After a long pandemic year, it’s remarkable to look back at the wonderful writing published at Bearings Online. In 2021 we said goodbye to our first cohort of Emerging Writers and welcomed our second. These writers, who work closely with a Collegeville Institute writing mentor for over a year, have produced fresh and engaging essays on wide-ranging topics important to the church that we urge you to read.
In our A Covid Year series, which began during the one-year anniversary of the pandemic, we published pandemic stories from alumni of the Collegeville Institute’s programs, both in the United States and abroad. Throughout it all, religious leaders around the world have inspired us by how they support the larger community while providing for the needs of members of their congregations, and many of these essays reflect that challenge.
As you peruse the lists below, we hope you enjoy looking back at the Bearings Online articles that our readers and staff have most enjoyed this year.
Top 10 articles from 2021*
#1— Paul Tillich Plays the Queen’s Gambit by Mark R. Schwehn
Paul Tillich’s message about accepting acceptance is as transformative as it is hard won in “The Queen’s Gambit.”
#2—Flashes of Grace: An Interview with Patrick Henry by Cameron Bellm
Flashes of Grace, a new book by Patrick Henry, explores moving to expand one’s understanding of God and God’s purpose through sacred encounters.
#3—The Devil Advises Me and Other Young White Clergy by Duncan Hilton
Tweak your sermon. Update the church website. Dust your divinity school diploma. Do more self-care. And most of all, get serious.
#4—The Grief of Miscarriage Is Enough by Natarsha Prince Sanders
I am stupefied now as I remember that I apologized for having a miscarriage. There is nothing I could have done to prevent them from happening. I had done nothing wrong. So, why did I apologize?
#5—A Patron Saint for Our Pandemic by Timothy Jones
Our lockdowns and distancing and harrowing loss of life has made me all the more glad I went to Norwich.
#6—A God Who Cleaves: Coming Out, Parents, and Queerness by Sarah Ngu
“After college, I began to discover new tools for interpreting the Bible that allowed me, for the first time, to imagine myself as a whole person within my faith.”
#7—The Sounds from Hundreds of Homes by Pooja Bastodkar
On March 22, 2020, unable to meet in their temple, hundreds of Hindu households in Minnesota tuned in to chant a powerful mantra for the world.
#8—Tele-prayers: The Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the Pandemic by Mersha Mengiste
When the government offered televised worship for different religious communities, they devolved quickly into polemical attacks and had to be shut down.
#9—Midnight Mass by Katherine Willis Pershey
Midnight Mass is not your ordinary horror show. This Netflix series offers theological reflections on life and death, forgiveness, sin, and love. It also shows how Christian ritual and scripture can be co-opted for a darker cause. And yes, it’s creepy as hell.
#10—The Problem with Angels by Zeena Regis
Zeena Regis tells the story of how racism complicates her experience as a hospice chaplain, and contemplates how to challenge that racism like one of the fearsome, truth-telling angels of Scripture.
Top 5 poems from 2021*
#2—Of Prayer Now by Andrea Potos
#4—Errand by Mary Lane Potter
#5—God’s Back by Sharon Corcoran
Staff favorites from 2021
We asked several staff members to highlight an article or poem from this year that particularly resonated with them. Below are their responses.
I found the essay The Grief of Miscarriage is Enough by Natarsha Prince Sanders to be particularly stirring. I appreciated Natarsha’s vulnerability and willingness to reflect on an experience that is all too common for many women.
In 2021, there were too many poems to choose just one favorite. I love Christine Paintners poem about nature, and poems about prayer that are prayers. Jacob Stratman had some great poems this year, especially one about play and about praying in worship. And there’s always one about the difficulty of writing as in Mary Lane Potter’s poem. Jen Crow’s essay on preaching from her bedroom made me laugh and cry! I’m glad she’s finished with that.
Good writing evokes emotion. It teaches us how to be human and nurtures our empathy. It helps us see and feel and understand things from the writer’s viewpoint.
Natarsha Sanders’ essay, The Grief of Miscarriage is Enough, certainly did that for me. Although I have not experienced a miscarriage, I felt her pain. I felt her sorrow. And I felt the rawness and realness of her experience. I applaud her braveness in writing the essay, and thank her for her braveness in sharing it with our readers.
There were many strong Bearings Online essays this year. Carolina Hinojosa’s reflections on the book The Purpose Gap introduced me to the concept of “comadre-economics.” Saint John’s Pottery founder Richard Breshnehan’s Japanese-inspired theology for digging local clay inspired me to consider the sacred responsibility of the artist anew. And, if you haven’t already, I recommend reading Andrea Roske-Metcalfe’s vivid essay about the scent of air fresheners at a protest following the police killing of Daunte Wright.
I have also loved working with our incredibly talented Emerging Writers cohorts — go check out their essays here!
My favorite poem was The Icon and the Fire Extinguisher. It brought so many elements together, and the comic presence of a fire extinguisher above an image of Shedrach, Meshach, and Abednigo opens up to a reflection on Exile and a world on fire, migrants in the heat of the desert, social injustice.
Happy New Year from all of us here at the Collegeville Institute.
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Lois Shaw says
Thanks to Natarsha and all of the writers.
Writing is a special gift and God gave each of you the talent. Keep up the good work..❤