Beginning July 2018, the Rev. Dr. Joanne Braxton is a half-time consulting minister at All Souls, with responsibilities for pastoral and spiritual care and adult spiritual development. Dr. Braxton is a published poet and a scholar, a gifted pastoral care-giver, spiritual director, and a student and teacher of contemplative traditions and spiritual practice. She is a long-time meditator who has studied mindfulness with Saki Santorelli and narrative medicine with Rita Charon. Fresh from the completion of a unit of clinical pastoral education in 2015, Dr. Braxton started attending All Souls Church regularly during her 18 months as David B. Larson Fellow in Spirituality and Health at the Library of Congress John W. Kluge Center, where her research centered on African-American well-being. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and advanced degrees in Spirituality and Ministry from the Pacific School of Religion, and from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. Both Unitarian Universalist and an ordained United Church of Christ (UCC) minister, she joined the Unitarian Universalist Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1989. Dr. Braxton has been a staff minister at The Great Awakening United Church of Christ in Portsmouth, Virginia, and an interfaith campus minister and distinguished professor of the humanities at the College of William & Mary, from which she retired emerita in June 2018, after many years of honorable service. She also founded and directed the William & Mary Africana Studies Program Middle Passage Project from 1995-2018. Dr. Braxton is no stranger to the All Souls pulpit, and she has preached at Cedar Lane and at the Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church as well as the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, California, among other churches and William & Mary’s historic Wren Chapel. Dr. Braxton has spoken on her original concept of “Organic Universalism” at the UU General Assembly, powerfully impacting younger UU scholars. As her current research and writing bridges spirituality and health, she continues her relationship as community faculty at Eastern Virginia Medical School, where she occasionally co-teaches with medical faculty. Her consulting clients have included not only All Souls Church, but the University of Virginia Nursing School, Duke University, NIH, NEH and the Unitarian Universalist Association, among others. From time to time, you might even hear her on National Public Radio or CSPAN.
In 2012, together with a group of professionals who had once been her students, Dr. Braxton founded the Braxton Institute for Sustainability, Resiliency and Joy, an organization that “fosters physical, emotional, and spiritual sanctuary for those building a more just, joyful and sustainable world” and moves the voices and experiences of women of color from the margins to the center of public dialogue. In September 2017, the Braxton Institute co-sponsored a national advanced training on Moral Injury and Collective Healing for 100 caregivers in collaboration with Volunteers of America and the Soul Repair Center of Brite Divinity School. Local projects include the Braxton Institute Dialogues on Surviving and Thriving, which occur quarterly at the Potter’s House on Columbia Road. In addition to her work with the Institute, Dr. Braxton is a member of the Moral Injury and Repair section steering committee of the American Academy of Religion, a member of the American Society for Bio-ethics and Humanities, and a member of the Society for the Study of Black Religion and other professional ministry-related organizations. Dr. Braxton’s books include Sometimes I Think of Maryland (1977), Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition (1989), Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance (1989), The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1993), Monuments of the Black Atlantic: Slavery and Memory (2003), Black Female Sexualities (2017), and other books, articles, and essays. She was also editor for the influential Praeger-Greenwood Women Writers of Color Biography series, editing the following works by authors she recruited:
- Alice Walker: A Woman for Our Times, by Deborah Plant, 2017.
- A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara, Writer and Activist, by Linda Janet Holmes. 2014.
- Louise Erdrich: Tracks on a Page by Frances Washburn. 2013.
- Nikki Giovanni: A Literary Biography, by Virginia Fowler, 2012.
- Sandra Cisneros: Crossing Borderlands, by Carmen H. Rivera, 2009.
- Zora Neale Hurston: A Biography of the Spirit, by Deborah Plant, 2007.
- June Jordan: Her Life and Letters, by Valerie Kinloch, 2006.
- Lucille Clifton: Her Life and Letters, by Mary Jane Lupton, 2006.
Dr. Braxton also wrote the Daily Practices section of the extensive UCC “Honoring the Body” curriculum. She is married to her soul-mate and friend of more than 30 years, Rebecca Ann Parker, and she is the mother of one adult child, a proud UU.