Heartlands is the site of Alex Joyner, an eclectic practitioner of trades and formed by faith and region.  Heartlands is a collection point for writing, news, and sharing on life and ministry in rural America.  I grew up in Virginia and make it my home now, but I have also spent significant time in Texas and Great Britain.  Though my home as a child and now as an adult is a small town, I have also lived in urban centers and small cities.  My conviction is that the unique environment of rural and small town life is often misunderstood and under-appreciated, even by those who live here.

We call this land ‘The Heartland,’ and that speaks to the mythical role of the vast landscapes that frame the American experience.  That heart speaks in our national literature from Mark Twain to Flannery O’Conner to James McBride.  But The Heartland is not monolithic, and it is not reducible to ‘red state’ ideology, gauzy country music imagery, or even the outlaw progressivism of Willie Nelson.  It is vibrant, changing, diverse.  Hence, the plural in the title.  These are Heartlands that offer contrasting visions of who we are and what we could be.

I am a writer whose calling leads me to reflection on spirit and place, heart and land.  I am an ordained minister in the United Methodist tradition, currently serving as the District Superintendent for the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  I am the author of 6 books on vocation, biblical study, theology, and the Middle East.

This site is an online watering hole for those seeking nourishment and refreshment as they travel through the land.  It’s a place to share ideas and insight, to learn about books and poetry—old and new, and to catch a glimpse of what ministry looks like in this emerging age.

Is it theological? Yes.  Is it meant just for ‘church folks’?  No.  It’s as broad and scattered as I am.  But if you are as homesick as I am for a new day, perhaps we’ll share this spot for a while and dream a little.

For a little more on the dream of this site try this post.


A book that speaks to my soul: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

A place that speaks to my soul: Archer City, Texas

Musical taste: Singer-songwriters, Delta blues, and Celtic music

Favorite movie: A close tie between The Commitments & The Wizard of Oz

First real job: Radio news director

Interests: Kayaking and boxing



  1. Dear Alex, I just learned of Kirk Mariner’s death. I had planned to get in touch with him to pick his brain about Eastern Shore architecture and antebellum houses there. I’m writing my second novel and it’s set, like the first, on the Eastern Shore in a fictional town. I wonder if you might have advice about resources? My email is rammatt5@aol.com.

    Peace, Matt Matthews


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