Joyce Hollyday is a co-founder and co-pastor of Circle of Mercy, an ecumenical congregation in Asheville, North Carolina. Her most recent book, Pillar of Fire, is a historical novel that celebrates the extraordinary witness of the medieval mystics known as Beguines. She is the author of other several books, including Clothed with the Sun: Biblical Women, Social Justice, and Us and Then Shall Your Light Rise: Spiritual Formation and Social Witness. She was a founding member of Witness for Peace, a grassroots organization committed to nonviolence and led by faith and conscience. She was formerly the Associate Editor for Sojourners. 

Posts By This Author

Daniel Berrigan’s Lifetime of Saying ‘Yes'

by Joyce Hollyday 12-29-2021
The poet, prophet, and priest’s legacy of laughter and delight.
A white man wearing a black turtleneck crinkles his face with exuberant laughter

From the documentary Seeking Shelter: A Story of Place, Faith and Resistance

FOUR DECADES AGO, when I was a young editor at Sojourners, Daniel Berrigan wrote a poem for a special edition of the magazine. The note accompanying it read: “Here’s the poem—my first on a word processor. Seems a bit jumbled. Might have got a food processor by mistake.”

Berrigan has been described often as poet, prophet, and priest. The note reveals another alliterative trio that marked his life: humor, humility, and hospitality. Though I never saw him use a food processor, over the years I enjoyed several delectable dinners he whipped up in his apartment in New York City and his cottage on Block Island, accompanied by his droll wit. Berrigan was engaged in an unflinching, lifelong facedown with the world—observing its worst inhumanities and fully understanding its unlimited capacities for destruction—but he also knew how to be tickled by joy.

Bill Wylie-Kellermann is among those in Berrigan’s close circle who feasted regularly at his table, drawing sustenance from the food, lively conversation, and prophetic insights. Celebrant’s Flame: Daniel Berrigan in Memory and Reflection (Cascade Books) is Wylie-Kellermann’s moving tribute to the man who was first his professor, then his mentor, and ultimately his beloved friend. It is a treasure trove of poems and letters, sermons and speeches, reflections and court testimonies, even a seminary paper—a patchwork sewn into a beautiful whole.

An Unfinished Struggle

by Joyce Hollyday 07-30-2018
Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham, by Melanie S. Morrison. Duke University Press.

THE DEDICATION this spring of a memorial in Montgomery, Ala., to the more than 4,400 African Americans who were lynched in this country between the Civil War and World War II has brought renewed national attention to a historical outrage. Melanie Morrison’s Murder on Shades Mountain: The Legal Lynching of Willie Peterson and the Struggle for Justice in Jim Crow Birmingham reminds us that not all such acts of terrorism and brutality were carried out by white mobs under trees and the cover of darkness. Some were perpetrated in courtrooms in broad daylight.

This meticulously researched book skillfully weaves glimpses of Morrison’s family history into a riveting account of a horrific injustice. On Aug. 4, 1931, three young white women were attacked on a secluded ridge outside Birmingham, Ala. The only survivor, 18-year-old Nell Williams, related that she, her sister, and their friend had been held captive for four hours and “shot by a Negro.” During the largest search party in the county’s history, armed white vigilantes roamed the streets, black businesses were set on fire, African-American men were dragged off trains and out of their beds, with dozens detained, and at least three were murdered.

Glimpses of Hope in the Ruins

by Joyce Hollyday 04-25-2018
What truth and reconciliation commissions can teach post-election America.

ON ELECTION DAY, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan suggested that we may need “a Reconciliation Commission, starting as soon as the results come in—no matter who wins.” In this troubling national moment, stories gleaned from historic truth and reconciliation processes can offer glimpses of hope and guide us forward.

A boy named Free Spirit was only 4 years old when he was wrenched away from his family and forced into a Canadian residential school. A nun gave him a new pair of shoes, which he plunged into a sink filled with water. He was shocked by the beating he received. His Algonquin people always soaked their new moccasins and chewed on them to soften the leather.

Decades later, during Canada’s 2011 Truth and Reconciliation hearings in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Free Spirit joined scores of witnesses who shared their stories of suffering in schools whose purpose was to annihilate their culture. Each evening, all the tissues used to capture the day’s tears were gathered and released into the Sacred Fire that burned outside. There they mingled with ashes that had been carried from previous hearings in other cities.

