Meda Stamper is a minister-writer in the Presbyterian Church (USA), with a Ph.D. in biblical studies (New Testament). She has served as a pastor in the United Reformed Church in England; has led retreats at Abbaye de Lérins on Île St. Honorat; and has developed one-woman performances of John, Mark, Philippians, Jonah, and the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke, using the biblical texts as her script. She is now offering performances of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) for online groups of any size in exchange for donations to the Equal Justice Initiative (to know more about that, click here). Author of Embodying Mark (for which this website was created in 2014, but it has lingered on since then), she has also written for Journal for Preachers, working preacher.org, and the Feasting on the Word series. Before she went to seminary, she was a writer in Corporate Affairs at The Coca-Cola Company for six and a half years. Before that she lived in Paris for two years, first doing an MA in French and then odd jobs, including one of her favorite jobs ever as a singer/coat-check girl (and then, when it was too warm for coats, a singer/waitress) at the Hollywood Savoy across from the Bourse. Now she lives in the UK, where she writes, studies and contemplates scripture, and prays.
You are invited to visit her on Twitter where she shares things about books and art and animals (including human ones) and the place where love and justice meet.
Meda is an introvert, so social media is 3,000 miles outside her comfort zone.
If you would like her to lead a retreat, preach, teach, or perform for your group, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She has good hope for all people.
A Note from Meda (from the time this website began with the publication of Embodying Mark in 2014, so this is about that and then some more things about her):
I’m pleased you’ve stopped by. If you are studying Mark, I wish you well in your exploration of the God’s beautiful, disorienting, grace-full story of love.
I have spent much of my life loving John best. When I am immersed in John, I feel as if I am walking in a redwood forest, something deeply beautiful and too big for me to take it in — even the individual parts are too big. It is a place in which I am also mysteriously at home.
I have a completely different sense of things when I am in Mark. Mark meets me in the disorienting, messy places in my heart and my life and the world and walks with me there. If Mark is also a kind of forest for me (which it probably is — although there is also a lot of water in Mark), it has more undergrowth than John. I used to think of Luke as my favorite Synoptic (I no longer have a favorite), but there were little details in Mark that drew me (for example, in Mark, Jesus loves the rich man who can’t give up his money — he loves him, and I am touched by that — and there are other similarly touching details). And the ending. What an ending is Mark 16:1-8.
My dissertation for my Ph.D. was on the ending of John. I am very drawn to beginnings and endings of Gospels.
I developed a performance of Mark after I had been performing John for some years, and performing Mark was a completely different experience. When I perform a Gospel, I memorize the text itself; I begin with the NRSV, but I add in some King James if I think we’ll all be wanting to hear that in places, and sometimes I change something if I feel it doesn’t reflect my understanding of the Greek or if I think saying it a different way clarifies it (sometimes I change something in performance because I have made a mistake, so if you are ever seeing or hearing me perform and wonder about some choice I made, maybe it wasn’t a choice). I play the role of the narrator. I tell it as my story, but as a storytelling narrator would tell it — so I act out the parts in the way that we do when we tell a story. And I choreograph movement into the performance, so that it also becomes a kind of dance for me sometimes. So for a little while I become the story, or it becomes me.
What I found was that embodying Mark was both more stimulating and more exhausting than embodying John because Mark, as I said, seems to emerge right from the hurting places in the world. John responds to that hurt deeply. Mark shares it intimately.
Jesus does not shirk the pain and confusion of the world. He comes to it. This is true in every Gospel. Completely. And so we go there with him when we choose to locate ourselves in his Good News and when we choose to embody God’s love ourselves. We go there, but we don’t settle into the pain. Jesus changes things, and God’s love changes things. So we become part of the hopefulness. God’s light shines into darkness even through the cracks in our earthen vessels.
