Honing Her Voice

Kelsi Folsom

Kelsi Folsom has been a part of just about any kind of church experience you can imagine — from Episcopalian to Pentecostal. Rather than encouraging her to pick a single expression of faith, these divergent experiences have driven her to keep exploring the many available expressions of faith and exploring her own experiences — including the painful ones — with honesty, eloquence, and a comfort with the unknowable.

 “I am too curious, and God is too big, for just one form of expression,” she says.

Folsom has found many ways to explore creativity and faith. She earned a Bachelor of Music from Anderson University, and she has performed professionally in opera and musical theater. She has lived internationally — in Italy as a child and in the Caribbean as an adult — and participated in mission and service trips. More recently, she has focused on writing and has published three books of poetry, including Breaking the Jar, published in 2022 by Finishing Line Press.

 Folsom wrote the poems in the collection in response to trauma she experienced as a child and young adult, and she hopes they can be especially helpful to other women who have had similar experiences and are working to rebuild their faith and sense of security. “The poems are exploring the question, ‘what does it mean to bring the inner child back to life?’’’

Originally from Texas, Folsom now lives in Lima, Ohio, with her husband, a medical resident, and their four young children. She recently began work towards the Master of Arts in Theopoetics and Writing. She appreciates how the flexibility of the program, and the availability of financial aid, have made it possible for her to make time for her writing and explore theology more deeply.

“Entering the MATW program showed me there is a community of people like me! Since I am a mother and a person who has moved around a lot, it is not always easy to connect with others and find space for my creativity and theological explorations. Getting to know my classmates has given me an awareness that there are others who value this work in the margins of their lives.”

Although she wasn’t familiar with theopoetics before she learned about Bethany, Folsom says that the courses and approach offered at the Seminary align with her interests and educational goals.

“As I started writing and writing poetry more seriously, I found that the poets I was most drawn to are pastors, mystics, and theological thinkers,” she says. “I am the type of person who reads scriptural commentaries and theological books for fun! The courses I have taken at Bethany marry my various interests. I think this program is a perfect match for how I was created to inhabit the world.”

While studying at a distance, Folsom has formed relationships with fellow students through private messages, and through shared enthusiasm for, and engagement with, books and ideas. She finds it encouraging to know that, like her, her classmates have full lives, yet still seek out opportunities to engage with big ideas, discover creative expressions for their faith, and support one another.

“I sometimes wish I could be at Bethany in person. My classmates and I can’t meet at a coffee shop to talk about class, but there is still a strong connection,” she says. “This program is like an online monastery. It is challenging and life giving. It keeps me in contact with the work.”

Looking to the future, Folsom hopes that the MATW will bring an added degree of credibility and authority to future books that she writes, and to make her, “a more informed pastoral writer.” She looks forward to using her knowledge and talents to bring people together, perhaps hosting a meeting space where individuals who are interested in theology and arts might come together.

“I hope to help others find a safe space to explore their faith and grow in their understanding,” she says.

This article was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2023 issue of Wonder & Word magazine.