Month: July 2017

  • What I Learned From a Day with Emmett Till

    What I Learned From a Day with Emmett Till

    In the video, Johnny B. Thomas, mayor of Glendora, Mississippi, looks out over Black Bayou. This is where the body of Emmett Till was dumped following his brutalization and murder in 1955.  In a voiceover, Thomas says, in effect, “Things haven’t changed here.  A lot of the problems that were here then are here now.” […]

  • Love and Arson on the Eastern Shore: A Review of American Fire

    Love and Arson on the Eastern Shore: A Review of American Fire

    It’s in the nature of small towns and isolated places to believe they’re special.  Recently I drove through Ayden, North Carolina and found a historical marker revealing that President Washington had spent the night in 1791…10 miles east.  It was something. So when the Eastern Shore of Virginia showed up in the New York Times […]

  • Skylight Inn BBQ: The Long-awaited Heartlands Review

    Skylight Inn BBQ: The Long-awaited Heartlands Review

    I’m not going to wax eloquent about a BBQ joint.  O, heck, who am I kidding?  I’m totally going to go overboard about a place with as much character as the Skylight Inn. Should you find yourself in tiny Ayden, North Carolina, (and really, why would you find yourself there? – go!), you’ll discover an old […]

  • Life at The Crossroads

    Life at The Crossroads

    The Crossroads Coffee House made my urban soul sing when it came to town this spring.  (Yes, I have an urban soul.  It shares space and fuels a lot of creative tension with my rural soul.  Welcome to my world.)  Matt and Brittney spent a year transforming an old bank building at the main intersection […]

  • Spirit Duplicator – The Streetlight Essay

    I recently got news that I had won an essay/memoir contest run by Streetlight magazine.  Today, it’s up on their site:

  • Never Call Retreat?

    Never Call Retreat?

    I’m going on renewal leave.  What does that even mean?  I’ve spent the last six months trying to get my mind around it, preparing for it, and anticipating it with a strange mixture of joy and dread.  I do believe, because I’ve seen how it has helped others, that renewal leaves can refresh us for […]

  • Why Books Will Win

    Why Books Will Win

    I’m making a wager that books will lead us to the future. Heartlands came about as a desire to understand the present age, particularly from the perspective of rural America and rural church ministry.  In the beginning I was trying to figure out why the place where I live seemed suddenly so strange to me.  […]

  • In Which I Win An Essay/Memoir Contest

    Spirit Duplicator     “Streetlight Magazine is happy to award first prize to Alex Joyner for his essay, Spirit Duplicator, a poignant, unsentimental—but touching—account of returning in maturity to a place and people known in childhood. This short essay mixes an awareness of the historical past with a sharp remembrance of personal experience.”

  • Nunc Dimittis: Words for a Church Closing

    Nunc Dimittis: Words for a Church Closing

    What’s the import of a church closing?  We struggled with that question last Sunday at Berea United Methodist Church as we held its final worship service.  I offered some words for this country church that has been at the center of a small Virginia town, New Church, for 132 years…   When I was young, […]