The Porch Courses

Seek Wisdom.
Experience Community.

Porch Courses are focused online learning experiences, taught by leading figures in spirituality and activism, crafters of words and music, conflict transformation & peace-building. Each course lasts five weeks, and is shaped with the intention of cutting through the noise and pressure of the current moment: sharing something real.


We can't guarantee that you’ll become an expert in the topic we teach, but we do sincerely offer this:

  • You'll know yourself better
  • You'll understand more of what is broken and how to repair it, in the world, and in your own life
  • You might make connections with fellow travelers that could last a lifetime.

Give Porch Courses as a Gift
for Yourself or Loved Ones!

Fall in Love, Have Children, Stay Put, Save the Planet, Be Happy

Frank Schaeffer & Gareth Higgins

The Porch Courses expanded my understanding of things that I was familiar with, and opened up opportunities to learn about areas that I was always curious about. The guidance that came from the wisdom and experience of the course facilitators was worth every penny of the registration fees.

- Tim K.

Black Movies, American Lives

Melvin Bray & Gareth Higgins

We'd love to show you a different vision of American heroes, dreams, beauty, work ethic, and possibilities.  Until recently, much if not most of the representation of Black people on screen has focused on Black people struggling or suffering, or causing suffering to others, or - the crumbs from table - getting to be the sidekick to a white guy.


With notable exceptions, American movies have distorted the picture of Black life. Not only does this suppress our imaginations, and deceive people into feeling more alone than we actually are - the false representation of an entire population as difficult or "other" helps maintain unjust social hierarchies. We miss the benefit of a rainbow nation.


As the US begins to face its divisions, and awakens to possibility, let's learn together about Black reality through the cinematic dream life. During this awakening moment, hearing each other's stories expands the limits of what we think is possible.


Read the Full Course Description >>


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

The Porch Courses expanded my understanding of things that I was familiar with, and opened up opportunities to learn about areas that I was always curious about. The guidance that came from the wisdom and experience of the course facilitators was worth every penny of the registration fees.

- Tim K.

Queer Christianities: A Gorgeous Theological Journey
Noah Hepler & Brian Ammons

Season five of Netflix's Queer Eye opened with Rev. Noah Hepler talking good theology and vision for the church with the Fab Five.  In the weeks that followed, thousands of folk reached out to Noah in response to hearing the kind of theology that drives his ministry for the first time on such a broad platform.


For more than fifteen years, Pastor Noah and his friend Rev. Brian Ammons have been conversation partners through their own journeys towards living faithfully through the gifts and wounds of growing up gay in North Carolina and called to live into an ever-broadening possibility of what the church could be.


Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, are finding your way in, or are not LGBTQ+ but are seeking both wisdom about sexuality and spirituality, and a community of allies, you’re invited to join these two old friends as they share what they’ve learned and are learning.  


Read the Full Course Description >>


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

Thanks for this opportunity to stop my life for two or three times a week to walk back through memories and some unhealed wounds I may need to address before it is time for me to leave this earth. It was empowering to take this time.

- Charlie G.

Who You Really Are: Activating the Wisdom, Courage, Magic & Creativity Within

James McLeary

The oldest stories tell of mythical characters ruling kingdoms with wisdom, conquering dragons, working magic, and plumbing the heights and depths of emotion. These fantasies carry deep truths about who we really are.


The archetypal figures of the Sovereign-Decider, the Warrior-Protector, the Magician-Artist, and the Lover-Heart are present in us all. And each of these archetypes has a shadow side - the Sovereign can be a Tyrant rather than a servant, the Warrior can manifest violence rather than protecting the vulnerable, the Magician can selfishly manipulate rather than help make the world more wonderful, the Lover can seduce rather than reflect the beauty of us all.


Unless we learn to integrate these archetypes, most of us may never consciously discover the fullness of our own selves. We neither shine, nor serve, nor receive support for our deepest needs.


This course is an invitation to discover how to journey “through hell and back”, and to taste heaven amidst the challenges and delights of every day life. It’s not for the faint-hearted - but we must all begin where you are, and we’re confident that if you take the course, your heart will grow stronger. 


