Monday, January 14, 2013

Writing as Ministry

By: Amy Lyles Wilson

Before I visited ESR for the first time in 2000, to attend the Ministry of Writing Colloquium, I’d already worked as a writer and editor for about 15 years. I had a master’s degree in journalism, and published credits to my name. Along the way, I had heard writing described as an art, a talent, a gift; maybe even a way to make a living, in a good year. But I had never heard it considered a ministry.

All that changed when I saw an ad in The Utne Reader for the Ministry of Writing Colloquium at ESR. I was not familiar with Earlham College, the Earlham School of Religion, or anything related to Quakers or Indiana. But something led me here.
Amy Lyles Wilson - 2012 Writing Colloquium

Since attending that Colloquium, I have come and gone from the sacred space that is ESR many times. I’ve taken classes, served as a writing fellow, presented at colloquiums. I’ve learned to sit in the silence without squirming (I’m a practicing Episcopalian). And now, the best gig of all, serving as an adjunct professor in the writing program.

In 2003, while on the ESR campus for a semester, I had the pleasure of knowing, and loving, Tom Mullen, the driving force behind the development of ESR’s writing program. He was my mentor, coach, teacher, and friend. His death hit me hard. To think that I might be able to contribute to his legacy fills me with gratitude, and, I must admit, a bit of intimidation. 

Whether you’re an academic, a preacher, a pastoral counselor, or one who labors in the field of social justice, your words matter. Effective, evocative communication is vital to our human connection, be it from behind the pulpit or on the Internet. I believe it is the sharing of our stories that saves us, and toward that end I “teach” writing—as much as it can be taught—in the hopes of helping people tell their stories in their own words, using their own voices. Most often, all that writers need to is space and permission, a dash of encouragement, maybe a few tools. The craft works itself out in the doing, through the day-in, day-out discipline of searching for the just-right word and developing the pitch-perfect sentence, one after another. It is in that laboring with the language that the spirit finds its way to the fore so that it might be shared with others.

Amy Lyles Wilson, M.A., M.T.S., is a writer and editor with more than 25 years of experience. She served as the Patrick Henry Writing Fellow at ESR in 2003, and earned her master’s degree in theological studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School in 2007. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, as well as on NPR’s “This I Believe.” She will teach Writing for Publication and Writing Religious Fiction during the spring semester, 2013, as well as serve as the ESR writer-in-residence and offer workshops for the community at large.

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