Meet Sophfronia Scott, author of “A Taste of Grace.”
Sophfronia Scott is author of an essay collection, Love’s Long Line (Mad Creek Books/Ohio State University Press), a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World (Paraclete Press), and two novels, Unforgivable Love (William Morrow/HarperCollins) and All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press). Sophfronia teaches at Regis University’s Mile-High MFA and Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Her family attends Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown, Connecticut.
Q & A with Sophfronia Scott
Q: What are your two favorite hymns or songs for worship?
A: My favorite is actually a piece of service music: S-280 Canticle 20, Glory to God: Gloria in excelsis. It feels bright and joyous and I like having this immediate reminder that we’ve gathered to praise and worship God. I also really love—and this may sound strange—the triplets in the music. There are four sets. It’s a rhythm where three notes are played in the space of two. I’m not really a musician but I played clarinet between the ages of 9 and 22 and for some reason this music reminds me of when I learned to play triplets and how I always enjoyed them.
My second favorite? It’s solemn and has brought me to tears, but I love Hymn #172: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord? It’s soulful and reminds me of something my mother might sing. My son did sing it when he was in the children’s choir at our church. I have this lovely memory of him at home playing with his toys and singing this hymn to himself.
Q: What is your favorite worship service or part of the Book of Common Prayer?
A: I’m a big fan of morning prayer. I’ve practiced it on my own and these days I attend the service at Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Morning Prayer is my favorite service in the BCP and I especially love Canticles 9, 10, and 11, which are the first, second, and third songs of Isaiah. I find them hopeful and inspirational. My heart just wants to burst with love whenever I read the opening words of Canticle 11, Surge, illuminare: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.” Such wonderful, glorious words. And in Canticle 10 I consider this an important reminder of how small our human thinking can be: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Because of these words I try to think with a more open mind and to always reach for my better angels.
Q: What projects are you working on now?
A: I write both fiction and nonfiction so I tend to have two books in process at once. Right now I’m writing a novel of historical fiction, set in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Ohio during the Civil War era, about a young orphaned biracial woman making her way in the world. In the nonfiction realm I’m writing about my personal spiritual engagement with the work of Thomas Merton. He’s someone who has felt like a kind of mentor to me despite the fact that he died over fifty years ago. I’m excited about both books so it’s a challenge to split my time between the two, but I’m managing.
Q: One thing you reflect on in your essay is about getting very involved in a variety of ministries in your church. Any words of wisdom about discerning when to say yes and when to say no to a request to serve?
A: It helps to know your spiritual gifts. You can find assessments online to help you, but you might already have a sense of what activities draw you. For example, I’ve never felt a calling to mission and outreach. My gifts focus on teaching, writing, and hospitality. It’s easier to say yes if you know the ministry will make use of your gifts. And the “yes” has to feel like an opening, like the start of an adventure—you don’t know how it will turn out, but you have a sense that you have something to bring to the table and you will be changed by whatever comes of the ministry. That might sound selfish, but if you say yes to something because you feel you should, it will feel like a burden, not service. And if you struggle because the ministry isn’t suited to your talents you won’t be able to bring your best self to it. When you pray about it, you’re seeking clarity on these issues.
Q: Is there a Biblical figure you feel particularly connected to?
A: I’ve long admired and connected with Mary Magdalene because of her fierce love and faith. She was always willing to make the extra effort to show her love. The disciples must have given her a hard time when she showed up and told them Christ had risen. But she knew what she’d seen and stood firm. Like her, I continue to reach for Christ and hope to recognize him when he calls my name.
Read more about Sophfronia, her publications, and find her blog at www.Sophfronia.com
She also has a website for the spiritual memoir she wrote with her son, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World
Follow Sophfronia on Twitter: @Sophronia.
Check out some of Sophfronia’s books: