2017 began with a quaint and quixotic belief that one more blog might be helpful in addressing the Great Divide. Post-election I was casting about for a way to explore this strange, new world we all seemed to be living in. Were we really as divided as we seemed? Had we forgotten how to talk to each other? What new languages might we have for new conversations? And how could the church reclaim its own language for this new day?
Heartlands is about the way these questions play out in rural America. Over the year, it has developed a particular interest in how place and story can ground us. Hence, book reviews, travelogues, and interviews with authors and artists. But you have helped shape what this blog looks like. And it’s time to count down the most read posts of 2017. So here they are:
10. How to Preach a Bad Sermon – reflections by one who has delivered and heard more than my fair share. Includes obligatory Annie Dillard reference.
9. Why don’t country people just get out? – What happens when we give up on country life?
8. In Which I High-Five a Bishop – The new bishop of the Virginia Conference, got me (and the whole conference) fired up at our annual gathering last June. Here’s where I tell why.
7. We’ve Got an Open Door Problem – revisiting the deceptive slogan of the United Methodist Church.
6. Why the Duke Divinity School Controversy Matters – not sure, but I think a few Duke alums might have helped goose this post up the list. But the controversy did matter in helping us define the stakes of 21st century theology.
5. The Last Thing I Want to Talk About – Bishop Oliveto and the United Methodist Church – The legal wrangling over the status of the denomination’s first openly lesbian bishop got me thinking about what I really wanted to be talking about.
4. When Robert E. Lee was in the Walgreen’s Parking Lot – An interview with Photographer Michael Mergen – Passing through Farmville, Virginia one day, I took a break at the Longwood Center for the Visual Arts and discovered the work of a great photographer of place and memory. Man, I’m glad I did.
3. This Old House: The Love Story – an interview with Trudy Hale – One of my favorite people who lives in one of my favorite places – The Porches writing retreat.
2. The Empty Bench at the Book Bin – Remembering Kirk Mariner – the Eastern Shore and the UMC lost a giant in 2017.
1. What Goes Without Saying – Some Thoughts on Charlottesville – a fitting #1 considering how much time we spent discussing that awful day in August in a city I love. Race, faith, and the Great Divide in one terrible package.
But the true #1 is you, dear reader. Thanks for giving these posts some life and breath and for moving toward something like a community – a far less quaint and quixotic concept. Thanks as well to Christopher Smith and Sara Porter Keeling who contributed guest blogs this year and all the authors and artists who gave me their time. Happy New Year!