In the United States, the first large-scale truth and reconciliation process was launched in Greensboro, N.C., in 2005. Its focus was the 1979 Greensboro Massacre, in which members of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party opened fire on marchers demanding economic and racial justice, killing five and wounding 10.

As the hearings opened, Gorrell Pierce, who was the Grand Dragon of the Federated Knights of the KKK in 1979, strode in with a cadre of young white men. African-American community activist and pastor Nelson Johnson, who was wounded in the attack and lost five of his closest friends that day, immediately stood. He walked across the auditorium and made his way down that row of men, shaking every hand and thanking them for coming. Nelson admitted later that it wasn’t his first impulse, but that as a Christian he knew he needed to bring his best self to that encounter and try to reach out to the best self within Pierce.

From the Archives: May 1982

by Joyce Hollyday 05-01-2010
Justice and Charity

The Walls Come Tumbling Down

by Joyce Hollyday 12-01-2009
It's time for a new relationship with Cuba.

A People's School

by Joyce Hollyday 09-01-2002
Word and World : Tucson, Arizona : Nov. 9-16, 2002


by Joyce Hollyday 07-01-1998
Thanks to all the Sojourners readers who over the past 20 years have sent messages lauding or lamenting what I've written.

Once upon a time, I lived on a farm in the mountains of western North Carolina. I had a garden...of sorts. The tomato vines were attacked by some pest or plague and produced exactly one tomato (which, after calculating the cost of the plants, frames, lime, and fertiliizer, was worth about $26). The only things that thrived were my raspberry bushes. I returned home one afternoon, however, to find the goat happily chomping on the last remnant of them. "I can’t grow anything," I said out loud to myself. Then I walked inside and discovered two toadstools growing in the bathroom.

It was damp in western North Carolina. If mildew were a cash crop, I would have been rich the three years I lived there. But abundance came to me in other forms. Friendship. Grace. Hospitality. I rediscovered things I had lost sight of in my last years living with Sojourners Community: the blessings of extended meals and late-into-the-night conversation with friends; the expectant unfolding of the seasons; the mysteries of nature’s bounty.

My closest companion was Savannah, a golden retriever I invited in when I knew I wouldn’t be returning to Sojourners. As I was letting go of a way of life that had spanned 15 years, and was sorely in need of some unconditional love, Savannah arrived with all the grand exuberance and abundant affection of a 7-week-old puppy. She reintroduced me to delight. She lavished me with "gifts" she found and reveled in every day and season, bounding joyfully with equal grace through deep snowdrifts or a pasture bursting with bright yellow buttercups.

Hearts of Stone

by Joyce Hollyday 03-01-1998
room of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission burst open. The parents of Amy Biehl walk in, surrounded by reporters, microphones, and cameras.

With the Eyes of Christ

by Joyce Hollyday 01-01-1998

"From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view....This is from God, who...has given us the ministry of reconciliation."— 2 Corinthians 5:16, 18

Fire, Wind, and Water

by Joyce Hollyday 11-09-1997
A Middle East reflection

Look to the Children

by Joyce Hollyday 11-09-1997

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under...

A Hopeful Slice of History

by Joyce Hollyday 09-01-1997

Four water cannons. Two vicious dogs. Six armored personnel carriers. A score of police.

Wounds and Blessings

by Joyce Hollyday 05-01-1997

It had been several years since I'd visited New York City.

A Circle of Faith

by Joyce Hollyday 03-01-1997

I live encircled by an eruv—though for weeks it was invisible to my eyes. I would not have known what I was seeing, had I noticed it.

A Pretty Pass

by Joyce Hollyday 01-01-1997

Wesley Woods is a United Methodist retirement high-rise in my Atlanta neighborhood.

A Combustible Mix

by Joyce Hollyday 11-01-1996

It feels "normal" again in Atlanta, whatever that means.

Hate Radio

by Joyce Hollyday 09-01-1996

It may be the most creative thing that’s ever happened in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta.

Olympic Meddle

by Joyce Hollyday 07-01-1996

It may be the most creative thing that’s ever happened in Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta.

Come, Ye Disconsolate

by Joyce Hollyday, by Don Mosley 07-01-1996
A Georgia community provides a place at the welcome table.

A Gift of Painful Honesty

by Joyce Hollyday 05-01-1996

She lays her smooth head in her mother's lap. Then she folds her long leg-long for a 9-year-old-under herself, hiding the pink satin ballet slipper on her foot.