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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
July 15, 2020
How are common sacred stories about women like Queen Esther and Rahab taught differently in Christianity and Judaism?
This final episode in this season is a lively dialogue between Rabbi Jennifer Hartman and Pastor Andrea Roske-Metcalfe. Together, they explore how they each teach and preach tricky holy passages in a way that keeps female characters complex and layered. Listen for how beautiful things can get when we dwell in the muck of messy human stories and allow women to be multi-faceted.
Note: this conversation uses adult language and addresses instances of sexual assault and stillbirth.
July 1, 2020
How do we teach toward curiosity? How can we educate ourselves and each other around misinformation of the other? How do we build relationships today so when crisis happens we are working out of the context of knowing and being known?
Claire Shea is principal at a Catholic middle school. She is also married to a Muslim. Aaron Weininger is a Jewish Rabbi. He is also openly gay. In this episode, Claire and Aaron talk about having tough conversations in their homes and families as well as in the public sphere. Starting in their homes has helped them prioritize relationships in doing courageous work in their communities.
June 17, 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing grief on individual, communal, societal, and global levels. Faith communities are asking questions like: How can we create new ritual, often mediated through screens to grieve, celebrate and mark time? How can faith leaders continue to offer hope, comfort and presence while being physically separated? At the same time, our country is having heated conversations about whether faith communities can safely meet in person.
In this episode, which was recorded in late April, hear a conversation between two young faith leaders from the Hindu and Jewish traditions about spiritual practice during COVID-19. Neha Markanda is an executive known for global strategy, operational excellence and change management. She is also a founding teacher of HATS (Hindu American Temple School) and the Temple’s Board Treasurer. Rabbi Jennifer Hartman brings a passion for Jewish education and engagement to Temple Israel in Minneapolis, where she has served as Rabbi for over 6 years.