Q: Why use the phrase "non-churchy"?

This phrase is not intended to be a critique of organized religion; rather, I use it to indicate the kind of poetry that you will not find on this site. When I think of a "churchy" poem, I think of something written specifically for the occasion of church. This often includes poems that merely repeat religious ideologies and truisms in meter and rhyme. While I know many people who value such texts, this is not what I am interested in. For me, such poetry lacks the complexity of theology and philosophy, and often ignores the way that abstract ideas "take on skin" (i.e. intersect with daily life, or are incarnated). By using the phrase "non-churchy church poems," I'm attempting a shorthand explanation of the sort of poetry that I find of most value in sacred contexts and thus include in this website.

Q: What is your religious background?

I grew up in a Mennonite church and continue to worship in a Mennonite-affiliated congregation. As with any religious denomination, Mennonites are quite diverse in belief and practice, ranging from "Old-Order Mennonites" who wear distinctive clothing, do not vote, and hold more traditional and quasi-literal views of the Bible to Progressive Mennonites who couldn't be picked out in a crowd, are politically active, and are interested in progressive hermeneutics. Particular values that are dear to me and my current congregation include non-violent service to country, adult (or "believer's") baptism, stewardship of creation, aesthetics in worship, global citizenship, and ethical consumption. For more on Mennonite history and theology, click here.

Q: What is your literary background?

I taught high school English and creative writing at a Christian high school for 11 years. This context allowed me to explore with youth the intersection between aesthetics and the sacred, particularly the aesthetics of poetry and prose. During that time, I completed my master's degree at Goddard College in Vermont in their Transformative Language Arts program. My particular course of study is best encapsulated by the title of my thesis: "Keeping My Faith: Aesthetics, Feminism, and the Words that Helped Me Stay." Most recently, I've taught joined the education faculty at Goshen College while completing a Ph.D. in English Education at Western Michigan University.

An additional resource: An article on "Spiritual Poetry" by the poet Jane Hirshfield.