Florida Panhandle

The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind. Since returning from my time with 125 'emerging church' evangelical leaders in the Bahamas (see my last post), Connie and I have driven from St. Louis to Lexington, to Louisville, to Cincinnati, to Birmingham, and finally to (and throughout) the Florida panhandle, from Pensacola to Panama City.

A few highlights:

After an evening workshop in St. Louis and Sunday service and evening program in Lexington, we spent nearly a week in Louisville at an event called "Festival of Faiths". It was especially wonderful to spend time with Mary Ellen Hill, a gifted artist and dramatic Great Story teller, and Mark Steiner of Cultivating Connections, a dear friend and long-time colleague in what Thomas Berry and others refer to as "The Great Work".

Connie and I offered concurrent programs for several hundred high school students at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville: "Universal Stories: From the Stars to Our Own Lives". The religion reporter from the Louisville Courier-Journal, Peter Smith, wrote a delightful article on this. Then the following day, he, Connie, and I drove to the new Creation Museum near the Cincinnati airport, and spent practically the entire day there. When his article on this excursion is published, I'll mention it and include a link in a blog post.

When we left Louisville, headed for Pensacola, we stopped at Nicholas Fiedler's home in Birmingham. Nick is the co-originator of the Nick and Josh Podcast, which has 200,000 subscribers and is one of the largest podcasts in the emerging church movement. Nick and I met and had a nice, albeit brief, connection in the Bahamas and I recommend this podcast for progressive Christians and others open to thinking broadly and creatively about religious and cultural issues.

A few days ago I had dinner and stimulating conversation with Okaloosa-Walton College President, Bob Richberg and his wife Vicki, several faculty members and their spouses, and a few others, most of whom had read my book. The next day I did a presentation at the college that was written up and appeared on the front page (with picture!) of the main newspaper that serves the entire panhandle: the Northwest Florida Daily News. The fact that, theologically and politically speaking, this is one of the most conservative areas in the country, and that the front page article was entirely positive, is both amazing and (to my mind) deeply hopeful.