I grew up in a fifth-wheel trailer, a Kountry-Aire built by Amish and Mennonite craftsmen in a factory in Nappanee, Indiana. Until the sixth grade, my family lived on the road, a different town every week of the year.
This nomadic life, nurtured within a family who knew how to love, provided me a gift: an experience of the diversity of land and place, the range of rascals and wide-country you’re sure to encounter if you hitch up the rig and hit the road every Friday night.
In the third grade, my mom gave me a ragged-out brown Sanger typewriter, the kind traveling salesmen toted around in the 40’s. I began my first literary work, an autobiography with the understated title, My Life. It was an eight-year-old’s sizzling narrative of dalliances, escapades and wild living. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. I ran out of material after two paragraphs.
I prefer writing that is particular, local, immediate.As Flannery O’Connor said, “I write to discover what I know.” I’ve authored five books (creative non-fiction, fiction and biography), I’ve written for the Washington Post, Christian Century, Christianity Today, and a number of other places kind enough to take my words and do something with them.
If you want to cut to the core of who I am, I’d say this: I’m husband to the beautiful and graceful Miska Tolleson Collier. Miska is a spiritual director and yoga teacher, a poet-mystic and the person I most respect in this world. I’m dad to Wyatt and Seth, the two who’ve pulled strands of love out of me that I didn’t know existed. I’m friend to a few misty-eyed men and a few courageous women. I prefer what’s slow over what’s efficient. I’m suspicious of anyone who’s cock-sure. I’m weary of all the bullhorns. I’m partial to things that are worn and a bit ragged. I think truth is best told slant. I believe in hope.
A Pastor for twenty-five years, it was my joy to be the founding pastor of All Souls Charlottesville. I now serve at Western Theological Seminary as Director of The Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination & Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Christian Imagination. I’m also the director of the Genesis Project. I received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia where my work centered on the intersection of literary fiction and religion, particularly the sacramental landscape of Wendell Berry’s fictional town of Port William.