Welcome to the great unfolding! Just by virtue of writing my way through this you are helping me find my voice as we all move through a significant shift. This is a transformational moment for all of us. I appreciate you being along for the ride.
I know sometime in the next few weeks I will be inviting you into new blog. While there is much that I am still working out, last week I was able to confirm that the community to whom I will be speaking will be much broader than the church audience that I have primarily been writing for during the past four plus years.
The reasons for this are simple:
- I have an established history of connecting with multiple audiences even if not all at the same time;
- In a denomination that continues to decline every year, we either need to learn to connect with the broader community or accept the movement toward irrelevance;
- The stakes are too high these days not to. If we cannot find a common language or common values from which to live, America has a very precarious, if not violent, future.
- The role of religious leadership is to call our communities, our nation and our world to live into our deepest and most authentic humanity. I would not be following my calling if I dodged this responsibility.
Last week I titled my blog, “A Public Pulpit.” The title represented a return to the memory of my childhood when what was said on Sunday from the pulpit often reverberated through the whole community. Back in the day, at least where I grew up, what the preacher said on Sunday was often a topic around office water coolers on Monday.
Quite honestly, I would like to resurrect that tradition.
But, first we must overcome a monumental barrier of our own making. It’s not that preachers don’t have something worth talking about, it’s that what we say comes with the baggage associated with preaching from a pulpit. The pulpit is not just some wooden platform suited to a good lecture. A pulpit comes with a whole history of authority—preachers who knew Greek and Hebrew, were trained in hermeneutics, exegesis, and soteriology (and could even spell those words!), and who could speak authoritatively about the culture, language and customs of the Biblical world. In other words, preachers were the experts who were seen as literally preaching “the Word of God.”
What I realized this week is that I don’t need a public pulpit if pulpit is still understood as a podium (virtual or not) where I am the only authorized personnel. What I need is a platform to simply get the conversation started. I am less concerned about whether people agree or disagree, accept or reject, or applaud or jeer at what I say. What I want is to get the a holy conversation started. One of the reasons I studied both political science and religion in college was that these were the two topics worth talking about!
Agreement is not the goal; dialogue is.
This morning I had a phone call with Victoria Loorz, author of Church of the Wild: How Nature Invites Us into the Sacred. In her book (and I am going to appeal to my expertise in the field here!) she wrote that many scholars believe that the Greek word logos found in John 1: 1-4 was actually translated into Latin during the first four centuries after Jesus’ death as sermo. Sermo is most often translated as conversation, not word.
What do you think of that?
- What if our pulpits weren’t seen as the place where the one, authoritative Word of God was spoken, but as the place where important conversations start.
- What if preachers didn’t have to carry the burden of getting it right, but simply offered their experience, their training and their reflections as a way to invite people into their own encounter with God and the Sacred?
- What if a sermon wasn’t really finished until people also discussed it around the water coolers on Monday?
What if Victoria Loorz is right—that John 1:1 should actually be translated as “In the beginning was the Conversation…”
Wouldn’t that be fun!
Now, I know two things as I discern my emerging voice:
- That my readership will be made up of the broad and richly diverse community reflected in my personal and professional relationships, and;
- That my role in this emerging platform is not to speak authoritatively for the church or anyone, but simply to speak honestly, authentically and transparently so as to serve as a catalyst for the Holy Conversation.
Thanks for being along for the ride.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades
I love this, and hope to see it happen. You are a good facilitator. Keep it up. Carol
Relevance is a pretty subjective word I imagine. I’ve said numerous times, when fellow parishioners express concern about our dwindling numbers in organized denominations, that we don’t look like we did in Christ’s time nor 500 years ago. I believe the Church will transform into something even better, because God’s got this. He always has.
I believe you are correct in that we need to communicate the values to the wider communities we live in. We just have to figure out what that looks like: every community will be different.
Best wishes on the transformed blog!