I was born in 1950, to a family that was Christian but unchurched. I was baptized at 14 and began teaching Sunday School almost at once, and kept it up through college and beyond. In 1979, after finishing graduate school and having my first baby, I took a part-time job at St. Paul’s Church in New Haven as Christian Education Coordinator. Dissatisfied with published curriculums, I began creating lectionary cartoons, writing pageants and celebrations, and telling Bible stories with a feltboard of my own design.
In 1980 I began publishing the lectionary cartoons, now named The Sunday Paper, from my home. Over the years I added The Sunday Paper Junior for younger readers; Alleluia! Amen, a communion book for children; New Life, a baptism book; Go, Tell It on the Mountain, a collection of Christmas pageants; and Risen With Christ, a collection of resources for Holy Week. I also began traveling to parishes and conferences as a speaker and workshop leader. Offering the Gospel to Children was published in 1992 by Cowley Press. I Love Christmas, The Sunday Paper’s first (and only) full-color book, celebrating family and parish holiday traditions, and Learning to Love, a spiritual autobiography published by Church Publishing Inc., both came out in 2001.
Meanwhile, St. Paul’s had merged with St. James the Apostle to become the Episcopal Church of St. Paul & St. James. In 1995 I was commissioned as Children’s Missioner and my position became full-time. For the next 13 years I developed and led a ministry of outreach and evangelism with inner-city children, including an evening worship program with crafts and supper, and later an after-school program and a three-week summer program. In 1999, the Children’s Mission established an affiliated entrepreneurship, Beulah Enterprises, to develop my feltboard stories as kits (“Beulah Land”) and distribute other creative materials—toys, puppets, books, and gifts—to enhance the capacity of children and adults to engage creatively with our faith story. Beulah Land published a complete curriculum in 2006. Both the Children’s Mission and Beulah Enterprises were the work of many hands and hearts, and the recipients of support beyond measure from faithful people near and far, all of whom deserve enormous thanks.
I retired from parish work in 2008, and continue to operate The Sunday Paper, which also took over Beulah Enterprises when the mission of St. Paul & St. James moved in other directions after my retirement. I am also very involved with Grace & St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Hamden, CT, the parish we joined after I retired. A special privilege in this faith community is that I am able to lead adult education—something for which I had no time when I was a staff member for children’s formation.
My formal education (Bryn Mawr A.B., Yale Ph.D.) is in English literature, which has disciplined me to respond with integrity to the Scriptural text. As teacher, artist, storyteller and lay minister, I have always been first and foremost an evangelist: that is, my vocation is to invite children and adults to hear the Good News and respond with wonder, joy, faith, hope and love. I was recognized for this work in October of 2004, with an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, and, in November of 2007, with the Rev. Canon Clinton R. Jones Award granted by the Friends of Christ Church Cathedral, Hartford.
I am also a wife, mother, and grandmother, with one daughter born in each of three decades—1978, 1982, and 1992. The oldest daughter is a priest, and the second a diocesan officer for children’s ministries in the UK. The third is discovering her vocation in fine art. We are also the grandparents of a bright and lively boy born in 2008, and a second grandson who arrived prematurely in 2015 and did not survive.
The rest of my life includes choral singing, sewing, knitting, reading, and attempting to defend my garden from the local woodchucks.
Brief description of issues and concerns raised in my work
In Scripture and liturgy we tell the story of God’s dealings with us, and incorporate the story into our own lives through sacrament. But the church has evolved separate structures for engaging children with Scripture and liturgy: children’s Bibles and Bible stories, Sunday school curriculum, Sunday School classes, children’s chapel, children’s sermons, Christmas pageants, and so on. Frequently these structures have presented a seriously abridged and distorted Gospel. Often we ourselves are still captive to the “kiddie gospel” that was taught to us as children.
In all my work, I raise the questions: What in fact is the story that we wish to tell? How do we tell it with children? Children learn through fantasy and play; how can we re-forge the ancient link between liturgy, learning and play? And most basic of all: How may we find new ways of hearing the story ourselves, and opening ourselves to the power of Scriptural image and language—how can we rediscover the Good News in its fullness, so as to make it known to our children?