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Why We're Publishing "To My Beloveds"

Why We're Publishing "To My Beloveds"

If any Chalice Press book can be described as a labor of love, Jennifer Bailey’s To My Beloveds: Letters on Faith, Race, Loss, and Radical Hope fits the bill, at every beautiful turn.

Books often evolve as they’re being written, in minor and major ways. To My Beloveds evolved in tragic and beautiful ways as Bailey’s life did what lives do, winding through sadness and loss and grief and anger and love and joy and hope. 

This book, a product of Chalice Press’ partnership with the Forum for Theological Exploration, has been years in the making. We connected with Bailey in 2015 about her experiences as a young clergywoman of color, an activist, and a brilliant public theologian. Her organization, Faith Matters Network, was an emerging social justice voice based in Nashville, and she was earning a reputation for incisive, thoughtful theology connected to a passion for racial and gender justice.

The original vision for the book was much more tightly focused on the 21st Century church and social justice; the book’s title in the contract was Confessions of a #Millennial #Minister. It was to highlight the way changing social attitudes toward race, sexuality, technology, and activism is shaping Millennials.

As we all know, though, 2016 brought major changes to our country, and that impacted Faith Matters Network and Jen’s own life. The 2016 election prompted a reckoning of faith and social justice, and Jen’s work became her priority (and rightly so).

Personally, the last several years have held those same emotional swings. Her mother’s death from cancer and her marriage and motherhood are captured in the pages Jen has written in the last few years, breathtakingly honest and raw prose that will produce tears of sorrow and tears of joy. Jen has poured her soul into this book: a legacy for her mother, a love letter to her fellow activists to power them through hard times, a future inspiration for her son.

It would have been easy for a publisher to move on from this book, but in our regular check-ins with Jen, we saw this new book simmering, emerging from the emotional fog with a clear vision for what it could be. Her new vision for the book is constructed around three questions:

  • What is dying?
  • What wants to emerge?
  • What is already blooming beautifully in the world?

What a great trio questions to ask yourself when you need to reprioritize or start over! Those questions walk us through the grief of losing family, friends, or ideals; through starting over or rethinking old ideas; and, through evaluating who can help us along the new path upon which we’ve embarked. To My Beloveds has become, in part, a book about vision: discarding the outdated and crafting new ones.

What started as a social justice book has become a deeply personal memoir, a gift to all of us on those days when the world’s challenges weigh heavy on our shoulders. Our faith accompanies us through it all, if we will let it, and Jen’s beautiful, gifted writing is a welcome companion when we find ourselves on an unfamiliar road. To My Beloveds will enrage and inspire us, make us weep and smile, and encourage us to pick ourselves up and begin anew.

Brad Lyons, President and Publisher

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