Sowing the Word
God gave us the Word in a man's life and in the story of that life. Jesus was fully human, fully divine. In the hands of poets and storytellers, this paradox is explicated, troubled, returned to and retold with elegance and beauty. Flannery O'Connor spoke of "gestures" of grace which, embedded in stories, can illuminate spiritual realities that would be difficult to convey in any other form. The dialogue arising from a work of excellence can seed ideas and images that take root in the most unlikely places.
The Milton exists to nourish the work of excellent Christian writers—writers whose solid, troubling, ecstatic, and revelatory work expresses their own encounters with the mystery of faith. The more Christian writing achieves literary excellence, the better its chances of offering a compelling vision of incarnation to the world.
History of the Milton Fellowship
The Milton Center was founded in 1986 by the spiritual writer Richard Foster at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. A weekly workshop for local Christian writers led to the establishment of the Center for Christian Writing. With a grant from Dr. Stanley Kardatzke and, later, another grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the center was renamed after the poet John Milton and moved to Newman University. Past directors of the Center have included Harold Fickett, Virginia Stem Owens, Essie Sappenfield, and Debra Seely.
One outgrowth of the Milton Center was the Chrysostom Society, a group of Christian writers which meets once a year. Members gather both for fellowship and to reflect on ways to promote excellence in writing and publishing by Christians. Members of the Society include such well-known Christian authors as Madeleine L'Engle, Eugene Peterson, Luci Shaw, and Philip Yancey.
For a brief period in the 1990s, the then fledgling journal Image came to the Milton Center, where it began publishing on a regular schedule. In 1994, The Milton Center and Image sponsored "Spanning the Gap," the first in a series of writing festivals, featuring Annie Dillard, winner of the 1994 Milton Center Prize for her contribution to Christian arts and letters. In 1995 the two organizations founded the Glen Workshop, which has brought aspiring writers and artists from all over the country to study with some of the leading contemporary writers and artists of Christian faith: Ron Hansen, Paul Mariani, Doris Betts, Makoto Fujimura, Jeanne Murray Walker, Emilie Griffin, Kate Daniels, Diane Glancy, Dan Wakefield, Julia Kasdorf, Edward Knippers, Erin McGraw, Theodore Prescott, and Mark Jarman. In 1995 poet Richard Wilbur received the Milton Center Prize at the Glen Workshop.
In 2003, the Milton Center moved to Seattle and became the Milton Fellowship, sponsored by Image.