I met Harry Heintz when I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Harry was pastor at Brunswick Presbyterian Church in Troy, NY and was involved in the Mockler Center for Faith and Ethics at the seminary. Harry spent 38 years at Brunswick Church – amazing!
Harry was (and I imagine still is!) intense, high energy, passionate, thoughtful, and deeply committed to Jesus Christ. Even though his bio on the church website says that he is a Red Sox fan, I also know that he is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. This was a delight to discover and I remember talking to him about the great 1964 Cardinals team which caught the Phillies late in the season and went on to defeat the Yankees in a seven-game World Series.
Harry is passionate about honoring the vocational work that God’s people do Monday – Friday, about affirming the workplace, about honoring vocations, and about breaking down the clergy – laity dichotomy and the sacred – secular dichotomy. Harry actually believes what he says about these things, he lives it, and he pastors like he means it. Here is a man who pastored the same church for 38 years (which by the way thrived), and who didn’t see himself as any more special that the business person or the mechanic or the teacher or the dry cleaner in his congregation. He didn’t have the separatist attitude that so many clergy have toward folks who work Monday – Friday. His preaching and teaching incorporated workplace elements into it – that was critical for him and his staff.
The word “laity” as it is normally used was not in Harry’s vocabulary.
Harry worked hard to try to convince professors at the seminary to incorporate the workplace and vocation into their courses – how does the Biblical text relate to the work that most people do five or six days a week? He worked hard to get professors and students and the seminary administration to think about the restoration of the priesthood of the believer into congregational life. His passion was amazing. I think he may have frightened some of the professors and administration with his enthusiasm and his refusal to give up on his vision.
He treated his pastoral staff as true colleagues and not as functionaries whose purpose was to support him, the senior pastor, and make him look good. I saw this when I met the staff and then later when I did phone interviews with the staff for a book project. Sadly I’ve seen situations where the senior pastor had little or no relationship with staff and associate pastors – this was not the case with Harry Heintz.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen or talked to Harry, but I see from the internet that he is still engaged in the Kingdom. His passion and faithfulness is something that remains an inspiration to me. When I hear clergy use language that builds walls between the people of God; the clergy – laity and the sacred – secular dichotomies; I can think of Harry Heintz and know that there is at least one pastor committed to the whole people of God, who knows that ministry and worship occurs Monday – Friday as well as on Sunday morning.