How in the world, you ask, did a 65-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man get together to start a podcast? They aren’t even related by blood!
The story begins . . .
I met Dan over ten years ago at a dinner event where I went away extremely impressed with his brain power and memory skills. What’s not to like about a guy who can do a six-degrees-of-separation demonstration whereby he can take any two actors and connect them through a chain of movies in the blink of an eye? Add to that the fact that I found him to be the only person I knew besides my husband who had read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. You see, at the time, Dan was teaching history at Concordia University Irvine. As a way of capturing the ethos of different historical eras for his students, he would assign novels that were contemporaneous with, and definitive for, those eras. Eggers’ was one of those. I had made my husband read the novel because I thought it was an amazingly accurate portrait of the Generation X people group coming of age in those days and I wanted to understand them. With Dan the history professor, I found my opinion validated by a twenty-something-obvious Genius who has an incredibly astute knowledge of past and current culture.
Our friendship continued over the years with me picking his savant-like-genius-knowledge brain on various topics that ranged from Christian music to tattoos (Dan is an illustrated man). When I had a cultural conundrum I needed to unravel, Dan became (and continues to be) my point man for the task. We became fast friends over the years and I adopted him as my own because, let’s face it, if you’ve heard Dan’s story (Monsters: Addiction, Hope, Ex-girlfriends, and Other Dangerous Things) you know he needed adoption. So now he’s affectionately known as my “Hipster Historian Soul Son.”
And . . .
Then there’s our mutual love of all things John Steinbeck. As I write this, Dan is currently finishing up a road trip with Jeff Mallinson, the co-host of his ongoing and first podcast, Virtue in the Wasteland (ViW). Their trip is patterned after Steinbeck’s classic work, Travels with Charley: In Search of America (a favorite of mine) wherein Mr. Steinbeck chronicles his observations of early 1960s America during a lengthy drive in a converted-to-camper pick-up truck he named Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s horse), accompanied by his black standard poodle, Charley, riding shotgun. It’s a fascinating piece of history. No less fascinating, some of America’s current life and times are being chronicled by ViW interviews of various folks around the southeast of the US. Check out those episodes soon.
Getting to the soul of the matter . . .
Fast forward to over a year ago. Dan found himself in the employ of 1517. the Legacy Project, for which I serve as a board member. You can ask any of our mutual friends: when Dan and I find ourselves in a room together, we will usually end up in a corner talking about our mutual interests—Steinbeck, theology, and, most importantly, music. There again, the man has a knowledge unsurpassed about all genres of music, and that knowledge invariably peppers our many conversations. Along that line, “soul music” of the Motown / Mussel Shoals variety, as well as some of the “northern” or “blue-eyed” soul (think Brill Building), has been a subject of much interest to us both. For me, this (along with The Beatles) was the soundtrack of my life and defined much of my generation, both musically and sociologically.
Stay with me here . . .
Back in the days when 1517 first created its podcast network, using already-running flagships like Virtue in the Wasteland and The Thinking Fellows, Dan and I were talking about our faith, how we express it, and how to break it down to others. And since almost all of the podcasts in the 1517 Podcasts network were hosted by pastors and theologians leading discussions with one another (that could often, to an outsider, sound a lot like “inside baseball”), both Dan and I saw a need for something that involved, and was even targeted at, laypeople. Could a layperson (non-professional theologian) take the helm and ask the questions that the average person was thinking? We were deep in thought together about who that layperson could be when Dan looked at me and asked,
“Do you want to do it?”
I think you could hear me gulp before I immediately exclaimed,
So, the planning began. Like I said before, because most of the 1517 Podcasts network shows go pretty deep on the big questions of God, life, death, goodness, truth and beauty, Dan and I wanted to do a show that would be no less important, but at a more basic level, digestible by those who were thoughtful but might not have all the formal training. We thought a show that worked through the Apostles’ Creed—perhaps the most succinct and ancient summary of what Christianity actually is—would be a great framework. And since we knew our focus would be the basics—the essence, if you will—of Christianity, we came up with the title, “Soul of Christianity.”
Shortly thereafter we realized it would be a no-brainer—especially given our mutual love for the genre—to use soul music as the theme and the background soundtrack. But procuring the rights to use some of the classic soul tunes of my youth has been easier said than done. This is disappointing on many levels, not the least of which is that Dan and I had picked some specific songs to fit our episode topics (with tongues firmly planted in cheek—we thought some of the choices were pretty funny). Not to worry, though: I have some pretty talented offspring, so I commissioned my middle son, musician / composer / producer Kelly Winrich, also a lover of Motown (his momma done raised him right!), to compose fresh, instrumental takes for each episode, a task for which I’m eternally grateful. He’s one talented dude. My equally-talented son, Kevin Winrich, was our recording engineer / editor. He put in long hours to get the sound just right—not an easy task when the majority of the interviews are done over the phone. Oh, and yeah, we will post a playlist of all the songs we “meant” to include. We hope you enjoy them and possibly purchase a tune or two for your music library.
Calling all smart people . . .
Thus the first season of Soul of Christianity was born. The interviews (12 of ‘em, one for each of the 12 sections of the Creed) are with smart people I have met and know personally, each of whom has been a big contributor to my understanding of the faith (the one exception, Rev. Del Campbell, whom I now call friend, came HIGHLY recommended and I was not disappointed). I ply each guest with questions regarding one of the lines or “articles” of the Apostles’ Creed. They are rich conversations and I cherish them. Spoiler alert: I get a bit emotional at times, but talking about the magnificence of our faith can do that to a person. Because the Creed is based on Scripture, we read a good number of verses pertaining to the article. The Word of God pierces the heart and you can hear it in my voice.
Join the journey . . .
And so it begins. I hope you stick with us, my soul son and me, as we navigate the Apostles’ Creed together. Yes, he and I are not related by blood . . . and yet we are—by the blood of the Lamb. We, along with you the listener, are part of the communion of Saints, the company of heaven and the great cloud of witnesses—those who have gone before us exclaiming, “Holy is the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world!” May this series of episodes spur you on to continue that proclamation, as we get to the Soul of Christianity.