Bruce’s western presence more than peaks and perks

Bruce shares some Yellowstone knowledge with John Roy, Susan and Jim McConnell during a Nurturing Faith Experience.

By John D. Pierce

Often I tell people there’s a big difference in visiting Yellowstone and visiting Yellowstone with Bruce Gourley. Those who’ve participated in one of our small-group Nurturing Faith Experiences to the scenic national park and surrounding beauty of the Northern Rockies know this firsthand.

A Georgia native, Bruce fell in love with the West as a student summer missionary — and has spent the last two decades in Montana except for a short break to earn a Ph.D. in history at Auburn University. Bruce began his career in Big Sky Country as a Baptist campus minister who also taught at a small college.

His innovative-thinking led him to create the highly-popular yellowstone.net site and, more recently, to publish the first and first-of-its-kind edition of Yellowstone History Journal, a publication sold in many stores in the Yellowstone region as well online.

Arches National Park, Utah

Bruce is also an award-winning photographer and a writer of history books on a range of topics from local congregations (like First Baptist churches of Huntsville, Ala., and Augusta, Ga.) to Baptists during the Civil War to an “Images of America” volume on the community where he lives outside Bozeman, Mont.

Bruce and I are longtime hiking partners who’ve hit trails from coast to coast. So my early visits with him in Montana and Wyoming were personal and seen simply as a perk of his presence there.

My realization that Bruce’s knowledge and presence were more of an asset than just a perk came when he wondered aloud if some of our readers might enjoy coming out to experience Yellowstone and beyond with his unique insights and connections.

Nurturing Faith Experiences became an extension of our publishing ministry when readers responded so favorable to the first experience four years ago. This summer, two more groups will enjoy Bruce’s insider perspectives and contacts that provide opportunities not afforded to individual travelers or large tour groups.

Jesus Worldview Initiative envisioning group

Our thoughts turned westward again last year. Knowing it’s hard to get busy people away — and, if so, away mentally from their primary responsibilities — Bruce hosted and helped lead an important retreat in West Yellowstone to lay groundwork for the emerging Jesus Worldview Initiative.

Participants affirmed the good ways the setting and Bruce’s expertise added to the objective of the gathering. Pastor Jim Somerville of First Baptist Church of Richmond, Va., reported to his congregation the following Sunday:

“We stayed at a ranch outside the little town of West Yellowstone, Montana. We started each day with a morning session in which theologian John Franke ‘framed’ the conversation, and then we continued the conversation as Bruce Gourley guided us around Yellowstone National Park. I didn’t understand the logic at first, but after a few hours of jaw-dropping beauty I began to make the connection between looking at things that would make an atheist believe in God, and talking about the Son of God and his place in our life… I got close to God. I renewed my commitment to Jesus as Lord.”

The evening sessions around the fireplace led to clear and inspired thinking about this movement aimed at providing resources to cultivate a Jesus worldview amid the many lesser, competing allegiances. Future retreats of this order are in the works as funding is sought for the full launch of the Jesus Worldview Initiative.

Bruce making tracks in the Yellowstone backcountry

Bruce’s varied gifts and interests work well in his professional roles with Nurturing Faith.

He serves as online editor — selecting and posting religion news from around the world each day — and as contributing writer — currently writing a series on Religion and the American Presidents.

He writes articles addressing the Jesus Worldview Initiative, as well as other topics such as the history and religious-connections of coffee, that will appear in the July/August issue of Nurturing Faith Journal.

Now Bruce is adding new responsibilities related to social media and marketing. He continues to coordinate and lead annual Nurturing Faith Experiences and help shape the Jesus Worldview Initiative. Bruce is also available to plan and lead customized church group experiences as well personal sabbaticals in the West. He can be reached at bgourley@nurturingfaith.net.

Nurturing Faith is glad to have Bruce as an important part of our team — and pleased that he lives in this scenic part of the nation where he advocates for the causes we value and provides a knowledgeable presence that is one of Nurturing Faith’s valued and valuable assets.

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