I've just spent two very stimulating days at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was stimulating to be with a group of people who are serious about writing and rooted in faith - from across the spectrum of Christian belief and practice. Highlights for me (at least for this post - I may have more) were an interview with Mary Gordon about writing and life. I love her work,especially her novel Men and Angels and she was eloquent about being a writer, a practicing Catholic with honest reservations about the Vatican (and wise distinctions between "Catholicism" as a heritage and the Vatican as a power structure). One thing she said that resonated with me: about working most of the time in an academic community where people are not believers and regard people of faith with some suspicion, in part because of media portrayals of Christian extremism. She said, "If they know you're a Catholic they take 90 points off your IQ". She did name here something that I have been aware of; it's not that there's a need to talk about our faith all the time in secular settings, but there's an awareness of prejudice toward faith -- I find this exacerbated by recent bestsellers like Dawkins' The God Delusion and similar discussions. Not something she dwelt on, but it was good to have it named. She also spoke of how as we grow into genuine faith, and rootedness in our traditions, we get beyond the "bliss of exclusion" which so haunts faith communities: the need to say "we're right and they're wrong; we're in and they're out." There, too, she named something important.
Another highlight was an dialogue between Scott Cairns and Kathleen Norris. Both writers were born and raised in reformed, Protestant traditions and have embraced in some way what Scott reminds is the common ancient heritage of all Christians -- the practices of the early church. He has embraced this by being chrismated in the Greek Orthodox faith and he speaks warmly of their rituals. Kathleen is an oblate of a Benedictine order, though she has remained a Presbyterian. Both of them spoke of the need for Christians to embrace the practices of the faith: regular prayer, belonging to a community that worships and prays together. It seems simple but it is so important - only through the practices of prayer and worship are we transformed into who God has made us to be, and that is a lifelong journey, nourished by prayer. It was wonderful to be among people who agreed on some level that our writing comes out of those practices, whatever else it may be "about."
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.