David Hayward is an author and a prolific artist. He is also kind, empathetic, curious, gentle and patient when speaking about others and his life story. His gentleness is palpable in the respect he gives when referring to someone by their proper pronouns as we discuss a mutual connection. David, like most of my guests has an incredibly fascinating life story, the kind that every time I hear I think “that should be a movie.” He’s lived several lifetimes in this one life.
I’m instantly feeling a connection to David’s life story because of my own lived experience. We have a lot of common ground between the both of us. He left his religion of origin (and role as clergy) as a minister in an Presbyterian Church called The Vineyard where he later left after years of unreconciled thoughts related to the infallibility of the Bible, controlling clergy, and deep questioning and curiosity on his part to understand the truth of this life.
I feel like I’m walking along side David as he unpacks his origin story, I imagine young David sitting down in a library and thumbing through a Buddhist text he found, as he’s telling me the story. I recognize this zest for information and curiosity as I have this deep inside of me, as I am sure you do too. We talk about the luxury of the modern world and this tool called the internet that allows us to fact check as fast as our fingers can type. I tell him how there were true, tangible constraints to my own unlearning because of lack of access to information. I mention, how I feel certain this might be the undoing of the old world church we were both raised in, that trades in fear, control, and assurance that no one questions anything.
David has authored many books, “Questions are the Answer: Naked Pastor and the Search Understanding” uses his artwork to teach the reader how David has come to understand differences between being a “Closed” Christian (or institution) to an “Open” one. Teaching the reader how they navigate crossing the bridge from closed religion to opening, expansion and an understanding of their own spirituality. Like many of us on the spiritual path, David’s curiosity has become a spiritual practice and he articulates a deep reverence for questioning, he honors the unknown.
David’s expansion was broken wide open when he had an epiphany moment, in 2009 where he saw the truth of oneness and universal connection. He noticed, that the thing that continued to keep us and our religions divided was language. He knew all religions and philosophies were in a sense saying the same thing and pointing each human being in the same direction. He lost a lot when he walked away from his religion and position as a clergyman. I can hear in his voice, the pain I hear in many of my guests who have made this same pivot in their life. Although we are on the other side of an experience, the memory of it can still sting. And I feel compassion for David in this moment, for what he’s lived through.
He found his calling and his flock soon after this.
He took to creating art that reflected his insights and understanding. He worked to give a voice to the voiceless and those of us cast out from our families and religious institutions for questioning and desiring to have self-agency and liberation in our one precious life. He became an ally and refuge for the LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities who need a soft, resonant landing to fall on.
In our podcast interview, I told David his work reminded me of Mother of Teresa, and that he embodies her essence in the art world. Supporting those who have no support, those who barely have anyone to care for them, those who are struggling to survive and be nourished spiritually and mentally. Those who are told they do not count and they do not matter. Those who have no one to turn to, when everyone has turned away from them. He’s stretched out his arms wide, like any good shepherd would do and embraced all of us in need of solace, understanding, love, grace, and charity. But most of all the dignity of our one universal humanity.
Just like Mother Teresa did.