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