Scholar Fridays is a weekly series on Bearings Online where we interview 2017-18 Resident Scholars. Susan Sink recently spoke with Rachel Twigg Boyce, who spent October 2017 at the Collegeville Institute as a short-term Resident Scholar. Twigg Boyce is the Pastoral Associate at saint benedict’s table in Winnipeg, MB and worked on a project titled “Alien Baby: The Incredible Adventures of the Amazingly Invisible Girl” during her recent residency at the Collegeville Institute. To view previous Scholar Friday interviews, click here.
Tell us about your project. It has an intriguing title.
When I came to the Collegeville Institute the first time I was working on a project tracing the Benedictine influences of a charity that I worked for at the time. As part of that project I tried to pray the Divine Office with the monastic community three times a day. I would get up and write, walk up for prayer, walk back down, read or write some more and then repeat the process. At some point I realized that as I was walking back down the hill after prayer, stories from my life began to bubble up and I couldn’t get them out of my mind. They didn’t have anything to do with my project and they were largely things I would have preferred not to think about and so I worked hard to try and stuff them back down.
Eventually those stories won. The working title of my new project is “Alien Baby: The Amazing Adventures of the Incredibly Invisible Girl” because at first the only image I could think of to describe the process of writing those stories was that scene from the movie Alien when the alien bursts out of someone’s torso. It felt violent, socially unacceptable, and out of control. I guess that’s what happens when you pray with monks.
I did eventually tie up that earlier project and even recently was able to do some teaching on Benedictine spirituality at my church, but in terms of writing, “Alien Baby” has definitely taken over.
The book is a spiritual memoir that describes my experiences of discovering I had a pastoral vocation in churches that did not ordain and support female pastors. My book includes stories of my own life with references to mystics (Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe) and pop culture icons (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, David Bowie in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth).
What is saint benedict’s table? What is your relationship to Benedictines?
saint benedict’s table (no capitals, we’re cool like that) is an Anglican Church. We draw some of our inspiration from the Benedictine roots of the Anglican Church as well as having a friendly relationship with our local Benedictine monastery and the community here at Saint John’s. We’re actually bringing a group from the church to the campus next fall for a few days. Also, we did a three-part series podcast during November 2017 on Benedict, which I encourage people to check out.
Personally, I am also involved at my local monastery and am fairly active there as as an oblate, spiritual director, and retreat facilitator.
Did you have any surprising conversations with other Resident Scholars while you were here?
I have had so many! I really appreciated the diversity of the people I have met at the Collegeville Institute (I have stayed there three times). One I do remember occurred after we had a chance to see (and touch!) The Saint John’s Bible. Afterward, a group of us from a wide spectrum of faith traditions and life experiences tried to unpack why we had all has such a strong emotional reaction to that experience.
What is your greatest “ecumenical moment”?
Hmmm, I was once interviewed by someone who called me “delightfully ecumenical,” and I do think ecumenism is in my DNA. My ethnic background is Mennonite and I grew up going to both Mennonite and other, mostly evangelical, churches because we moved a fair bit. I don’t remember my parents ever saying that any denomination was better than any other. Currently, I work as a pastor in an Anglican church, spend a fair amount of time in Catholic spaces such as monasteries, and am a sessional instructor at a Salvation Army College.
Perhaps one of my most ecumenical experiences is when I, a non-Catholic, show people how to navigate the prayer books for the Liturgy of the Hours at my local monastery. My retreats draw people from a wide range of denominations, religious traditions, as well as many who would describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” When I show a group of folks like that how to pray the Office, I guess you could say I’m a so-called outsider showing other outsiders how things work. And then the sisters show up and we all pray together. It’s great.
Have you ever read a book (besides the Bible) that changed your life? If so, how?
One that really influenced me was Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread. I read it when I was first starting to attend saint benedict’s table and her experience of communion and table fellowship really resonated with me and helped me process my experiences.