About Blair Adams
Blair C. Adams was born January 5, 1944, in El Paso, Texas, at Hotel Dieu Hospital a few blocks from the Rio Grande River and Old Mexico. Ever since, Blair has remained fond of the desert, brightly sunlit places, desert peoples, great blue skies, austere mountains of serrated purple rock with little or no vegetation and a land of little rain. His distant ancestors came to America in the 1600’s. More recent ancestors consisted of a long line of Texas frontiersmen, farmers and ranchers who first left their Tennessee farms just below the Cumberland Plateau and came to the Lone Star State in covered wagons in the 1850’s. They pioneered and ranched all along the Red River from Lamar County on out to Hardeman County at the foot of the Panhandle Caprock, then over the Llano Estacado and eastern New Mexico to Las Cruces and El Paso.
Some of Blair’s fondest early memories were visits to the ranch of his older cousins, Elmer and Delia Connelley, near Las Cruces, New Mexico, where he first (hesitantly) sat a horse at the age of three. His early school years were spent in Lubbock and Amarillo, Texas. His first paying job was as a grocery store sack boy at the age of 11. At 13, he switched to a newspaper delivery route, and at 14, he worked unloading and loading railroad boxcars and freight trucks at a large Lubbock warehouse. At 16, he worked for a while at an Indian trading post on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, then as a soda “jerk” and short-order cook in a large combination drugstore, fountain and café. All the while, and over the next few years, he spent his off-school time doing ranch work, as a never-fully-accomplished cowboy. He also did construction work, including residential housing, public schools and buildings at Texas Tech University. This work mostly entailed manual labor digging ditches, putting up and taking down scaffolding on multi-storied buildings, carrying wheel barrows of cement for brick-layers, clean-up and the like.
Education and Formative Life Events
Blair enrolled in Texas Tech in 1962 in the architectural and applied arts school. His grandmother had been a teacher and professional artist for many years, and since his childhood he had passionately given himself to art, even winning a few awards, mostly in portraiture or ranch scenes and landscapes. Tech did not have a fine arts department at the time, so the next year Blair transferred to the University of Texas and moved to Austin. The following year, 1964, his father violently took his own life, and this dramatically redirected Blair’s life. He found it difficult to concentrate on his studies, but kept trying to stumble along, distracted by the abiding grief of his father’s tragic passing. He changed majors several times in hopes of finding answers to real-life questions that now troubled him more and more deeply. He finally ended up in the philosophy department. He had lost what little nominal or conceptual faith about God that he had.
In August of 1966, after 3 ½ years of college, Blair was drafted into the army during the heat of the Viet Nam war. He was offered a position in Army Intelligence in the ASA, which worked directly under the NSA. But he had to enlist for two more years because of the need for extended training and the obtaining of a “top secret crypto” security clearance, which was required for ASA personnel. He did so and was then stationed in Bavaria, West Germany, for three years, working in electronic intelligence to monitor activities of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact satellites.
Upon being honorably discharged from military service, Blair re-entered the philosophy department at the University of Texas for the summer and fall of 1970. But in January and February of 1971, Blair had a number of life-changing encounters with God. These convinced him that Jesus was God incarnate, that there was only one God and that this God held out the promise of a powerful spiritual experience to all believers. Blair also saw the possibility of a life lived in sustained relationship with God through Christ and in His Body, the church.
Ministry and Vision for Christian Community
Blair soon became a minister. He married Regina Mae McDanel on May 7, 1971. They then began ministering almost nightly in different churches around the country. They did this for the next two and a half years, when they would answer a call to move to New York City. But prior to that call, in the early years of his ministry, Blair began to lose any remaining notions he might have had of the church prospering by merely serving an adjunct and peripheral chaplaincy function for a larger American civil religion. He loved the country of his birth and of his ancestry, and he prayed for it and its leaders, but he did not believe he should worship a State. He did not believe nationalistic patriotism should become his religion, taking the place of God and His kingdom. He instead came to see the church as synonymous with life in an alternative to the world’s smoldering cultures, an alternative called the “kingdom of God.” This was, in Jesus’ words, a “kingdom not of this world.” Nonetheless, Blair saw in Scripture that this kingdom was to be “advancing” and that believers should pray that it would “come on earth as it is in heaven.”
