In conversation: Silas House and The Rt. Rev. Brian Lee Cole

New York Times bestselling author and Kentucky Poet Laureate Silas House will be in conversation with his friend, The Rt. Rev. Brian Cole, during Rural Assembly Everywhere: Toward Safer, More Connected Communities.

Their discussion will air during the free virtual gathering of the Rural Assembly, an afternoon of conversations, stories, and performances from rural people and allies across the country, June 28th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET.  (See the full lineup) 

House’s latest novel, Lark Ascending, is the winner of the 2023 Southern Book Prize, among others. The novel, set in the near-distant future, was called a “luminous” and “urgent” work of climate fiction by Bitter Southerner. 

This spring, House was named Poet Laureate of Kentucky. The first openly gay poet laureate in the state’s history, House shared on Twitter:

“As a writer who was raised working class and in trailers, as a questioning person of faith,  and as the first openly gay poet laureate I will do my best to represent my place and my people.” 

Also a writer, Cole serves as the bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee, with 51 parishes and worshiping communities in East Tennessee and Northern Georgia under his pastoral and administrative care. 

About Silas House

Silas House is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels (Clay’s Quilt[2001], A Parchment of Leaves [2003], The Coal Tattoo [2005], Eli the Good [2009], Same Sun Here [2012], including his most recent, Lark Ascending, which was a Booklist Editors’ Choice and is the winner of the 2023 Southern Book Prize and the 2023 Nautilus Book Award. Four of his plays have been produced. He is also the author of the 2009 book of creative nonfiction Something’s Rising (with co-author Jason Kyle Howard). In 2022 he was the recipient of the Duggins Prize, the largest award for an LGBTQ writer in the nation. The same year he was named Appalachian of the Year in a nationwide poll. In 2023 he was inducted as the Poet Laureate of Kentucky for 2023-2025.

His writing has appeared recently in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time, Garden & Gun, The New York Times, Oxford American, Ecotone, Tri-Quarterly, and many more of the country’s leading publications. House is a former commentator for NPR’s “All Things Considered” and is the executive producer and one of the subjects of the documentary Hillbilly, winner of the LA Film Festival’s Documentary Prize and the Foreign Press Association’s Media Award; the film ran on Hulu, where it was seen by millions of viewers, and is now available to stream on all platforms. His 2018 novel Southernmost is currently in pre-production as a feature film. 

As a music journalist, House has worked with Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Lucinda Williams, Tyler Childers, S.G. Goodman, Lee Ann Womack, Kris Kristofferson, Señora May, and many other musicians. He is the member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the recipient of three honorary degrees, and has been given such honors as an E. B. White Award, the Storylines Prize from the New York Public Library/NAV Foundation, the Lee Smith Award, the Caritas Medal, the Hobson Medal, and many others. In 2015 he was invited to read at the Library of Congress.

House teaches at Berea College, where he is the National Endowment for the Humanities Chair, and at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Creative Writing. This year he is serving as one of five judges of the National Book Award in Fiction. A native of Eastern Kentucky, he now lives in Lexington, Kentucky. 


About Brian Cole

The Rt. Rev. Brian Lee Cole was ordained and consecrated fifth bishop of the Diocese of East Tennessee on December 2, 2017. He was elected June 28, 2017, during the electing portion of the 33rd Annual Convention of the diocese, succeeding the Rt. Rev. George Dibrell Young, who retired December 2, 2017.

Bishop Cole has 51 parishes and worshiping communities in East Tennessee and Northern Georgia under his pastoral and administrative care. The bishop’s responsibilities are visiting each congregation, preaching, celebrating the Holy Eucharist, and confirming individuals into The Episcopal Church in the apostolic tradition of the laying on of hands.

As bishop, he ordains priests and deacons and joins in the ordination of other bishops of the church. In these rites, through the laying on of hands, the continuity with the early church of the apostles is demonstrated.

 Bishop Cole presides over the annual diocesan convention and has administrative responsibility over diocesan activities.

 A southeast Missouri native, Bishop Cole graduated from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1989. In 1992, he earned a Master of Divinity at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with additional studies in Anglican Church History at The University of the South School of Theology, Sewanee, in 2001. He also pursued studies in Art and Prayer at General Theological Seminary (GTS), New York City, in 2006, and studied liturgics in Asheville, N.C., from 2002 to 2005.

 In 1998, he married Susan Weatherford, a poet, musician, avid gardener, and Berea College and University of Kentucky graduate. They have one son, Jess.

 Ordained a priest in 2002, Cole served as vicar at Church of the Advocate, a worshiping community of the Diocese of Western North Carolina for the homeless in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. From 2005 to 2012, Cole was sub-dean at The Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville. He served as rector at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Lexington, Kentucky, from 2012 until he was elected bishop.

 Cole has served as an instructor in Appalachian Religion, Faith and Practices, and Appalachian Religion and Culture at Warren Wilson College, Swannanoa. N.C.; Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to his ordination as a priest, he served for seven years on the Appalachian Ministries Education Resource Center (AMERC) staff in Berea, Kentucky. Much of his work then involved teaching seminarians, listening to Appalachian leaders, both in and out of the church, and learning how to read and appreciate the region’s culture.

 He served on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church from 2006-2012 and on the Executive Committee of the Executive Council from 2009-2012.

 He has chaired, facilitated, led, co-led, and participated in numerous committees, training programs, advisory boards, and retreats. Cole served twice as a General Convention deputy – in 2006 and 2009. He is an associate of the Order of the Holy Cross.

 Cole has five times been a featured preacher on the Day 1 weekly radio broadcast/podcast. His articles, sermons, and other writings have appeared in The Gospel and Our Culture; Natural Saints: How People of Faith are Working to Save God’s Earth; Sacred Acts: How Churches are Working to Protect Earth’s Climate; Green Pulpit Journal; Appalachian Heritage; Heartstone; Aging and Spirituality; Lutheran Seminary Review; Iron Mountain Review, and Creation Care. His reflections were included in the Lent 2017 Living Compass Series, and an essay was included in Merton and the Protestants.

Cole is an avid reader and runner, loves listening to good jazz music, and is the proud parent of his and Susan’s dog, Jerry Lee. 

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