Q&A with “Bead By Bead” author Suzanne Henley
When did you start writing?
I knew when I first read The Secret Garden when I was nine that writing was what I always wanted to do. It took me wading through a few years and careers in other art forms to finally circle this wagon.
What other careers did you tangle with?
I taught for many years after grad school and marriage; then, as a single parent rearing three children, I worked in public relations, marketing, and development for several Memphis organizations and colleges. And I worked for a hospice agency, probably the most important set of experience of my life. At age 60 I became a residential construction contractor, renovating early 20th century houses with my crew. Simultaneously, I’ve worked in fused glass, creating large wall commissions —and made jewelry, furniture, and, of course, prayer beads that have ended up all over the world. Now, for the past couple of years, I’ve finally been writing creative non-fiction. It’s all been fascinating. My gratitude is enormous for the privilege of working in all these different fields.
How does your book fit in with the emerging church?
It shows ways to incorporate worship and awe into everyday life in direct relationships with others and with oneself, rather than sitting in a pew with worship proscribed by others and in an ordained pattern at a preset time. Yes, of course, communal worship is invaluable, but my concern is showing—particularly for readers who initially might even not be interested in the subject of prayer, how to be aware that our very breaths are prayers and that every person we pass on the sidewalk is not just loved by a God but, like them, is in fact a part of God, a co-creator. It’s a delightful concept to think about—and obviously one of great responsibility.
Are you worried about mainstream churches losing members?—yes and no! It will be exciting to see what details survive this birthing, which ones don’t, and which new ones evolve.
How can you explain a Southern Baptist becoming an Episcopalian?
I think a good half of any Episcopal congregation is probably originally Baptist or Methodist. I feel very lucky to have been born into an embracing Southern Baptist tradition (which I realize not all Southern Baptists were), given a grounding in the marvelous stories of the Bible, which any writer in the South is bound to have been influenced by. The need for mysticism and for ritual and sacraments that speak where words can’t go is what the Episcopal Church has allowed me. The Episcopal Church celebrates metaphor! I am most grateful for the awareness that faith evolves—and must!— and cannot and should not be static. It’s been exciting to watch and be part of this over the years.
Do you have a next book in the works?
Oh, yes! I have a big chunk of incredible life experiences I’ve written about and others waiting impatiently in cue tapping their feet on my computer.