About Doug

 Seven Interesting Things About Me…

Doug Hammack

1.  I am a minister.

I am keenly aware that the social standing of ministers has taken a hit these days. A lot of ministers are reluctant to tell people what they do. The title evokes all kinds of assumptions about narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy.

But I love this job.  I love the people in my community.  I love being with folks, growing together on the spiritual journey.  I love watching lives unfold. I love the Inner Light moving us inexorably toward our true selves.  I love the whole thing!  

2. I am Christian.

crossThat would seem pretty self-evident for a minister–but it could have gone either way. The Christian Church was already becoming unhealthy when I was in my teens. I wrestled with leaving the church for other spiritual paths. But I had a semi-mystical experience. I sensed a divine imperative to remain in the church, to spend my life working toward the health and healing of our tradition.

A lot of people in my church wish I would stop using that word. To them “Christian” has come to mean narrow-minded, exclusionist, absolutism. To them, it means right-wing politics, intolerance, and criticism of other people. I sympathize. There is plenty of that out there. However, part of my life-mission is to help my people–my Christian people–come out of the darkness that has engulfed us.

3.  I don’t like much about organized Christianity 

I spent the decade of my twenties in depression. I was losing my faith, which can be disorienting enough, but for me, it was doubly so. As a young man seeking validation, I had crafted a “self” that masqueraded as “super-devout-Christian-guy.” So when I lost my faith, I lost my whole identity. The depression that ensued was excruciating, sometimes suicidal.

I eventually regained a spirituality informed by Jesus . . . but the experience burned me. To this day, I have precious little tolerance for religious bullshit. I find a lot of religious life agonizingly off-putting.

Mine has been a quest for a Christian spirituality that is rooted in authentic experience; a spirituality that forgoes the “oughts” and “shoulds” of heavy-handed religion. Sadly these days, my Christian tradition has lost its moral and spiritual center. Much of what passes for faith is nothing more than sound and fury lacking substance.

There’s not much about that I like.

4.  But I am hopeful for the Church’s future

I talk to a lot of young people. I always lead with the same question; “Why is Christianity irrelevant to you?”  Boy, do they give me an earful! So I’ve gone back into our history looking for a better Story to tell them.  Along the way I found our ancient contemplatives. What they’ve said and experienced through the centuries is incredibly relevant today.

We pushed our mystics aside during the Enlightenment, but they’re making a comeback!  When I explain contemplative Christianity to young people, they’ll often say something along these lines. “If that was Christianity, I’d be on board in a heartbeat . . . But it’s not . . . really . . . is it?”

It is.  But who knew?  Right there in the attic of our own tradition, there is a way of being Christian that breathes life into our religion’s deadness. This gives me great hope for the future of our Church.

richard rohr“The Perennial Tradition encompasses the recurring themes in all of the world’s religions and philosophies that continue to say:  1) There is a Divine Reality underneath and inherent in the world of things, 2) There is in the human soul a natural capacity, similarity, and longing for this Divine Reality, and 3) The final goal of existence is union with this Divine Reality.”
– Richard Rohr


5.  I went to school

ucsd logoI grew up in San Diego, went to UCSD, and majored in history. After an extended time abroad, I returned to graduate school (Fuller Seminary) where I started a degree in cross-cultural studies. After a year-long internship in China, I realized I wasn’t wired for life overseas. I returned for an MDiv in Theology. logo_fullerAfter several years as a college minister in a mega-church, I took a doctorate degree (also at Fuller). In 1995, I moved from Los Angeles to Raleigh to plant a church (NRCC).  I’ve been here since.

6.  I have a great family

I married very well twenty-six years ago.  One of the best parts of my life is how often Denise and I laugh together. We have three great kids, each distinctively different from the others. They’re out the door now–two of them married, sometimes traveling, sometime in school.

After all those years raising kids together, Denise and I are trying to figure out how people successfully navigate this season of life. So far, so good.

7.  I make pots

Several years ago, a spiritual director suggested I develop my creative side as a way of awakening more deeply to the Divine presence within. Honestly, that sounded strange to me, but this guy had a pretty good track record, so I joined a local pottery studio and started throwing pots on my day off.

My wife smiled condescendingly about the whole project until I started bringing home some surprisingly nice vases and bowls. I’m not sure the endeavor does much to awaken my soul, but some of my pots are pretty good!

Things have gotten busier the last few years, but each new year, I resolve to get back to the studio. Maybe this year.