Blair did not, however, see this as any sort of political kingdom based on coercing others. Rather, it was the nonviolent and noncoercive rule of God’s love, not only in individual lives but in an entire community of peoples from across the whole earth. These were people, however, held together only by their own commitment to this supernatural love and vision. They were “the people of God” in the sense that they had chosen to answer God’s call to a distinct identity and purpose as God’s people. They were to constitute a culture of life that served as an alternative to cultures maintained only by war and death. Whereas individuals, communities and whole nations were outsourcing to unknown others all that was essential to maintaining life—food, shelter, clothing, vocations, education and so on—and thereby becoming dependent on these unknown others, Blair envisioned local communities where everyone deeply knew one another and provided for the essentials of life themselves. Blair, eventually recognizing through his studies that many of these values were common to certain branches of the Anabaptist heritage of Christianity, nurtured the church in the Biblical convictions of nonviolence and simplicity of lifestyle that were part of that lineage. As a result, many from among the Anabaptist faith would come to affirm that the churches Blair has helped to build are vitally connected to the core beliefs of the Anabaptist tradition.
Blair continued to believe that the kingdom of God was to unfold “on earth as it is in heaven” (to quote from Jesus’ model prayer), finding its embodiment in the sacralized life of Christian community. Such a community, like any living thing, would be whole. Thus Blair saw that it had to become an entire environment and culture, a vital way of seeing and being that affected all thinking, feelings, attitudes, labors, conduct and relationships of those who chose to freely participate in such an unfolding community. It would even affect people’s relationship to land and work. No part of life would have to be lived outside of God and His purpose. In short, it would include all that is essential to life. Blair’s abiding motive was always to participate in the creation of what has been called communities of “exemplary Christian existence.”1 He saw these communities as the crucial means to “teach us how to live authentically” in the presence of God and other people.2 Blair hoped such communities would make wise choices possible in religion, culture, relationships, vocations and lifestyle, and “on a scale large enough to make a difference” in an increasingly troubled world.3 In these communities, children, women and men would share the ineffable delight of experientially knowing God. And “word and deed” would be “fused in the authentic unity of a lived life.”
It is true that, from the beginning, Blair, Regina and their friends always saw the church not institutionally but as “the People of God.” Moreover, from their very first days as Christians they talked of the church and kingdom in terms of a community of life. They also had even fully embraced nonviolence from their initial entrance into the kingdom. Nonetheless, it is also true that it would have been difficult to envision exactly how these things would unfold when, in the summer of 1973, Blair and Regina first moved into the Lower East Side slums of Manhattan. There they started the small mission church, Voice in the Wilderness. It was located on the same block that, at the time, the New York Daily News described as the “worst” in the city, a virtual “pornorama of vice.” Yet from those early struggles and inauspicious beginnings has grown Heritage Ministries and the Homestead Heritage community of Waco, Texas. Homestead Heritage is now visited by over 250,000 people a year. All of its ministries and offshoot communities, traditional crafts, educational and other services now extend across the country and around the world. The combined communities enjoy over half a million visitors annually.
From early on in his ministry, Blair recognized that writing would be an integral part of his labors. He has read and studied his entire adult life about the impact of ideas on individuals, human cultures and whole peoples. And it grieved him to see how these ideas often ended up controlling in pernicious ways the thinking, desires and actions of people who knew little or nothing about the ideas themselves. His desire has therefore been to see these largely hidden cultural assumptions brought into the light, so that people could more freely make real, informed choices about the things that matter most in life. So, since a time of drought demands digging deeper wells to reach the sources, Blair has written both extensively and intensively on these and related issues.
Finally, intentional communities like Homestead Heritage do not happen accidentally or as the result of wishful thinking. There are innumerable perils and pitfalls, any one of which can destroy a community. So Blair has also written probing books and monographs (over 250 titles) on how stable, enduring communities may be formed and sustained. His books are published by Colloquium Press in Elm Mott, Texas.
Blair and Regina continue to live in Waco, Texas, where they are surrounded by their children, grandchildren and many lifelong friends. Many of these relationships are now approaching the half a century mark.
1M. Francis Mannion, “Modern Culture and the Monastic Paradigm,” Communio: International Catholic Review (Fall 1993), p. 504.
3Bill McKibben, The Age of Missing Information (New York: A Plume Book, 1993), p. 185.