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King University News :: Award-winning Poet and Author Kathleen Norris to Present Buechner Institute’s Annual Lectureship on Jan. 26

Each year the Buechner (Beek-ner) Institute at King College hosts its annual Buechner Lectureship.  Past lecturers include Frederick Buechner, for whom the Institute is named, Barbara Brown Taylor, Ron Hansen, Katherine Paterson, and Marilynne Robinson.  This year, the Institute is pleased to present award-winning poet and author Kathleen Norris as the 2013 Buechner Lecturer.  On Saturday, Jan. 26, at First Presbyterian Church in Bristol, Tenn., Norris will begin the days’ events with an on-stage interview at 4 p.m., followed by her lecture at 7 p.m.

Norris, who splits her time between South Dakota and Hawaii, has been featured on the New York Times best-seller list several times.  One of her best known books, “The Cloister Walk,” is a thought-provoking record of a married, Protestant woman's time spent in a community of men in a traditional Benedictine monastery in Minnesota.  Readers have become inspired by Norris's experiences among monks, who, while so little understood in our society, are admirable bearers of tradition, incorporating in their lives the values of stability, silence, and humility that we so desperately need, yet relentlessly avoid.

“She has opened the curtain on the mysterious world of Roman Catholic monasteries -- she’s a sort of Protestant travel guide for those of us who are curious about what goes on inside those cloistered walls,” said Jeff Munroe, member of the Buechner Institute’s National Advisory Board and vice president of advancement and communications at Western Theological Seminary.  “She has also served as a sort of spiritual travel guide to South Dakota, of all places, another mostly unvisited location, and lifted the curtain on what happens in “fly-over” land.”

Norris’ work includes non-fiction work includes “Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith” (1999), “Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants” (2007), and “Sisters” (2012).

Norris’ most recent work, published in Oct. 2012, is “Embracing a Life of Meaning.”  This new work provides a unique viewpoint of what matters most including discussion on our beliefs, community, surroundings, and the Bible. 

“To say that Kathleen Norris is both a poet and the author of books that have been on the New York Times best-seller lists is to say several things at once.  It is to say that she weighs every word she writes and places an enormous value on beauty, rhythm and the use of language,” Munroe added.

A review in the Boston Globe describes Norris’ work as “…a remarkable piece of writing.  If read with humility and attention, Kathleen Norris's book becomes lectio divina, or holy reading.”

After graduating from Bennington College in Vermont in 1969, Norris became arts administrator of the Academy of American Poets and published her first book of poetry two years later.  In 1974, she inherited her grandparents' farm in Lemmon, S.D., moved there with her husband, David Dwyer, joined Spencer Memorial Presbyterian Church, and discovered the spirituality of the Great Plains.

The events of the annual Buechner Lectureship will begin on Jan. 26 with an on-stage interview with Kathleen Norris at 4 p.m., followed by her lecture at 7 p.m.  The events are open to the public and free to attend.  For more information, contact Dale Brown, director of the Buechner Institute at King College, at 423.652.4156 or visit


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