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Chris Highland

Author of twelve books, Chris Highland was a Protestant Minister for 14 years and an Interfaith (collaborative, open-minded, inclusive) Chaplain for 25 years.  Currently a Humanist Celebrant, he has degrees in Philosophy and Religion from Seattle Pacific University and San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Chris holds a Community College Teaching Credential and (until recently) a Substitute Teaching Credential from the State of California.  He taught Community Living Skills and served as an ad hoc chaplain in a private school for adults with disabilities for six years.  He was a Chaplain with people in jails and on the streets for two decades.  He has been an adjunct instructor at Dominican University of California, a field education supervisor through the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary and the College of Marin.  He now teaches courses on the history of Freethought at the Reuter Center (OLLI) in Asheville and writes a weekly column for the Citizen-Times.

In the winter of 2008-2009 and again in 2009-2010 he was the Director of the County Emergency Shelter in Marin.  For six years he was the Manager of a senior independent living cooperative in Marin County.  He is married to The Rev. Carol Hovis, who served as Executive Director of the Marin Interfaith Council for 12 years.

Chris has given public presentations, taught classes and led retreats for congregations, business groups, high schools, universities, social service workers and youth leaders.  He has taught in buddhist, christian, jewish, unitarian, secular and other settings.  His educational style is engaging and inspiring, drawing students or audience into an active participation in the subject.

Chris has presented at the Ethical Society of Asheville, Sunday Spotlight, University of North Carolina-Asheville, Secular Sanctuary (CA and NC), Sunday Assembly in Berkeley, San Francisco Atheists, First United Lutheran in San Francisco, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marin, Community Church in Mill Valley, Christ Presbyterian Church in Terra Linda, Marin Interfaith Council, Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tiburon, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Belvedere, Lucas Valley Community Church, Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, Zephyr Point Conference Center at Lake Tahoe, Christ Episcopal Church in Sausalito, the Interfaith Community Church in Seattle, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Cabrillo College near Santa Cruz, UC Davis, The Redwoods in Mill Valley, The Tamalpais in Greenbrae, an Interfaith Contemplative service at the Church of Christ Scientist and Ross Valley Rotary.  Though he was not able to go, he was invited to be a presenter at the Annual Gathering of the Thoreau Society in Concord, MA.  He is the co-founder of Secular Sanctuary, a fledgling non-supernatural “congregation.”

Chris is available to give presentations, teach courses or lead retreats in congregations, schools or other settings.  He has long experience creating unique wedding ceremonies as well as memorials, child blessings and other services.

*To Contact Chris leave a comment here or on any page.

*

Member and/or Supporter:

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

American Humanist Association

The Clergy Project

John Burroughs Association

Religious Naturalist Association

Freedom From Religion Foundation

Secular Students Speakers Bureau

 

28 thoughts on “About

  1. I am with the Tahoe Heritage Foundation and am interested in carrying your Meditations of Muir, Emerson, Thoreau and Whitman books in our Museum shop. Please e-mail me the names of your distributors, or how we can obtain your books wholesale. Thank you, Jane

  2. Rev Hovis gave me a copy of your Muir meditations book. I think it’s great! And part of a series too! I have known about Wilderness Press for years.

    Jeanne Carr recognized Muir’s qualities at university in MN and later in CA. She is an interesting person in her own right. Without her, Muir may never had evolved the way he did. I think Muir should be understood first as a scientist. Muir’s religious allusions can be traced to his childhood and his father’s well known fanaticism (and the reason John left home). The Linnie Marsh Wolfe biography does a disservice by casting Muir in an unearthly light as a messiah. Muir combined science AND religion in utterly unique ways. His effervescent 19th century poetic idiom is full of surprises. It has a musical quality His writing is worth reading for its own sake. Interestingly, John Muir revered German explorer/naturalist Alexander von Humboldt – who was gay! Muir wanted to be another Humboldt, but he did not have Humboldt’s wealth. Instead, he bowed to Jeanne Carr’s wishes, married and became a businessman for about ten years. He was the first person to export grapes to Hawaii, where my mother’s family settled in the early 1890s from New Zealand. Later, he became more of a political activist. I think he may not have liked that much. I remember reading somewhere that William Kent, who gave us Muir Woods, concluded that Muir was fundamentally antisocial. I wonder what he meant by that.

    1. Thank you, Norman. I’m glad you like the book and hope you like the series (I’m particularly fond of Muir’s nemesis/friend John Burroughs!). What you say about Jeanne Carr rings true. Muir depended on her in significant ways (Bonnie Gisel’s book draws that out). His religious perspectives are as slippery as a Sierra boulder, aren’t they? My working conclusion is that he cannot be defined, but that any “spirituality” he had was thoroughly infused (incarnated) in the Natural Cosmos. It’s ok not to fit into any supernatural worldview or tradition. I owe him for that “revelation”! I think he was hinting, trailblazing a way forward, perhaps a challenging and dangerous wilderness trail ahead, but how delightfully glorious! Always learning, always searching for Nature’s wondrous lessons.

      I sense you are correct that he abhorred being an activist, yet loved his role as enticer, even “evangelist” for his new “gospel of Nature” in the university of the universe. I see him not as anti-social so much as preferring, for the most part, the company of his beloved mountains.

      I recently enjoyed a pleasant conversation with William Kent’s granddaughter.

      Thanks again for writing.

