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Faithful Witness: Creative Writing and Social Change

November 1 - 2Asheville, NC


Sponsored by the Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, this writing workshop is aimed primarily for those working at the intersection of food & faith who want to learn creative writing skills to use in their work. Whether you’re a pastor, community gardener, non-profit leader, activist, or student, this workshop is aimed at helping you tell better stories through writing. The initiative thanks co-sponsors First UCC of Asheville and Warren Wilson College.

Friday, November 1  |  7:00 – 9:00pm  |  First UCC, Asheville

A Language To Make Us Whole – Writing, Activism, and Hope at the Margins

How can stories help us regain a sense of the world as holy, mysterious, and worthy of our care? How can language, especially as it’s used by people of faith and people called environmentalists, be used to heal and mend what is daily being torn assunder? Could it be that what we need now in this time of climate change and food insecurity is not more information, but better stories? Join us as writers Janisse Ray and Fred Bahnson talk about their work, which combines a rooted spirituality with a commitment to social change, and how stories can inspire people to care for their watersheds, foodsheds, and the people who inhabit them. This lecture is free and open to the public with Q&A and book-signing to follow.

Saturday, November 2  |  8:30 – 4:00pm  |  Upper Fellowship Hall, Warren Wilson College

Faithful Witness: A Workshop on Creative Writing and Social Change

In this writing workshop, Janisse Ray and Fred Bahnson will explore ideas of soil and sacrament, tapping into stories to recover a sense of the world as holy and worthy of our care. In a stimulating blend of journaling, writing prompts, brainstorming, and discussion, we will use creative nonfiction to investigate our personal relationships to food and food security. Only by telling our own stories of the changing world, and imagining new stories, can we create a future in which we honor the earth and its offerings. We’ll discover fun and self-revealing ways to tell these stories. The class will be both personal discovery as well as an inquiry into ways to carry the message beyond your own notebooks. You will leave inspired, more dedicated to your work, and in possession of a toolbox for incorporating writing into your faith and social justice work.


Regular $75
Student and Scholarship Rate* $35
Lunch included.

* A small number of need-based scholarships are available. To qualify, you must be someone working at the intersection of food & faith. See registration form for more details.


About the Presenters

Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is author of five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of nature poetry. Her most recent book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food is a look at what’s happening to seeds. The book has won awards from the American Horticultural Society and Garden Writers Association, among others. Ray holds an MFA from the University of Montana and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine. She attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on Red Earth Farm in southern Georgia with her husband and daughter. Janisse is an organic gardener, tender of farm animals, slow-food cook, fermenter, and seed saver.

Fred Bahnson directs the Food, Faith, & Religious Leadership Initiative. He is the author of Soil and Sacrament: A Spiritual Memoir of Food and Faith (Simon & Schuster) and co-author of Making Peace With the Land: God’s Call to Reconcile With Creation (InterVarsity). His narrative journalism and essays have appeared widely including Oxford American, Image, Orion, The Sun, Christian Century, and the anthologies Best American Spiritual Writing (Houghton Mifflin), Wendell Berry and Religion(University Press of Kentucky), and State of the World 2011—Innovations that Nourish the Planet (Norton). His writing has received a number of grants and awards, including a William Raney scholarship in nonfiction at Bread Loaf Writers Conference, an Award of Excellence from the Associated Church Press, a Kellogg Food & Community fellowship at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and a North Carolina Artist fellowship in creative nonfiction from the NC Arts Council. In addition to his writing, Bahnson is an experienced permaculture gardener. The co-founder of Anathoth Community Garden in Cedar Grove, NC, he has practiced and taught regenerative agriculture for the past ten years.


Contact Information

Fred Bahnson | Director, Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative