Matushka Constantina Palmer is a Canadian living in Thessaloniki, Greece; Kelly Lardin hails from Chicago; Jan Bear and Bev Cooke live in the Northwest (Portland and Victoria, BC). Katherine Johnson is a Texan and Heather Zydek resides in Wisconsin.
This geographically diverse group of women have something in common, however. They all attend parishes within the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), and they are all bloggers for the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) blog, The Sounding.
Explains The Sounding’s blog chief, Melinda Johnson, “our mission is to support the spiritual and natural well-being of our readers by providing well-written, positive, and thought-provoking Orthodox Christian content…our goal is to take Orthodoxy into the real world around us, to probe the depths, and to write about what we find. Our bloggers were already finding ways to contribute before they came to us, as published authors, bloggers, teachers, and in many other ways.”
Continues Melinda, “what’s beautiful to me about The Sounding is how much love goes into it. We publish new content every weekday and often over the weekend as well. It takes hours of concentrated effort and reflection to write well, and our bloggers are busy people with jobs and families. When you are given a real gift, you find a way to share it.”
The gifted women in the OCA are finding ways to share their writing. Matushka Constantina Palmer is married to an OCA deacon. “We are originally from the Maritimes (Atlantic Canada),” she explains, “but my husband and I are currently living in Thessaloniki, Greece, where I am in the process of finishing my Master’s degree.” In addition to her studies in theology and her iconography work, while in Greece Matushka also wrote The Scent of Holiness: Lessons from a Women’s Monastery, slated to be published by Conciliar Press later this year. Matushka blogs about spirituality, the Orthodox heritage of Greece, and the lives of saints.
Kelly Lardin has been a member of Holy Trinity Cathedral Parish in Chicago since 2004, where she serves on the Parish Council and as the Sisterhood secretary. “We were impressed by the beauty and holiness of the Cathedral when we visited one weekend while we were searching for an apartment. When we actually found an apartment just a few blocks from the Cathedral, we knew it would be our home. The parish has a rich Russian history, having been built by Louis Sullivan under the leadership of St. John Kochurov of Chicago, and consecrated by St. Tikhon of Moscow in 1903. Despite our lack of Russian ancestry, we were welcomed by the other parishioners and consider them our family.”
Continues Kelly, “I enjoy having a venue to share my creative endeavors and thoughts on a multitude of subjects, including faith issues.” A children’s author, Kelly’s board book Josiah and Julia go to Church was published by Conciliar Press, and Kelly also writes for her personal blog, A Day’s Journey.
Author Jan Bear attends St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Portland. “It’s a warm and friendly parish,” she notes, “made up mostly of converts but with immigrant parishioners from around the world. The parish puts a high value on aesthetics, from the very Northwest style of the new church building, to our choir, to the stunning frescoes and icons by Heather MacKean. We’ve got a more-than-representative number of writers in the parish. I’ve also recently taken on the task of revamping the parish website, but there’s nothing visible above ground yet.”
Jan is the author of Daily Prayer for Orthodox Christians, a handbook of the Hours of the Church for ordinary Christians in everyday prayer. She also helps authors and small-business owners meet their audience and express their message effectively through website creation, writing, and other methods, at MarketYourBookBlog.com.
Author and The Sounding blogger Bev Cooke has been writing for publication since 1989. She has three young adults books on the market: Keeper of the Light, about St. Macrina the Elder (Conciliar Press), Royal Monastic, a biography of Mother Alexandra of Romania (also Conciliar), and Feral, a mainstream novel (Orca Book Publishers). Her latest publication, a departure from her regular work, was an Akathist to St. Mary of Egypt published by Alexander Press. She wrote this partly as a response to the case of seventy missing women from downtown Vancouver’s east side, in a plea to St. Mary of Egypt to pray for those women and all street men and women.
Bev attends All Saints of Alaska parish in Victoria. “It really is like a family,” she says. “Like a family, we don’t get along all the time, but the bonds of our commitment to Christ and our love for each other, help us get past the difficulties. As a founding member, I was really busy in the parish for a number of years.” Among other things, Bev ended up as leader of “Sandwich Saturday.” “We prepare and give out bag lunches to people on the street on Saturday afternoons, hence the title.”
About her writing impulse, Bev notes, “there is so much richness in our faith, and I want to share that with people - both my brothers and sisters in the faith who haven’t maybe yet found some of the treasures I’ve stumbled across, and people in the secular world who don’t understand Eastern Christianity and are perhaps looking for exactly what we’ve got. Even if they’re not, if I can extend their understanding and tolerance of religion and religious people, then I think that’s a good and worthwhile goal.”
Authors Katherine Johnson and Heather Zydek round out the stable of OCA The Sounding bloggers. Katherine Johnson is a homeschool mother of seven who is in the midst of writing an Orthodox homeschool curriculum, first through twelfth grade, called Ages of Grace. Over two hundred families are using the curriculum in its first year and all sales of the curriculum benefit the building of an Orthodox mission in North Texas.
Heather Zydek is a writer, teacher, and Master Gardener who hails from the Midwest. She writes about the themes of environmental sustainability and caring for creation, as well as social justice. “If we look carefully enough,” writes Heather in her recent blogpost, “we can see God all around us. Of course, it’s easy to see God in the beautiful: in flowers, in the ocean, in the eyes of a newborn child. It can be harder to see God in a heaping pile of compost. And yet, there He is, demonstrating His Paschal gift to us in the most beautiful way.” Heather’s articles have appeared in numerous publications and on her website. She has also written two youth novels, Basil’s Search for Miracles and Stranger Moon.