Read the Full Course Description >>


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

During pandemic time, I happened upon the Porch courses quite by accident.  It was a terrific experience, opening my eyes to new insights, enhancing my appreciation and perhaps most important, leading me to recognize more of the implicit assumptions and quick judgements that create barriers to appreciation of others.  I signed up for the “season” and hope there will be more offerings in the future.

- Carol A.

Alchemy, Arts, & Conflict Transformation

Michelle LeBaron

We need the seachange Seamus Heaney envisioned: 
“So hope for a great sea-change on the far side of revenge,
              Believe that a further shore is reachable from here…”


This course will offer ways to mobilize hope and belief into reflection and action. 


In these unsettled times, particular conflicts carry the valence of wider concerns. By combining reflection on conflict experiences with creative and experiential practices, we will learn and share reliable tools for befriending conflicts, whether personal, interpersonal or collective. We will invite alchemy by sistering experience-honed wisdom with research-informed approaches to engaging conflicts. 


Read the Full Course Description >>


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

"A beautiful, enlightening, truly enriching experience."

- Judy C.

It's a Beautiful Life: A Whole Life in Five Movies

Kathleen Norris & Gareth Higgins

It has been said that we dream our lives, and if we don't awaken to this, they can be over before we know it. At the end of the Coen Brothers’ darkly comic masterpiece Fargo, the heroine Marge asks the villain why he would have done such terrible things, and "all for a little bit of money". "Like any mystic, this down-to-earth policewoman looks out a snowy landscape that most people would find unappealing, and sees a world of wonder. "Here you are,” she says, "It's a beautiful day."


Beloved writers and passionate cinema fans Kathleen Norris and Gareth Higgins invite you to reflect together on the journey of a whole human life, from birth to death, through the dreamworld of the movies. In five sessions we'll watch five films (more if you like*), and learn to see ourselves; stretch our horizons into the future, and reimagine the past. Join us for a beautiful day, stepping into a beautiful life.


*Participants are expected to watch one film each week, available on various streaming services. We will provide links to at least three streaming services, where the films will be available for a nominal charge of between $2.99-$5.99. When a film is available to stream legally at no charge we will note that also. We will offer two or three other recommendations for further watching if you have the time.


Read the Full Course Description >>


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

Porch courses provide a probing, thoughtful, and stimulating platform that will enhance your development and understanding of issues and solutions for personal and community growth.  Breakout sessions from the larger class group were particularly rewarding as the participants consisted of highly accomplished, well educated, and mature individuals willing to share their life experiences.

- Tom D.

Dreaming the World

Gareth Higgins

We live in anxious times, with our vision often limited to suspicion of others, concern about the future, and withdrawing into enclaves of the familiar.  It can become a self-fulling prophecy, a vicious cycle which does not produce the security, never mind the happiness we seek. It's becoming clearer by the day that we need to be dislodged from the narrow circles of self-oriented, tribal thinking. There is a more expansive universe, characterized by connection, sharing, and taking responsibility for co-creating the next good day. 


Dreaming the World is a seven week course led by Gareth Higgins, based on the idea that how we look the world shapes how we experience it. We'll watch seven movies - one from each continent - and learn about a more global way of thinking. There'll be a short video introduction for each film, and a written essay too; a members' Facebook page for conversation; and an invitation to a weekly video call to discuss the movie and its implications for how we might live better.


Class recordings are now available to watch at any time. 

Single Course Registration $79 • Get All Six Fall 2020 Courses $129

The experience of taking time away from our demanding lives to sink into their amazing stories, music, and meaningful conversation, has brought both healing and an incredible new energy toward deeper purpose in our lives.


Single Course: $79 (Fall in Love... is $49)


Get All Seven Courses for $274 (saving $279)


Group rates are available for faith communities & other organizations -

see below for more details.

Sliding scale available on basis of need - click here to contact us if cost is out of reach.