What I have tried to do in Embodying Mark is offer you ways into an experience that will be equivalent to the one I have when I perform the Gospel. I have not suggested that you memorize it and develop a performance because that is not necessary or important. That is not the point of what I do, and it isn’t the most important part of how I get there. What I experience, the gift to me, is an intimate multi-dimensional engagement with the Gospel — spiritual, intellectual, physical, creative. Then where that ends up is in my particular creative expression, or embodiment, of the story. So I have sought in this little book to offer you a similarly multi-dimensional way into the Gospel and to invite you to consider your own places to end up, your own embodiment. While my performance is a creative embodiment in the form of storytelling of God’s good news, it is not my only creative embodiment of God’s Good News (sometimes my embodiment is preaching or a retreat or something I write or just some small part of my life where I have the grace to be fully loving for a minute), and I know that you embody it in many ways that are unique to you. This book is meant to come alongside you in that, to be like a guidebook for a place you may already know well, but sometimes it helps to read about what someone else loves or has experienced in the same place. That opens it up for us in a different way. My favorite books are often ones in which I read what I already know, but having someone else say it in his way makes me hear it afresh.
As I have said in the Thanks at the beginning of the book, it came to feel like my love letter to God and neighbor. I hope you will feel loved reading it.
Here is a bit more about me.
I live in Britain but am from the American South. I lived in Paris for two years as a young woman and in the South of France for the first year of my marriage to my British husband, and France is also a country of my heart.
Here are some things I especially love about Britain: footpaths (the picture just here was taken at Bradgate Park, a lovely place near our home, where Lady Jane Grey grew up; if you click on it and then zoom in, you will discover that the tiny brown specks in the distance are deer; many of the photos you’ll see on this website — almost all of them, I guess — were taken on walks I had with my husband), the BBC, summer, Eton mess, the Lake District, Edinburgh, our garden (what we would call the yard in the US), sitting in our horse chestnut tree with a book and a cat, bluebells.
Here’s are some things I especially love about the US: people who have known me forever and so what I do today is of relatively little consequence because we already know we love each other and we already know who we are to one another; the sense of space; places I have been going my whole life and where my heart feels deeply at rest; the sounds in the yard (what we would call the garden in the UK) of the house where I grew up, and now that I think about it also the sounds that I hear when I sit on the front porch of the house in the mountains of northwestern North Carolina where my family always went in summer and where I still go when I can.
Here’s what I especially love about Paris: Paris.
Here’s what I especially love everywhere: books, cats (here is my favorite cat video for the cat lovers among you) and other creatures, chocolate, daffodils, Christmas, birthdays, the performing arts, museums (the ones that aren’t too big and aren’t too small), sitting and thinking, the presence of people I love (but we all love that).
Here are some churches of my heart (there are others, and I realize as I read this that they are important too, but I won’t try to say everything because it isn’t possible, and you’ll get bored): I was baptized at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in NYC as an infant. I went to preschool and grew up at Eastminster Presbyterian in Atlanta. I joined First Presbyterian, Atlanta, when I was in college and was later ordained there. I did my congregational internship at First Presbyterian, Lynn Haven, Florida. My first true community of faith in the UK was at Westminster College, Cambridge, where they took me in as a visiting scholar so that I could finish my Ph.D. And the first church where I served as minister was Anstey URC. In my second year in Paris, I used to go every Sunday evening to hear Cardinal Lustiger, the Archbishop of Paris, preach at Notre Dame, and he was wonderful. In my summers growing up, my father did volunteer ministry in the Appalachian mountains, and a group of churches felt like home — Gillespie, Foster Memorial, Lansing, Whitetop — those were all Presbyterian — but then I remember once going to Vacation Bible School at Phoenix Baptist (where 30 years later I performed John). I was very small, and I was standing at the front with my class on the final day when the parents were there, and we were supposed to be the disciples, and I was wearing a bathrobe with a cup towel on my head, and I said, “I am James and John the Sons of Thunder.” Then we sang “Put your hand in the hand,” and I felt it was rather racy and not something Presbyterians would sing, and that gave it a frisson of excitement.
The most important thing I can say as a person of faith is this: God loves you.