Joanne McDaniel knows that words can be powerful.
As the chief architect of the Hayes Barton Baptist Church monthly newsletter, Faithpoints, McDaniel is on a mission to promote faith through storytelling.
“When I get an opportunity to write something for the church, I hope it will reach someone,” McDaniel said. “If it touches one person and either renews their faith or refreshes their faith or starts a new faith, then I feel like it is worth the effort.”
McDaniel has a background that includes state government, juvenile justice and teaching at N.C. State University. She honed her writing skills thanks to teachers in high school and college, and throughout her career was called on to write.
She stepped away from the working world in 2009 during a change in state government administration, and as she moved further away from her voicemail and inbox, she moved closer to her faith.
“When you work hard like that sometimes you lose sight of what is most important, which is really your connection to God and your faith and your beliefs,” McDaniel said.
She and her husband became active in different ministries at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh. When the Rev. David Hailey sent an email asking a small group of congregants for their thoughts on love, McDaniel answered just like any writer would.
“I was compelled to write this response to him. Instead of just doing a Q-and-A type of response, I did a one-pager,” McDaniel said. “I was finding my voice, but I was listening more for God’s voice.”
Hailey ran that response in the church newsletter and asked McDaniel to become the voice of the publication.
“He was looking for a way to take the newsletter they had been doing and transforming it into something that was more story-based,” McDaniel said. “He was really trying to capture the story of Hayes Barton Baptist Church so that it wouldn’t just be an events-driven kind of document. It would be the kind of document people could pick up and relate to and maybe see themselves in and be inspired by.”
McDaniel threw herself into creating that kind of newsletter, drawing on everything from church events to life experiences to craft the stories that engage the congregation.
“It is sometimes difficult in this particular arena to get people to tell their stories because they are very private and personal, and sometimes people feel like if they’re sharing those stories they are in some way crowing about their faith,” she said. “The way I look at it, if you can make that human connection through a story, much like Jesus did, then you have the opportunity to help someone on their faith journey.”
McDaniel is committed to Faithpoints even as she has transitioned back into the working world in a consulting role.
“In the past my religion was way at the back of the house, and now it’s on the front porch,” she said. “I am trying to balance that out with what’s most meaningful and where I think I can make the most difference in a small way in this world.
“I’m at that point in my life where the big splash is probably not going to come if I jump in the pool, but if I can have that ripple effect and affect one person’s faith and their faith journey, and get them to look at the world the way I do to see the presence of Christ where you can and where you’re open to it, then I think that my writing is a ministry.”
Raleigh author John Meacham will sign copies of his book “Divine Revelation” at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at St. Andrews United Methodist Church.
At the age of 31, Meacham did an about-face and turned his life over to God. The book talks about his faith journey and his mission to share the story of Jesus with the world.
St. Andrews United Methodist is located at 1201 Maxwell Drive in Raleigh.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will host its monthly coffeehouse Friday, May 29. Don Helmey and his band Quench will perform from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the church fellowship hall.
Good Shepherd Lutheran is located at 7000 Creedmoor Road in Raleigh.
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at firstname.lastname@example.org.