I talked to her about it. She taught in Winston-Salem, and invited me to come to the class. Driving an hour and a half each way in interstate mayhem to spend an hour relaxing did not compute. By the time I'm home all the relaxation is exhausted from attention given to staying on the road for an hour and a half. Over twenty dollars in gas per round trip plus the cost of the class. No yoga for me. My friend Debi has a deep faith. She recently had what she called a "Holy Spirit" visitation, and I believe her interpretation. I've been wanting to give Debi a chance to experience a church situation outside the traditional, believing she'd like it. I thought I could make the drive much better with Debi along. I've known Debi as long as I've lived here. She's lived someplace else most of those years, but she's been back several years by now. It seems like things are going Debi's way for a change. She says she's in the best place she's been in her whole life. I know a large number of her relatives. Our bond is around her great uncle Tom Pruitt, my nearest neighbor and my teacher for the farm work in the early years. I knew Tom in my first fourteen years a hillbilly and Tom's last fourteen years. Tom was proud that he was born a Regular Baptist and a Republican, and he died a Regular Baptist and Republican. It was evidence to him that he did not change, he died the same as he was born. The ideal was not to change because God did not change. I, who have spent my entire life in ongoing change to the point of embracing change, found Tom's estimation a whole new way of thinking. Not for me, but I'd never met anyone whose pride was in never changing. His brother, Millard, the Regular Baptist Elder, held the same pride for himself. Both would be buried in the cemetery of the church they grew up in and were saved in, where mother and daddy were buried. It was an experience I could not fathom.
debi in the middle
a charming 6 mo old baby next to debi
Our drive to the church was an adventure neither Debi nor I will ever forget. It will be memory we'll hold in common the rest of our lives. I entered the address in the GPS device on the dash. I believed I could take the Parkway to within maybe twenty miles of the place. The GPS told me to exit the Parkway and take 89 to Galax on the way to Hillsville. I did not want to drive through Galax so soon after work let out, thought I'd override the GPS and go a way I believed better. Major error. I took us all over the place, crossing the interstate twice, and finally taking 52. All this was way out of the way. When I left 52 I decided it was time to follow the GPS. I'd never been in this part of the world. It took us over one dirt road after another, four miles on one, six miles on another, one after the other, nice scenic roads, a nice drive. Drive a few miles and turn on Bent Nail Road and Slaughter Hill Road, just two of the names I remember. Slaughter Hill Road was only as wide as one car, banks straight up on both sides, something like a mud luge track. Big potholes. One, I had to stop and study a way to get through it. Some of them bounced the rearview mirror off its mount, things were flying all around inside the car, we were laughing and wondering what could be next. It was several miles on that one lane road hoping nobody was coming our way around any of the blind curves. An old wagon road is what it was. The relief to see the pavement when we came to the end of Slaughter Hill Road was near ecstasy. As all the roads were worse and worse from one to the next, we dreaded what the next road might be. Turned left onto the paved road and the church was right there. We had arrived on time. On the road home I decided to let the GPS be my guide. First thing: Slaughter Hill Road. It was going to take us back the same way we came. No, we're not doing that again. I turned onto the paved road to Hillsville, the GPS compensated and from there on took us by highway all the way home. Comparing the mileage each way, I went twelve miles out of the way first try. I had a good learning out of it. Debi and I agreed we had an adventure, that the drive was one hundred percent adventure.
The website: wildgoosecc.com
To see video of Edwin, write Edwin Lacy in the search box at YouTube and you'll have a big selection. His band is Skeeter and the Skidmarks. They have several tunes on YouTube. They do a mighty fine Yellow Rose of Texas with the original lyrics. Mac and Jenny Traynham are on YouTube too.