Heather Cronk is one of the co-directors of GetEQUAL, a national grassroots organizing network focused on LGBTQ liberation work. Prior to her work with GetEQUAL, Heather was the Chief Operating Officer at the New Organizing Institute, a training ground for progressive organizers at the intersection of field, digital, and data work. Heather has also worked with organizations such as mySociety in the U.K. and with Idealist.org in the U.S., both focused on building community and pushing for tangible social change. Born in Texas and raised in Kentucky, Heather holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion/philosophy from Berry College in Rome, GA, and a Master of Divinity degree from Wake Forest University Divinity School in Winston-Salem, NC.
What leadership responsibilities do you hold within the TOC community?
I was honored to have been able to attend the first organizing meeting of The Open Church, held in a meeting room of a local library. The energy in the room was palpable, and I was stunned to see so many folks turn out to talk about not just forming a new church, but also re-examining everything about how church is done. Since that first meeting, I'd helped out in whatever ways I can, from talking with press about this ecclesiastical experiment to bringing social justice opportunities to the congregation. Right now, I serve as a Dream Keeper -- and hope to use that opportunity to continue pushing and stretching the church to reinvent ways to create community space, foster revolutionary conversation, and show up for progressive change.
What favorite quote/motto do you live by?
There's an old Quaker saying that I really appreciate: "There is that of god in everyone." The organizing work that I do day to day requires a good deal of perspective -- and a good deal of grace. I try to continue reminding myself that everyone -- even those who are screaming in my face that I am an abomination to god -- has a bit of the sacred in them...and it's my job not only to find it, but to foster it. Much of The Open Church's work is similar -- but it also includes a lot of "reminding" to folks that the sacred is within them after years, and sometimes decades, of being told otherwise by those who engage in "morality policing."
Why The Open Church for you?
I have found The Open Church to be a complicated space -- and I'm drawn toward complicated spaces. I appreciate that there are members of the church who are Pentecostal and members of the church who are Pagan; there are members who are Baptist and members who are Buddhist and members who are just trying to reclaim the ability to walk into a church building again. This space is truly an open space -- and my commitment to the people in the congregation has also opened me up to being more willing to entertain the idea that a church could possibly do real good in the world, rather than doing so much harm.
What gifts have you brought to this community?
I like to think that my natural skepticism has been a gift to the TOC community -- though that's probably debatable. As a queer agnostic, I live a lot of my life in questions rather than in answers -- and I think most communities, especially theological communities, need to ask more questions than recite answers. I had my hand raised throughout most of my three years in seminary -- which allowed me to really challenge myself and my community there...and I hope that I can bring that same spirit to The Open Church.
In which ways has the TOC community aided in your personal/spiritual growth?
TOC has allowed me to walk back in a church again. For many years, I had let go of Christian theology and had also let go of Christian community. And while I still don't adhere to a Christian theology, I appreciate that The Open Church has created a space in which I can reclaim the pieces of Christian life that I always valued -- community, ritual, song, etc. The Open Church has given me space to focus on the ways in which I need healing at the same time that I try to extend healing to others -- which, for me, has been a real gift."