The Sacred Art of Writing
Commenced October 2021 / Next Cohort slated for 2024
Led by Dr. Winn Collier
The Sacred Art of Writing Doctor of Ministry cohort will invite both established and emerging writers in multiple genres and contexts (those in traditional ministry and those whose work and writing moves them into broader arenas of service) to think deeply, theologically, and artfully about their work. As people whose very life arrives from the Word, Christians ought to be those with the deepest reverence for language. Yet, too often, our writing is stilted, banal, cliched, moralistic, and bereft of the beauty and care the craft requires. If we are dealing with holy work simultaneously immersed in gritty humanity and divine transcendence, then our writing ought to carry a haunting lilt while piercing the heart and the mind. The Sacred Art of Writing aims to walk with students in this joyful, sacred calling.
This cohort welcomes candidates with a master’s degree who are able to articulate a theological undergirding for their calling to the writing craft and demonstrate appropriate experience and competency. Writing samples will be required in the admissions packet.
The Doctor of Ministry is a three-year program with two weeks of in residence per year. Our cohort will meet on our campus in Holland, Michigan, four times, and two of our residencies will be offsite.
Pre-reading for Opening Residency: Selections from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, Stephen King’s On Writing, Frederick Buechner’s Telling Secrets, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Claire Messud’s Kant’s Little Prussian Head and Other Reasons Why I Write: An Autobiography in Essays, and Marilyn McEntyre’s Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. Other potential reading could be Vanita Hampton Wright’s The Art of Spiritual Writing (or The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life) or Robert Benson’s Dancing on the Head of a Pen.
Year One Residencies: In addition to determining student projects, the first year will focus on the theological grounding for the sacred work of writing, the holiness of words, and the sacramental reality of language. As a way of emphasizing the novel, our guest lecturer will be Leif Enger. Examples of likely reading (still to be finalized) might include selections from Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, a reading packet including theologically-oriented articles, selections from Rowan Williams’ Dostoevsky: Language, Faith and Fiction (Making of the Christian Imagination), Leif Enger’s Virgil Wander, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Emily St. J Mandel’s Station Eleven, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Kent Haruf’s Eventide, and Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.
Year Two Residencies: Our second year will deepen themes from year one in conjunction with exploring memoir and poetry, essay and sermons. Our guest lecturer will be Sophfronia Scott. Potential reading might include a packet of theologically-oriented articles, Mary Karr’s Lit, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, Shulem Deen’s All Who Go Do Not Return, Dani Shapiro’s Inheritance, Deborah Feldman’s Unorthodox, St Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of the Little Flower, Sarah Broom’s The Yellow House, Pat Conroy’s The Water is Wide, Fleming Rutledge’s Help My Unbelief, Samuel Proctor and William Watley’s Sermons from the Black Pulpit, Tom Kooser and Jim Harrison’s Braided Creek, and David Whyte’s The House of Belonging.
[A Writer’s Britain literary tour] October of year two will include our literary tour to London, Oxford, and other locals, led by Daniel Taylor, longtime English professor, essayist, award winning novelist, and world traveler. Daniel is the author of In Search of Sacred Places, Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, Tell Me a Story, The Myth of Certainty, The Skeptical Believer and numerous other titles and essays. Cost in addition to tuition will be $1975 + airfare
Year Three Residencies: Our third year will explore the short story, while providing extended space for workshopping writing projects. Potential reading might include Zadie Smith’s Intimations, Andre Dubus’ Selected Stories, James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, George Saunders’ Tenth of December, and Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song. The final residency will culminate in presentation of final projects.
[Writing Workshop Retreat] Our October residency for year three will be an offsite writing workshop retreat.
Ongoing: Between residencies, we will have one whole-cohort meeting via Zoom. Faculty mentors will host 2 Zoom meetings with their smaller writing group.
+this is a tentative overview and will adapt with the cohort’s needs
October 25-29, 2021 – Holland, MI
April 25-29, 2022 – Holland, MI
Fall 2022 – United Kingdom
Spring 2023 – Holland, MI
Fall 2023 – Writer’s Retreat
Spring 2024 – Holland, MI
Lead Faculty Member
A pastor for 26 years, Winn now serves as the Director of the Eugene Peterson Center and Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Christian Imagination at Western Theological Seminary. In addition to writing for The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Christian Century and numerous other outlets, he has published books in multiple genres (spiritual creative non-fiction, fiction, and biography): Restless Faith: Hanging on to a God Just Out of Reach; Let God: Spiritual Conversations with François Fénelon; Holy Curiosity: Encountering Jesus’ Provocative Questions; Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church and A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson.
A former pastor, John has worked as an editor in the publishing industry for fifteen years (with David C. Cook and Waterbrook Penguin- Random House). He is a poet and creative non-fiction writer. In addition to ghostwriting for notable figures and publishing essays for numerous outlets, he has written Jubilee: The Poems; Know When to Hold ‘Em; Touching Wonder, and All is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir (with Brennan Manning).
A poet and essayist, Marilyn was a former professor of humanities at the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program and has spoken for numerous writer workshops, conferences, churches and seminaries. Marilyn is the author of When Poets Pray; Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies; Speaking Peace in a Culture of Conflict; Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice; A Long Letting Go: Meditations on Losing Someone You Love; Drawn to the Light: Poems on Rembrandt’s Religious Paintings; Dwelling in the Text: Homes in American Fiction; A Healing Art: Regeneration Through Autobiography; Occasions: Selected Poems and other titles.
A former producer and reporter with Minnesota Public Radio, Leif is a national bestselling novelist. Leif has written Peace Like a River (named one of the Year’s Best Books by both Time Magazine and the LA Times); So Brave, Young, and Handsome and Virgil Wander.
A novelist and essayist, Sophfronia has written for Killens Review of Arts and Letters, Saranac Review, Ruminate, NewYorkTimes.com, O, The Oprah Magazine and numerous other publications. She is the author of both fiction (All I Need to Get By and Unforgivable Love) and nonfiction (This Child of Faith, with her son Tain, Love’s Long Line and The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton). Winner of numerous awards, Sophfronia is the founding director of the MFA program at Alma College.
the Sacred Art of Writing
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