First, a big announcement: my book, provisionally titled Redemption of a Murderer: The Judy Neelley Story has been accepted for publication with the publishing house of Wipf and Stock. If you want to know when it is in print, message me through "Contact Me." I will be delighted to keep you up-to-date.
Moving town to town was normal for the first decades of my life. By the time I was graduated from high school I had lived in ten homes, gone to seven schools, and lived in seven towns in two states. By my late twenties I had expanded my states by four and added a country.
I would christen every new home by staring out a window and crying. Exhaustion from the move, separation, and loneliness spilled over. Then it was time to acclimate to a different environment and begin the process of meeting new people and developing friendships. I and my family of five siblings and two parents had been uprooted and replanted.
Because my father was a Methodist pastor, he was under the direction of a bishop. In each pastoral assignment there was a community of strangers who helped us put down the roots we needed to thrive. I lost many things and people for whom I cared. And I gained a way of negotiating life that has steadied me countless times. By the time I was in junior high I was writing scripts for our church youth group, leaving a part of me behind when we moved on. The premiere of my one-act play, “Shelter for the Dying” was when I was a senior at Durant, Oklahoma High School. (There was no extended run.) The drama teacher asked me when I had written the play. I may have crushed her image of the solitary artist secluded for hours, for I honestly replied, “while I was watching Jack Paar.”
It took three colleges before I was awarded a bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I didn’t flunk out; I transferred. When I told my art teacher in high school that I was going to major in art education, her lukewarm response was, “I guess you are good enough.” I had hoped for more encouragement, but I knew that it was a back-up degree on my way to seminary. My first stint at Drew Theological School in New Jersey produced a Master’s in Christian Education. When I returned in the 80s, I was awarded a Master of Divinity in order to fulfill my sense of call to ordination.
In between those two seminary degrees I taught in a public school, lived three years in Germany, was an adjunct instructor at Huntington College in Alabama, worked as a Christian educator, was a prison chaplain, and wrote stories.
Early in my marriage, my husband attended Duke University for his doctorate, and I taught art, speech and drama in a first—twelfth grade county school. When it was time for a Thanksgiving production I was presented with a dilemma. All of the students were black, and I am white. As diligently as I looked, I found no suitable material. It was the late 60s and a time of protests, marches, riots, and assassinations. A sweet story about beneficent whites encountering brown-skinned naïfs hardly rang relevant. Time for writing another play. That is a story in itself for later telling.
Whether pastoring in a local congregation or as a prison chaplain, I enjoyed writing newsletter columns and sermon creation. In the prison chapel program, I wrote plays to give voice to the angry and destructive impulses.
When I was a prison chaplain in Alabama I recognized the need for intensive spiritual programs for juvenile offenders and designed and wrote "Epiphany," a program for youth offenders “Epiphany” (based on three-day spiritual journeys such as Kairos) is now in eleven states. I also started and was the director of a regional victim-offender reconciliation program in Alabama.
I was a consultant in restorative justice and prison ministry with the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church along with earning a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological School, Georgia with an emphasis in Restorative Justice.
I have added more states to my list and now live in Virginia with my husband. We are fortunate to be near our children and their families: each one extraordinary (for which I take minimal credit).
I have contributed sermons, including children’s sermons to the Abingdon Preacher’s Manual, 1992, 1993, & 1994. These were published by Abingdon Press, Nashville. I contributed seven meditations to the annual devotional book, The Upper Room Disciplines 2010, published by The Upper Room, Nashville. I wrote Climbing Jacobs Ladder: 12 Steps In Your Spiritual Journal, 1990, Abingdon Press, Nashville. The book utilizes the 12 step programs to assist the reader in growing spiritually. The sermons were broadcast internationally by the Protestant Hour (now Day 1).
My current project is a book that grew out of my being a prison chaplain in Alabama. After resigning from that position, I became the spiritual counselor for a woman who was on death row for killing a young teen. She is both an offender and victim. Leading to her incarceration she was subjected to three years of terror at the hands of her husband and through his coercive control committed crimes at his bidding. When her appeals ran out, she was granted clemency and continues in prison. She has been incarcerated for almost forty years. I facilitated her long-held desire to offer apologies to her victims. She has been transformed by her commitment to forgive those who have harmed her and by receiving forgiveness from those whom she harmed.
I am also working on stories from my chaplaincy of three prisons and another on Bible stories that are set in today’s world. My fiction writing is in the form of short stories.
I'm a writer,
a lover of the arts,
and on occasion,
a pot stirrer.