Grief and Grace

Friends, I have made it through 25 years working in higher education without teaching a class, but that may be about to end.

Let me back up.

It’s not that I’ve never been in front of a classroom; I love it when faculty friends invite me to speak on a topic, or do one of my dramatic interpretations of women in Scripture, or even cover a class. It’s a great way to connect with students who might never have stepped across the threshold of our campus ministry center.

And it’s not that I’ve never been asked to teach. I have a master’s degree in pastoral ministry, and there are always sections of religious studies classes to be covered. But when asked, I’ve always told the truth: having been raised by two teachers, I respect the discipline too much to think I can just “pick up a class.” That usually leaves no room for rebuttal.

Yet while it’s the truth, it’s not the whole truth. The whole truth includes the fact that, as a person in a pastoral relationship with students, I’ve had no wish to be in an evaluative relationship with them. It also includes the “do-you-have-any-idea-how-full-my-plate-is-already” rant (which I only deliver in my head, or to select friends). But the bottom line, I realized recently, is this: if I’m going to carve out time to work on something that’s not part of my job description, it has to be something I’m excited about. And right now that’s this blog, and my upcoming book launch, and the many wonderful speaking- and retreat-giving opportunities that are opening up for me as a result.  

In the last few weeks, however, a teaching possibility has appeared which actually fits the excitement requirement. As part of our redesigned General Education curriculum, Gwynedd Mercy University is offering something called “Signature Seminars.” Designed by faculty according to their discipline, these courses are “writing intensive” and focused on one of the five Critical Concerns of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas. People have been telling me I should teach one, and I have been demurring. But during our recent Inauguration Week festivities I attended a symposium on the Signature Seminars, and I found myself sketching out a reading list and playing around with titles. And the next thing I knew, I was filling out the paperwork to start the process of developing a five-week online course for adult learners. Here’s the quick description:

Grief and Grace: Contemporary Women’s Spiritual Writing
How do we make sense of life’s tragedies?  How do we keep going when we are bent by loss?  This course will explore the unique contributions of women reflecting on their experiences of grief in the light of grace.  Students will use the writing assignments to examine their own life stories through the lens of spirituality, uncovering and articulating the deep truths that sustain them. 

Much remains to be done, of course: creating a syllabus, learning how to design an online course (which means taking an online course in online course designing), and familiarizing myself with all the ins and outs and rules and regs of teaching and grading. But the thing I am really excited about right now is building that reading list.

Here are the writers and works I’m considering using (in whole or in part; it’s only a five-week course, after all). Which of these do you affirm? What am I missing? I welcome—invite—your suggestions and comments!

Clearly, I’ve just put together a list that could be hummed to the tune of “These are a few of my favorite things.” I’m intrigued to discover what connections and conversations will emerge in the months to come, and I look forward to seeing what fruit this new venture will bear in my heart, in the cyber-classroom, in my public speaking, and right here in this blog.

Thanks for walking with me.



5 thoughts on “Grief and Grace

  1. Diane says:

    What a wonderful post! Lucky, GMU! I will forever remember the dramatic interpretation you did for my class! I am so happy you are going to give this a try. The books that jumped out at me were Stitches, Everything Happens for a Reason, and other Lies I’ve Loved, The Comforter, and Ordinary Time. I am certain you would do great with any/all/none of these books! Maybe you can use your own book in the mix! I will sign up for the class with Deboradunbar!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lucy Paccione says:

    Christine! You are an amazing person!!! Your course sounds intriguing and I am very interested in participating and motivating my sister to take your course since her journey with breast cancer. I encourage you to move forward to teach many classes because you are amazing. I have heard you speak many times and it is captivating. Best of luck !


  3. says:

    Deal Christine, I’m a bit tardy with my thank you for the time spent with us at our St. Peter’s PUP meeting. If I was more with it our thanks would come to you in a lovely note card.

    Since your visit we’ve welcomed three new members, each with a story that makes us wonder why we think life is “normal” for others, and don’t wonder at the hidden pain of everyone we encounter – physical or otherwise. Debbie and I shared a little about the poem with our group, how we heard so many different things in those sensitive, thought provoking lines, and how special the meeting was for us.

    I’m excited to follow your blog and expect that wherever this journey takes you it will be deeply meaningful to you and all who “walk with you.” Congratulations on your new position and your book. What an accomplishment! It is on my book list.

    Blessing and best wishes. Anita Bailey

    Sent from XFINITY Connect App


    • Christine Eberle says:

      Anita, thanks so much for this. I love what you said about welcoming new members, “each with a story that makes us wonder why we think life is “normal” for others, and don’t wonder at the hidden pain of everyone we encounter.” I’ve heard it said that so much of the distress in our life is caused by the fact that we go around “comparing our insides to other people’s outsides,” and your words echo that wisdom. I look forward to my next visit to St. Peter’s, whenever that is! Blessings on your group.


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