  3. Just received your ” Meditations of John Muir ” and so enjoying it. I’ve been visiting Dunbar area for 30 years- going tomorrow for 10 days- and only recently begun to appreciate Muir’s writings. I shall visit his birthplace museum ( again ) with a different perspective and enthusiasm. Thank you !

  4. A former jail chaplain….so you could relate to my ‘voluntary, mandatory’ post. Thank you so much for the like. It is challenging but the inmates inspire me every time.

    1. Good to have you here. Yes I could relate to the “inside story.” And I appreciate the “reverse ministry” viewpoint that is so often neglected by Chaplains, that is, the understanding that the “inspiration” comes at us as much if not more than we give. I wish you well with the challenging, always challenging, work among hidden humans.

  5. Chris,
    Spencer Webster here formerly from Whidbey. I hope you are doing well. I’ve missed conversing with you on many topics. I can see from this page, you’re still a busy guy. Take care.
    v/r Spencer

    1. Hey, great to hear from you, Spencer. Hope all is well in your corner of the planet. Glad you found my web-trails and I look forward to reading what you’ve been creating. All the very best to you!

  6. Hi Chris: I just wanted to let you know that I am grateful for your book of Thoreau Meditations. I carry it with me and find it a wonderful source of both inspiration and guidance. Although I’m in North Carolina, I hope to perhaps hear you speak and meet you sometime. All my best to you. — Mark Denardo

  7. Chris…I was so glad to see your column in the Asheville Citizen-Times…my husband and I are not religious…I don’t like labeling people and don’t like it when people label me…I found that referring to us as Freethinkers was comfortable for me…this is not the easiest area to make new friends if you’re not some kind of “Christian”…I was dumped by a couple of “friends” when they found out I was non-religious..I’m originally from the Seattle area and had a very liberal upbringing…not a good fit for Hendersonville…I always wondered why the AC-T didn’t carry other points of view…now, here you are!..Yay! Kathleen Godwin

    1. Thanks, Kathleen. Yes, it’s good to find more “nons” in one’s community. I do think that the more we speak up and out, the more the “dominant culture” with its assumptions of belief, will need to engage us. A great educational opportunity!

  8. I read your article in the AC-T and was a little amused at your dissection of “Established Religion”. I have to agree with you mostly on what you have said and it surprised me to see it in the AC-T. It is exactly that I believe in a higher authority that I was amused at your dissection. I grew up here and it surprised me because most everyone around here are Baptists. Me being a Baha’i with some minor points where we didn’t exactly agree, but I was amused that your take was similar to the writings of Baha’u’llah. Seems that most readers of the Bible are materialists and take everything as literal.. I chose to question what are the preferred miracles in Christianity. Because of that I am of course ostracized in a low key way with my Pentecostal siblings. I am starting to see the emergence of “Spiritual but not Religious”. That to me indicates a turn from man-made dogma and to looking inside our selves for answers. Interesting changes going on. Thanks for that article…….

    🙂 charles

    1. Thanks, Charles. Yes, I would imagine a person of the Baha’i faith would feel a bit like a secular person in this region. It does seem the ACT is moving forward though, with my column and inclusion of letters. You might try sending a letter expressing some of this. I appreciate what you say about “looking inside ourselves for answers” and of course we find many questions as well! Be well.

  9. Hi Chris,
    I have to tell you that “Life After Faith” is the most important book I have ever read and it so wonderfully validates much of my own personal experience — YOUR STORY HAS BEEN SO LIBERATING FOR ME.
    Here’s to you, Chris!
    Mark Denardo
    West End, NC
    P.S. I hope to meet you and hear your talk (“One Nature Indivisible”) in Asheville next month

  10. I am so glad you have moved to our area. As a member of FFRF, and someone who has been studying religion for a few years, I look forward to taking one of your classes at OLLI.
    I particularly glad the Citizen-Times is publishing your column every week. Thank you for your weekly insights.

    1. Appreciate that, Gail. It seems a very simple thing, to speak out and speak up, offering an alternative viewpoint. FFRF, Americans United and other secular organizations merely seek an equal voice in the public square. I am pleased the AC-T includes my column, and that people seem to be reading and responding. Thanks!

  11. Hi Chris,
    I was just re-reading your “Life After Faith” and was thinking about Emerson’s problem with communion. As much as I personally tried to appreciate and respect the symbolism in communion, I always felt it was meaningless – and, worse, very phony (I probably watched way too much 3 Stooges as a kid). Now my very real and meaningful daily communion is mucking horse stalls. I see our horses munching the beautiful live grasses (the sacrifice) in our green pasture as I scoop their poop and take it to the compost bin (the altar) where Nature cooks it into wonderfully nutritious food which is returned to the pastures to feed new grasses (the resurrection). It’s a chore I now love!
    Thanks for “clearing some paths” for me, Chris!
    Mark Denardo

    1. Ha! Great image there, Mark. Not everyone would appreciate the “earthiness,” but what’s the alternative–heavenliness? You may be aware of Walt Whitman’s “This Compost.” Cycles and circles of life.
      What you describe is right up the same trail “after faith.” So much basic, essential, down to earth goodness. Cheers!

  12. Good Morning Chris,
    Just finished communion/horse stalls and came back up to read “This Compost” which I was not familiar with… SO WONDERFUL – Thank You! And I am reminded that my Very-Down-To-Earth Dad, who helped me build the compost bin years ago, always said to just throw him in there when he died (we didn’t, of course…but I may just sprinkle some of his ashes in the bin!)
    By the way, if your “Ha!” is in any way a reference to Heretics Anonymous, count me in!
    Mark Denardo

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