I have not written for three days. On the one hand, I had so much that could be said. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure what I should say. My blog “Dear Mr. President” that I published Wednesday was as close to a viral blog as I have ever written. As I sit here now the views have just climbed over the 13,000 mark and the shares have exceeded 400.
I have not written for three days because I just wasn’t sure what to make of the outpouring of responses to my blog. What did this mean for me and my particular voice in the community? What does it mean for the Presbytery of the Cascades, the umbrella under which I write? If this many people are taking seriously a “church guy” who steps into the political fray what does this tell us about the needs of our community?
On the one hand, I am inclined to follow this energy and see where our collective voice is taking us. There is energy here–let’s follow it! On the other hand, I don’t want to take the presbytery a direction that they are uncomfortable going. I am not the pope; I am just a hired hand in an executive role.
I haven’t written for three days because it took me the full 72 hours to come to some initial clarity. It was quite a roller coaster getting there, but I think I know what this means for me. I think I know what it means for the presbytery. We have reached a pivotal moment, a threshold moment, a time to shift focus. In many ways this represents a return to a voice that I had before I took this position thirty months ago.
In 2014, I began writing under the blog title “Pedal Pilgrim.” I was serving in interim positions in our presbytery while also nurturing a community of people whose spirituality was largely built around themes of pilgrimage, journey and religious mysticism. I have had a deep sense for over two decades that the Christian tradition is experiencing a monumental shift in identity and practice. Over the last few years I had been attempting to balance serving the church, as it is, even as I have been attempting to tease out the church, as it may become. It has been a tricky balancing act at times!
Over a three-year period under my Pedal Pilgrim title, I developed a following that appeared to be about half church-going Christians and half some combination of spiritual but not religious, agnostic and humanistic people. It was a wonderful period as I learned and developed a spiritual language shared by all of my followers as I sought to bring them together in one community.
In November 2017, I accepted this position as the Presbyter for Vision and Mission with a call to bring my experience right into the center of the institutional church. Immediately, it felt as if my voice needed to change. The tone and language that had been so successful under my title “Pedal Pilgrim” would have likely shocked many in our presbytery. It would have been too much too fast. I didn’t want to lose people before I even had them. I abandoned my former blog and began blogging under this new title, “Holy Breadcrumbs.” Of course, it was a shock to my former followers. “Where did you go? It was as if you suddenly disappeared?” were common refrains. It was true. I had suddenly disappeared.
Where I went was that I knew I had shifted from speaking to a community made up of progressive-minded Christians and spiritually inclined humanists to a community that was exclusively Presbyterian. I have always been a person who has believed that transformation and spiritual growth happens when you start where people are at. My Pedal Pilgrim writing was based on the question, “How do I speak in a way that both the religious and the secular can hear me equally?” For the past two years the question that has framed my blog posts has been, “What does the church most need to hear at this time?” Two different communities. Two different sets of assumptions. Two different starting points.
That changed this week. I titled this post, “13,000 Reasons” because I believe that my most helpful voice is now to speak not only to the church, but to the larger community, represented by 13,000 voices. I can articulate exactly what is happening. My blog voice is going from speaking TO the church, to speaking ON BEHALF of the church to the larger community. No longer will this blog be a “member’s only forum” but it will be a gathering place for a much broader community dialogue.
In other words, in many ways it is time to return to the voice that I had nurtured when I was writing under the title “Pedal Pilgrim.” It is time to nurture a community of people made up of Presbyterians, other spiritually-minded people of the Pacific Northwest and our largely secular community. It is time to speak not only to the 14,000 members in our churches, but to speak to the four million people in our Cascades community.
I knew this day would eventually come. I knew at some point it would be time to broaden the reach of the church to all people living in our midst, not just for card-carrying members. I was just looking for the right moment and the right reason.
Now I have 13,000 reasons.
Now is the time to bring people–all people–together.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades
Brian, I am hoping pastors all over the Presbytery and the nation are finding that same voice…
Thank you Brian for helping me free up my voice. As a retired Air Force officer, I have been accustomed to keeping my true feelings bottled up for the good of the service. Now as a sitting Ruling Elder I have been careful not to seem to be speaking for my Congregation when expressing my political opinion. The new Holy Breadcrumbs seems to be permission to speak more candidly than I had previously thought. But I still must hold back some of my disdain for our so called “President.”
Thank you so much for your email. I am especially pondering your last line as a few people have highlighted or called me out for my “disdain” or “contempt” that also showed up in the letter. I am pondering and reflecting on that. On the one hand, it was honest and authentic. On the other hand, I don’t think it represents the best of what I can be. Some thinking, praying, and reflecting to do. Thank you for getting into the trenches of this with me as we all try to find our most faithful and compassionate way through this. Peace…
Yay! Good! Hooray! You are where I am (or I a, where you and,I suspect, many more are: in and of the Presbyterian Church, and in and of the larger community of spiritual
Carol, yes, this is what I have been discovering–that increasingly people in the church as well as the community are looking for spiritual leaders and spiritual community that bridges the divide between the sacred and secular. It is time to step into this new world and craft it one relationship, one conversation and one blog at a time.
Thank you Brian for speaking your heart – so many of us agree, particularly in this frightening and stressful time.
Thank you, Nancy. One of the things I have learned is that if I speak from my heart it seems to connect to the heart of others. We are all not that different really!
I also thank you for speaking your heart, but my congregation isn’t of one mind with you. I don’t share many of your blogs with them, and this will seal that. But I think that’s okay because I really doubt there is even one that reads them or knows about them. I feel sure many are very disappointed in the President, but they will NEVER vote for a Democrat. So I and they will continue to avoid the “elephant in the room” and will continue to praise the name of the Lord together.
Thank you for your comment. This is the messy and tricky waters that we will have to navigate our way through. One of the assumptions in my writing is that I never expect us to “be of one mind.” My writing is more an invitation to talk about the things that are important. That is why I make a distinction between my blog and official pronouncements from the presbytery. My blog is my place to “theologically reflect” on our lives, the church, and the world. My only hope is that it becomes an opportunity for our congregations and community to reflect as well even if, in their reflection, they come out and say, ‘”The presbytery guy is full of BS!” A big part of what I am doing is trying to shape our congregations so that we find our unity in the diversity of people rather than finding our unity by avoiding touchy subjects. This is important to me because increasingly it seems that people are looking for real community where they are accepted for who they are. They are less attracted to the congregation that communicates, “You are welcome here as long as you don’t talk about this or this.” That works to keep a congregation together; it doesn’t work to attract new people who are trying to find their place in the community.
Thank you for being along for this wild and wonderful journey…
Happy, joyful that you are seeing clearly the issues involving our (Presbytery) exclusiveness. I agree; the time has come.
Thank you for your response The use of the word “exclusiveness” gives me something to ponder. I have been saying something similar, but been thinking of it as “very well-defined and distinct boundaries.” My words emphasize a “this is who we are” attitude, but if it that sense of identity is not also porous it becomes exclusive. Thanks for giving me a deeper angle on this to reflect on. Brian
I always read your message but I really loved pedal pilgrim. It gave me more of what I needed. Please keep up the good work. I miss you
Keep it going pedal man