About Me

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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.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Gift of Water - A Meditation

Also on the "Baptized for Life" website in "Kathy's Corner" 

The Gift of Water: Meditations on a Barrier Island

            Most summers at the end of August – so far just on the edge of hurricane season though sometimes we’ve come close – we have spent a week on the northern end of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  This year we had a house right on the ocean and so I awoke every morning just before sunrise to a brightening horizon and the sound of waves. The rhythm of my days there became a meditation on the gift of water, here the salt water of the open Atlantic Ocean, a primal source of life, and the brackish water of Currituck Sound, less than a mile away on the other side of the island.   The daily rhythm of my mornings became a way of prayer, surrounded on all sides by the water that gives life and can also overwhelm life.  An account of my morning practice may help others share in the embodied experience of what the waters of Baptism might mean, an insight that  that slowly dawned on me over the course of the week.

            I awoke each day just before sunrise, on a week when the ocean was smooth, and the waves rolled with a steady, present rhythm. I thought of the mystics who speak of the “ocean of God’s love” with its strong currents and waves, and its nourishing, refreshing waters.  Watching the sun emerge each morning, always, somehow, a surprise just after the early dawn gloom, reminded me of that Baptism prayer:  We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water:  Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation” (BCP 306).

            After watching the show, and celebrating the arrival of another day of clear, bright beach light at the sea, I would set out, each morning, for the sound, on the other side of the island but less than mile away.  It is hot on the Outer Banks in August, even early in the day, so I filled my water bottle before I went with cold ice water, and as I walked, and sipped, I was grateful for the water that sustains and refreshes my life. 

            Fulfilling some kind of stereotype (I know, I know), I would stop on my way at the bakery and pick up a paper copy of the   New York Times, a bagel and a double espresso).   With these I walked to the sound and settled on a bench, along a boardwalk which the town has created in an effort to preserve the wetlands on the sound.  And the wetlands, indeed, are growing more dense and rich every year, together with a narrow but thick and deeply green fringe of maritime forest. 

            Wetlands are a powerful symbol for me:  that watery place where grasses and marsh flowers and reeds put down deep roots, filtering impurities out of the water and harbouring concentrated populations of new life:    Crabs, herons, all kinds of tiny fish and insects live in this place and provide food, and the flowers draw butterflies and other pollinators – it is a place teeming with often invisible life,  rooted in the water.  Fallen trees, probably downed in hurricanes and floods, also provide sources of nutrients for the wetlands and so it is a place where the cycle of death into new life is visible. And I would recall some words about the water of Baptism:  In it we are buried with Christ in his death.  By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. (BCP 306).

            My time at the sound is a paradoxically incarnate time:  I enjoy my freshly made breakfast, and under a loblolly pine tree, often in the company of a huge and noisy osprey who perches there most mornings,  I alternately sit and sip and soak in the green life surrounding me,  and read my newspaper (I buy the paper version to keep me off my phone!)  And as I read I am praying for the broken world out beyond this island,  surrounded as I am by images of refreshment and life – and remembering,  too (as came true several weeks later this year) that this is a place that is also often hit by hurricanes and violent ocean storms.   The wetlands, growing denser every year, provide a screen for the mainland when storms sweep in, but the island itself has a history of being both battered and resilient.   What I take in each morning, moving from sunrise over the ocean to resting by the wetlands, is the constancy of a life surrounded and nourished by the holiness of water  -- a baptismal experience that is ultimately beyond words and yet gives me “muscle memory” to take home, about what it means to be “Baptized for Life.”

Friday, September 28, 2018

Interview on Radio Gabriel

I was just recently interviewed on a terrific website about spirituality and the arts called "Radio Gabriel"  Here's the extensive interview with Kathryn Williams, who really drew a lot out of me -- lovely to have a conversation with a skilled interviewer.  https://www.radiogabriel.com/single-post/KathleenHendersonStaudt

Saturday, September 22, 2018

"What She Said" Reading Scripture through the eyes of the women

Hagar in the Wilderness Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot found at https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/38.64/
In a few weeks I'll be leading 2 sessions of a Lifetime Learning Course at Virginia Theological Seminary, looking at familiar stories from Scripture through fresh cultural eyes and especially through the eyes of women.
On October 18 I'll be talking about the story of Sarah and Hagar -- exploring this whole business of the mothers who are bearers of the children promised to Abraham, in a patriarchal culture where women's worth is judged by childbearing, and amid structures of oppression, class and race that are more familiar to us today than we'd like to think.  We'll be using some insights from writers Alicia Ostriker and Renita Weems as well as some of my own poetry and the work of some other wise poets.  How does the lens of literature, and especially poetry, open new ways into the meaning of Scriptural stories for us today. How can these stories come to life in fresh ways for us?  I'll also be looking at some art-images that move us into these stories - provided on this blog as a kind of "teaser."   The full story of Sarah - together with Hagar's story --  is found in the book of Genesis chapters 16:1- 18:14 and chapters 20-23
Painting of Mary, Martha and Jesus at Bethany - painted by Sr. Ernestine Foskey, 
after a drawing by German painter Heinrich Hoffmann. Sisters of Bon Secours (used by permission)
On October 25 we'll turn to Mary and Martha and Lazarus -- two parts of their story, one Luke 10:381-42  and the other in John 11: 1-44.  I have been somewhat obsessed with this story in two ways:  One, the story of Mary and Martha in Luke always seems to me an invitation to wrestle with the difficult questions of how to practice both contemplative listening and active hospitality without getting either self-righteous or burned out.   And in John, the story of the death and raising of Lazarus is more challenging the more one dwells with it: taking us into profoundly human places of suffering and loss, grieving and the elusive hope of resurrection. 

I explore some of these themes in my own poetry - "Sarah Laughed", "A Gloss on Sarah's Laughter" and "Martha," which are all in my first book of poems, Annunciations: Poems out of Scripture  
and also available in the sidebar of this blog, at least for the run of the course.  I also include in the sidebar some of my "Bethany Poems" - a work in progress so not necessarily ready for publication but relevant to our work in the class.  

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Coming Soon: "This thing Called Poetry": An Anthology of Poems by Young Adults with Cancer

I'm in the final stages of preparing the MS of a lovely anthology of poems by young adults with cancer - i.e., broadly defined, people who received a cancer diagnosis between the ages of 15 and 39.   I've posted a fuller description as a page to the left of this post.  More info to come soon!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Two new publications on David Jones!

This is starting to be a big year for me, with the appearance in print of several projects I've been working on for sometime.   The collection from Brill (edited by Jamie Callison, Paul Fiddes, Erik Tonning and Anna Johnson), David Jones: A Christian Modernist? is out now - and is full of articles that explore exactly the kind of questions that most interest me around  Jones and the significance of his voice in our time. My essay, "David Jones:  Christian Artist at the Dawn of a Post Christian Era" is the last in the volume.    And I'm delighted to report that the collection from Bloomsbury that I am co-editing with Tom Berenato and Anne Price Owen will be out in June:  David Jones on Religion, Politics and Culture: Unpublished Writings.   The work on these projects has got me thinking in fresh ways about how Jones's take on the role and practice of a Christian artist in our time has affected my own approach to reading, writing, and theological reflection.  I continue to mull this over.