A Public Pulpit

Photo by Hussein Abdullah on Unsplash

Something is shifting, that much I know. In my last blog, I spoke of this time of Sacred Absence as I have been listening for both the platform and the character of my voice. I have been saying for months that I can feel a shift from teasing out a vision to strategically living into a vision.

There is still much I don’t know about my emerging voice, but one thing is becoming clear. I do know to whom I am speaking. This is important. There is history to this unfolding story.

Photo by Ashni on Unsplash

Nearly thirty years ago I was a preacher in a PCUSA church in Northern California. In my naivete as a young 33-year old I thought I would be able to speak to the church community on Sunday morning and to the broader community in a column in the religion section of the local paper (remember when religion had its own page!). I effectively reached both groups, but I completely underestimated how culturally different those two groups were. Bringing them together in one community proved to be an impossible task and, in fact, resulted in two different churches.

I learned over the years that in order to survive I would need to develop two languages—one for the traditional church and another for the broader community. I spent years where I both served as a pastor and developed resources for human services. But I also was careful not to mix the two as human services was wary of any religious agenda and churches were uncomfortable with the more generalized language of spirituality. Again, I knew how to effectively speak to both, but not bring them together.

alone book coverAfter my pilgrimage in 2011 (Alone: A 4,000 Mile Search for Belonging), I found for the first time that my most authentic voice was actually reaching people on both sides of the church walls. I began to explore the religious landscape of mysticism and pilgrimage in a blog tilted www.pedalpilgrim.com. There I discovered that my audience was split nearly 50/50—50% were people who were on the edges of the church, but still committed to the institution; 50% were people who could generally be listed as spiritual, but not religious or humanist.

I will be honest with you. When I took this position as the executive of the Presbytery of the Cascades, I abandoned my www.pedalpilgrim.com blog believing that much of what I wrote there would be too challenging for much of the presbytery. I have always believed that transformative work ALWAYS has to start with where the people are which is why I started this position off with a listening tour. But I grieved the loss of my former blog and united community in favor of a blog (Holy Breadcrumbs) that was intended almost exclusively for a church audience.

I said above that there is still much I don’t know as I make this shift. But the one thing I do know is to whom I am speaking. Somewhere in the next few weeks you will be invited to a new blog and a new platform. What I do know about that new blog is this—I will be speaking to the broader public that constitutes my larger community.

My broader community includes the following groups of people:

  • diversity
    Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash
    Faithful church members in a variety of mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations;
  • Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist. Unitarian Universalist, and Daoist adherents;
  • People who grew up in the church and who now live their religious values out in a secular society;
  • People who call themselves spiritual but not religious;
  • People on the radical political left;
  • People who identify as gay/lesbian/transgender/bisexual
  • Family members who are Hispanic and Native American
  • People who consider connecting with the Sacred in nature their form of worship;
  • People who would identify as evangelical conservative and politically right wing;
  • People who would call themselves humanists and who serve the community in government roles, non-profits and mission-oriented businesses.
  • Religious and spiritual pilgrims

This is the community of people–family, friends, and colleagues–with whom I associate on a regular basis. It is also a community of people that struggles with coming together around a common vision for a shared life.

This is what I do know.

Photo by Caleb McGuire on Unsplash

Our time calls for religious leaders to not only speak to the religiously faithful, but to the whole community. If our country is going to successfully navigate through the divisive, violent and nasty spirit of our time, we are going to have to find a way to come home to each other.

I may not get this right. I may not be the right person or the best person. But I do know that my own community represents some of the diversity of our country. If I can get my people to listen to and talk to each other, maybe we can find a common table for all of us.

This is what I do know. I can no longer speak to just one group at a time.

My soul can no longer be split into two.

I need to nurture a public pulpit.

By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades

7 thoughts on “A Public Pulpit

  1. Looking forward to the new blog and platform, Brian. As always, you present much to chew on! BTW, the Corvallis Gazette-Times still has a religion page, published on Saturdays, that features interfaith voices from the community as well as information about worship services and other church related activities in the area.


  2. Your extensive “larger community” list of potential blog customers appears to include everyone but Skin Head Trump Loyalists with Swastika Tattoos. But, who knows, perhaps you can also bring them around to listen and chat about their point of view. The difficulty with communication is that both individuals and groups tend to “create their own individual sense of “Reality” based on their life experiences and internal needs, which makes it very difficult to have a meaningful exchange of views. I certainly look forward to your insight and creative skills as you reach out to communicate with the “Larger Community”


    1. Herman,
      I think at this point, I would rather make an attempt at conversation and understanding than to resign myself to the permanent paralysis between people. I guess that’s what we call faith!


  3. Brian, I invite you to check out my blog Natural Religion at naturalreligion.substack.com It also calls for wholeness. I am not so much going for a public pulpit as trying to figure out what this new spiritual space with its big old wide boundaries are.


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