Unlikely Conversations from the Collegeville Institute
Undoing Oppressions: A Conversation with Nekeisha Alayna Alexis

Undoing Oppressions: A Conversation with Nekeisha Alayna Alexis

February 24, 2021

When working to undo one type of oppression, activists often see how other types of oppression intersect.

Nekeisha Alayna Alexis is an Anabaptist scholar whose writing addresses issues of justice for both human and animals. In this conversation, she describes how her conviction to nonviolence evolved into her interest in co-liberation with animals and becoming a vegan. She also discusses her role in leading anti-racism efforts within the context of a seminary and why joy is at the foundation of her work.

Welcome is Not Enough: A Conversation with Karen Gonzalez

Welcome is Not Enough: A Conversation with Karen Gonzalez

February 12, 2021

On the surface, welcoming an immigrant seems kind. Karen Gonzalez asks Christians to look again and push deeper. 

Karen Gonzalez is a writer, speaker, and immigrant advocate. She is the author of The God Who Sees: Immigrants, the Bible, and the Journey to Belong. In this conversation, Karen describes how her writing and theology has shifted since attending the 2019 Writing for Mystic Activists writing workshop at the Collegeville Institute. Writing can be a form of activism, and it can also be a way to live out a calling to collective liberation.

Following a Mystical Jesus: A Conversation with Byron McMillan

Following a Mystical Jesus: A Conversation with Byron McMillan

January 27, 2021

What compels a decorated combat veteran and former missions pastor to study mysticism at a center founded by Fr. Richard Rohr?

Byron McMillan's story is one of spiritual transformation and realignment, moving from his role as pastor at an evangelical megachurch in Raleigh, North Carolina to studying at the Center for Contemplation and action in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In this podcast interview, Byron discusses his journey following a mystical Jesus. He also describes how contemplative practices, including writing, have changed his faith and outlook on the world.

Consider the Birds: A Conversation on Community Organizing with Nicholas Tangen

Consider the Birds: A Conversation on Community Organizing with Nicholas Tangen

January 13, 2021

Community organizing is often hard and contentious work. How can people stay committed when the world is chaotic?

In this episode, writer and congregational organizer Nicholas Tangen describes how observing the natural world is connected to his work for justice within the ELCA church. Nicholas has relied on birdwatching as a spiritual practice during the pandemic and in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing in his city of Minneapolis. He also speaks about how Benedictine spirituality has been important in his work for justice.

Writing in Luminous Darkness: A Conversation with Rev. Wesley Morris

Writing in Luminous Darkness: A Conversation with Rev. Wesley Morris

December 16, 2020
Being a good pastor and writer means bringing one’s whole self to the page, to the sanctuary, and to the community. For Wesley Morris, it also means embracing a "luminous darkness" – a phrase coined by mystic Howard Thurman – as a place of transformation.
 
In this conversation, Pastor Morris describes his experiences as a chaplain at Harlem Hospital and as a student at Union Theological Seminary, where he studied under Black liberation theologian Dr. James Cone and wrote a Master's thesis titled: "A Dark Faith." He also discusses his time at the 2014 Writing to Change the World Collegeville Institute workshop led by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, where participants shared vulnerable writing with one another. Morris believes that writing can build bridges across our divides, allowing love to travel from one world to another. 
Midwifing Stories in the American South: A Conversation with Josina Guess

Midwifing Stories in the American South: A Conversation with Josina Guess

December 2, 2020

Editors hold a hidden yet sacred role in the publishing world. As managing editor of The Bitter Southerner, writer Josina Guess works closely with storytellers to hone their work. At times she acts as midwife to writers, helping form narratives on difficult topics like domestic violence and racism. 

Before she became an editor, Josina attended three writing workshops at the Collegeville Institute, including Writing to Change the World led by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in 2014, Revision, Christian Spirituality, and the Writing Life led by Lauren Winner in 2017, and Exploring Identity and (Dis)belonging through the Personal Essay led by Enuma Okoro in 2019.

In this interview, Josina discusses her work as an editor, as well as her own writing on themes of race, violence, and family. Josina’s posture as an activist, writer, and editor is rooted in curiosity and empathy. From her home in rural Georgia, she shares wisdom from acting and storytelling within a particular community, which she believes is the best way writers can change the world.  

Being Heard into Speech: A Conversation with Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas and Lyndsey Medford

Being Heard into Speech: A Conversation with Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas and Lyndsey Medford

November 18, 2020

What role can fellow writers play in the creative process? And how can a desire to "change the world" backfire?

 

In this episode we hear a conversation between two writers: Rev. Alexis Carter Thomas and Lyndsey Medford. They met at the Collegeville Institute's Writing for Mystic Activists workshop in 2019 and, since then, have continued to encourage one another in their writing lives. Here, they discuss the dangers of writing to change the world without also being changed as humans, the call for writing as liberation, and how a writing community can help one be "heard into speech."

Start with Your Own Soul: A Conversation with Rev. Brandon Wrencher

Start with Your Own Soul: A Conversation with Rev. Brandon Wrencher

November 4, 2020

How can writers begin to claim their own voice? And how should local communities inform both writing and organizing work?

In this episode, we speak with writer, pastor, and community organizer Rev. Brandon Wrencher. Brandon is a serial innovator who pastors a network of spiritually rooted small groups through the Good Neighbor Movement, which is inspired, in part, by African hush harbors of the antebellum period and Latin American base communities. Listen to Brandon speak about his own writing journey, the importance of organizing through grassroots small groups, and why all good writing must start with your own soul.

Mothering Wisdom for Activists

Mothering Wisdom for Activists

October 21, 2020

In this episode, we continue for the second part of our conversation with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. Writers engaged in justice work can help others expand their imagination for what is possible, yet they also need accountability, support, and spiritual growth. Where can these activists turn for mothering wisdom?

Listen to Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove discuss the global pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the need for spiritual mothers and fathers to guide and care for activists.

Writing for Mystic Activists: A Conversation with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

Writing for Mystic Activists: A Conversation with Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

October 7, 2020

How can writers of faith participate in current justice movements? Where can activists on the frontlines of movements find the rest and relationships necessary for a sustainable writing life? And what role does community and accountability play in the lives of writers who address issues of injustice in their work?

In Season 2 of the Unlikely Conversations podcast, we are listening to activists and writers of faith who are using words to change the world. Our esteemed guests in this initial episode, Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-led a writing workshop in 2019 through the Collegeville Institute called Writing for Mystic Activists. It was a week-long retreat centered on writing as a contemplative practice for activists and clergy, an opportunity for 12 participants to connect with a long tradition of resistance writers.

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