Full Access Pass

Get Access to all Seven Porch Courses



Want to use Porch Courses in your organization, faith community, or group  of friends?

Organization/Group Pass: $499


You'll be able to use all seven Porch Courses for up to 10 people.
If you'd like to use them with a larger group, please contact us at for more options.


Life-giving, transformative, soulful, spiritual, community-building, engaging with wonderful diverse folks... a once in a lifetime magical and mystical experience!


Kathleen Norris

Kathleen Norris is an award-winning poet, writer, and author of The New York Times bestsellers The Cloister Walk, Acedia & Me, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, and Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith.


Exploring the spiritual life, her work is at once intimate and historical, rich in poetry and meditations, brimming with exasperation and reverence, deeply grounded in both nature and spirit, sometimes funny, and often provocative. She has loved movies for as long as she can remember.

Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American authorfilm directorscreenwriter, and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels depicting life in a strict evangelical household including PortofinoZermatt, and Saving Grandma. While Schaeffer was a conservativefundamentalist Christian in his youth, he has changed his views, becoming a liberal Democrat and a self-described Christian atheist.




James McLeary



Dr. James McLeary is a deeply experienced wisdom holder & expert facilitator whose leadership has been a critical force driving the success of Inside Circle. Executive producer of the documentary, THE WORK, detailing the transformative program in Folsom Prison, James brings deep expertise in group process work & its application in varied settings. James is deeply committed to service & we at The Porch are deeply grateful for his teaching, support, and presence.

Michelle LeBaron

Michelle LeBaron’s work in transforming conflict started in the crucible of her conflicted prairie family and continues in many countries and contexts. She loves collaborating to transform artists’ wisdom about conflict into practical strategies. Her books, articles and teaching as a law professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada explore the alchemy of creatively bridging differences.

Melvin Bray

Melvin Bray ( is an Emmy® award-winning storyteller, social entrepreneur, and author who lives and gardens with his wife, three kids and two dogs in southwest Atlanta, GA.


A former literature professor turned equity consultant, Melvin is a student of how societal myths aid or block desired political outcomes. In this vein, he authored BETTER: Waking Up to Who We Could Be to demonstrate how our sacred narratives can either promote or subvert beloved community, and he supports Beautiful Ventures, a network of storytellers and story-lovers promoting liberatory black imagery in media.  

Noah Hepler

Noah Hepler (he/him) is the pastor at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Philadelphia, and is currently writing his dissertation on Augustine of Hippo. Noah appeared in season 5, episode 1, of Netflix’s Queer Eye.


When he isn’t nerding out on theology, Noah can frequently be found geeking out with a computer or table top game. Noah’s passion for Queer Theology developed as it liberated him to experience God’s grace enough to come out and then again to let go of the way which he had let the past keep him bound. 

Brian Ammons

Rev. Brian Ammons (he/him) is Chaplain at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.  He ordained in the Alliance of Baptists, and holds a PhD in Curriculum and Cultural with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies.


He’s also taught courses in education, gender, theology and social justice at Duke University, The Divinity School at Wake Forest University, and UNC Greensboro.  Brian is married to Gareth Higgins, founder of the Porch.

Meet the Host

Gareth Higgins, Founder of The Porch

Gareth Higgins is a storyteller who seeks to serve the common good through creative gatherings. Having grown up on the edge of Belfast amidst the violent civil conflict of northern Ireland, and been involved in peace-building and cultural change, he believes that the way we tell stories shapes the possibilities we permit for our lives, and what we are willing to do to change them. He works with others to co-create festivals, retreats, and intimate circles - all focused on sharing a better story enabling us to live more meaningfully in service to reducing violence, expanding imagination, and helping everyone both share their gifts and have their needs met. He is the author or co-author of seven books. And at the end of the day, he's a work in progress like the rest of us, and he'd love to share a creative conversation with anyone. 

The Porch is an ongoing conversation about beautiful, and difficult things. We offer a magazine, retreats, festivals, storytelling events and small group circles for the nurturing of connection, creativity, courage, and the common good.