I am a writer, author, spiritual director, and Episcopal priest. I also call myself a “part-time hermit,” because a part of my vocation is to be a spiritual solitary – to be alone with God, to think, to pray.
I’m starting a newsletter where I’ll share some reflections on these things that don’t fit in a magazine article or a book – Letters from a Part-time Hermit. I think a lot about everyday theology, what makes a good story, the spirituality of place, sin and evil, solitude and community. And just goofy things I notice.
(For more information on hermits, check out Raven’s Bread, a hermit newsletter edited by full-time hermits Paul and Karyn Fredette. I was lucky enough to be quoted in an article about them in The New York Times, “What We Can Learn from Solitude” in November 2020.)
My first two books grew out of things I love – Advent in Narnia from my love, as a child and as adult, of the near-perfect storytelling of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, as well as its deep spiritual interconnections with the season of Advent. Holy Solitude came out of my love of spiritual solitude, and my fascination with “saints, prophets, hermits and rebels” who have explored or been tested by solitude. I also love Lent, and I wanted to write a serious devotional for anyone who, like me, wants to really grapple with the season and its traditions of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, even if, chances are, I will fail at keeping up all my disciplines, all the time.
More about me: I grew up on the Near South Side of Chicago, in Hyde Park. I went to school at St. Thomas the Apostle Elementary School from first through eighth grade, even though my family attended a Protestant congregation, Hyde Park Union Church. I went to Catholic girls high school on the north side: fiest, Academy of the Sacred Heart, where my mother was a teacher, then, after it closed when I was a junior, I finished at our sister school on the North Shore, Woodlands Academy. I majored in English at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. After college, I worked on organic farms, alongside adults with mental illness, as pastor of a rural congregation in New England, and in a Chicago corporate law office.
I decided to become a priest after I moved back home to Hyde Park, after a few missed tries at joining an intentional community. I had became a member of St. Paul and the Redeemer and felt a real welcome and call to leadership there. I earned my Master of Divinity right next door, at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2006, and finished a Certificate in Anglican Studies in 2007 at Seabury Western Theological Seminary, now part of the Bexley-Seabury Federation. I was ordained an Episcopal deacon and then a priest in 2007 in the Diocese of Chicago.
My first call was as a vicar, or solo pastor, of a small congregation in the far southwestern suburbs. I spent nine years with the people of St. Benedict (Bolingbrook), which shaped me in so many ways as a priest, a Christian, and a writer. For more of that part of my story, you can explore the blog I kept from 2012-2016, The Vicar of Bolingbrook, about the history, culture, and quirks of life in the exurb landscape of strip malls and cornfields. My 2014 sabbatical blog, “Stranger, Guest, Pilgrim”–following the travels I was able to make with a Lilly Sabbatical Grant to Rome, Jerusalem, Jordan, Seattle, San Francisco, and a month in a hermitage in Wisconsin–is linked there, too.
I started writing in earnest in 2012 when I started the blog, after being encouraged by friends and attending a writers’ workshop at the Collegeville Institute in Minnesota, a great place to grow as a pastor-writer – I recommend it. Writing became a part of my ministry, with the support of my congregation, and helped me grow and thrive in my parish work, too. Before long, I started writing for religious magazines, online and paper. I published my first book and then two books with Westminster John Knox Press while working full-time in parish ministry.
Then, in 2016, just weeks after I started work as Senior Associate Rector at St. Chrysostom’s (Chicago), my mother died unexpectedly during cancer treatment. This changed many things in my life and a year later, in 2017, I decided to leave parish ministry and pursue writing full-time. My husband and I bought a fixer upper house in DeKalb, Illinois, where he could also finish coursework on his Ph.D. at Northern Illinois University (as if that wasn’t enough to keep busy?). We stayed there for three years, out on the prairie, enjoying the university town and our fixer-upper projects.
This year, we moved to Indianapolis, to be near a gang of good friends (even hermits need friends), and for a bunch of other reasons that are too long to list here. I’ve been working on a new book series, called Everyday Connections, three 1-year-long devotionals which will come out in Fall 2021, 2022, and 2023, which you can learn more about here. I am thinking of restarting a blog, getting more active on Instagram, and experimenting with a newsletter.
I’m also now working as a spiritual director, meeting with folks to puzzle through their spiritual questions, struggles, and wonderings, whether of any faith tradition or none. In these pandemic times, I meet with directees by video call, phone, or outdoors in a quiet spot, when the weather is good. I completed a spiritual direction certification through the Claret Center last year. Contact me if you’d like more information.
I also like to read, make dinner, grow vegetables and flowers, take pictures, and walk my dog. I’ve been married to minister, geographer, programmer, and photographer, and fellow part-time hermit, Adam Frieberg since 2008.