I am heading back to Scripture.
For those of you who know my writing history, you might find this a bit of a surprise. Before taking this presbytery position, I had a regular blog under the title PedalPilgrim. My readers were almost evenly divided between people who regularly attended church and those who considered themselves some form of “spiritual, but not religious” or agnostic. I had found a voice that seemed to speak equally to those outside of the church as well as those inside the church.
But I was in a unique position during that period. As an interim minister, I was able to tell my congregations that they were getting me less for the beliefs that I held and more for the experience I brought to their unique situation. I spoke to the congregation from the pulpit and to the larger community in my blog.
Now my readership is mostly faithful Presbyterians, although not exclusively. If I had a 50/50 split four years ago, I would guess that I now have something closer to a 90/10 split—nine religiously faithful to every one “non-religious” person.
So I make this move “back to Scripture” with some reservation. I have always cherished my ability to share my spiritual values with people beyond the church. I know those folks well enough to know that a “return to Scripture” may be a step too far in holding their interest or in trusting my voice. That grieves me. In a denomination that has seen consistent declines for over five decades, connecting with people beyond the church walls seems like a no-brainer.
I am returning to Scripture, nonetheless. I am hoping that both my church readers and non-religious readers will join me. I think what I am experiencing still speaks to both communities.
In recent months, I have found myself increasingly disoriented. I spent the first three years of this position feeling clear-headed about where the presbytery needed to go. I had a narrative in my head and a vision that I carried in my heart. Every week as I have written I have done so feeling deeply confident about where I was taking the presbytery.
But somewhere in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, a charged political environment, civil unrest, wildfires, international crises and my own personal losses, I lost my ability to be smugly confident about where the presbytery should go.
I still know how to get there. I am just less sure of where there is.
And so I am returning to Scripture. Most of my professional ministry was as a solo pastor where I was privileged to preach on a weekly basis. I loved the rhythm of weekly preaching. Generally, I would read Scripture five to six weeks in advance and then focus exclusively on one scripture for the Sunday ahead. As soon as I said “Amen” at the end of one sermon, my mind immediately shifted to the scripture for the next sermon. I loved having a certain scripture text tag along with me each day.
I loved the way it grounded my week. I cherished the way it gave me a spiritual lens through which to view the events of the world. I loved how it informed the chance meeting with the person at the store, the couple I was counseling, and the issues I was wrestling with. I delighted in the way the scripture leapt to life not because of what was written, but because of the way it intersected with my world.
I shared months ago that this Holy Breadcrumbs blog was going through a transformation. Something was ending, but a new beginning had not quite shown its face. Next week will represent the beginning of another stage of my writing for the presbytery—a shift from writing my way toward a vision that was in my head and heart to letting Scripture speak to us, walk with us and guide us in these coming months.
I am needing this. I am guessing you need something to ground you too. These past eighteen months have been incredibly disorienting and disturbing. I am no longer confident that I have the answers for the presbytery or even for myself. What I am confident about is that the answers lie somewhere in that dynamic space where scripture and life speak to each other.
Holy Breadcrumbs has not gone away. But it is changing. It is transforming. It used to be grounded in a vision that I held in my head and heart. Now it will be grounded in scripture. Now it will be grounded in that sacred space where God’s story meets our story.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades