Hello. My name is Michael. Thanks for visiting my site.
I’m an author, educator, bridging-divides facilitator, and curator of storytelling. My writing on this blog, broadly speaking, focuses on building peace in contexts of deep division. I explore this through:
- of peacebuilding and hope around the world
- from my own life and work
- that may challenge many of our political and religious assumptions
- musings on how to read the Bible to help us deal with the pain of our present politics
- in the service of peace, social justice, and inclusivity
- on current political crises that threaten or prevent peace
- on the benefits and barriers of current social justice efforts
I post a couple times a month (not too much, out of respect for your inbox). I hope you’ll subscribe (you can do that here, just to the right, or at the bottom of the page). If you do subscribe, I’ll send you my free eBook Cracks of Hope: Stories and Snapshots from Divided Lands as a thank-you.
At the top here, you’ll see some of the bullet points of my life for those who just want to skim. If you want a little more depth, skip on down below. If you’re new to my page, you can see some of my top posts in the sidebar to the right. I’ve got my social media links over there too.
I seek to create a more beautiful world—where all relationships are being reconciled— by striving to speak and teach with wisdom, write with honesty and hope, and facilitate the telling of true, authentic, personal stories.
I work to present a platform for the telling of stories that people rarely hear.
- MPhil (with Distinction), Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Studies, Trinity College Dublin, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 2013
- BA (summa cum laude), History, Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN, 2011
- Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners | 2015
- Letters from “Apartheid Street”: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine | 2013
- co-author with Tony D. Vick, Secrets from a Prison Cell: A Convict’s Eyewitness Account of the Dehumanizing Drama of Life Behind Bars | 2018
- Personal blog
- Online mentions of me and my work/writing
SPEAKING, FACILITATING, AND STORYTELLING:
- Public Talks and Lectures
- Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling
- Narrative 4
- Adjunct Faculty at Lipscomb University
TWO SENTENCE BIO FOR WEBSITE USE:
Michael McRay is a Nashville-based author, educator, bridging-divides facilitator, and curator of storytelling. You can follow him at www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
SHORT BIO FOR EVENT USE:
Michael McRay is an author, educator, and facilitator, using the power of personal stories to bring people together and transform division. He founded and hosts Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling, facilitates story-exchanges as a Master Practitioner with Narrative 4, and lectures at Lipscomb University. Michael lives in Nashville with his wife Brittany and their two terriers. You can follow him at www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
MEDIUM BIO FOR EVENT USE:
Michael McRay is a writer, educator, and facilitator in Nashville, TN, using the power of personal stories to bring people together and transform division. He’s the author Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners and Letters from “Apartheid Street”: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine. He founded and curates Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling, facilitates story-exchanges as a Master Practitioner Candidate with Narrative 4, and lectures on international conflict, reconciliation, and forgiveness at Lipscomb University. Michael did graduate school in Belfast where he studied conflict resolution and reconciliation. He is currently working on his next book, tentatively titled The Stories that Might Save Us, about his 2015 travels through Israel, Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa, interviewing over 50 people on their stories and perspectives of reconciliation, justice, and forgiveness.You can follow him at www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
I have lived in Tennessee my whole life. I studied history at Lipscomb University here in town, and did my MPhil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin | at Belfast. I was raised in rural Appalachia where my father ran a small clinic for the un- and underinsured. He taught me the power of hearing and telling stories that transform our engagement with the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his Letters and Papers from Prison, “It is of incomparable value that we have come to see the great events of world history from below.” I have now come to see my vocation as presenting a platform for the telling of stories that people rarely hear.
Between college and grad school, I spent three months in the West Bank with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and I published my first book—Letters from “Apartheid Street”: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine—from reflections I wrote during that time. While in Belfast for grad school, I became more convinced of the importance of facilitating transformative encounters between people through the sharing of their personal stories. I participated in the Journey Through Conflict story exchange workshop of Alistair Little and Wilhelm Verwoerd, as well as received mediation training from Colin Craig at the Corrymeela Community. I also discovered Pádraig Ó Tuama and Paul Doran’s Tenx9 (“ten by nine”) monthly community storytelling night where 9 people have up to ten minutes each to tell a real story from their lives. After receiving permission from them to start the first Tenx9 chapter outside of Belfast, I began Tenx9 in Nashville in September 2013 and have run it every month since.
After returning from Belfast, I began working on a project that eventually became my second book, Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners, that looks at fourteen stories of prisoners in Nashville and weaves their testimonies into the conversations on forgiveness. Having spent four years as a volunteer at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution here in town, I knew these people well and had their trust for this project. I also ran Tenx9 inside Riverbend until I was eventually banned by the warden for organizing on behalf of the insiders’ well-being.
For the last four years, I have also taught as an adjunct at Lipscomb, where I did my undergrad degree. Depending on the semester, I facilitate courses on international conflict resolution, storytelling, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, restorative justice, and forgiveness and reconciliation. For a time, I was employed at the Tennessee Justice Center, a small non-profit law firm where I worked on the campaign to expand Medicaid in Tennessee. I built a story bank of uninsured people in the coverage gap, trying to put a human face on the issue of health care for all. And in December 2017 I began work as a Master Practitioner with Narrative 4, an incredible non-profit building empathy around the world through the exchanging of personal narratives.
Finally, I am currently working on my next book that documents my Fall 2015 project when I traveled through Israel-Palestine, Northern Ireland, and South Africa interviewing over 50 people on their stories and thoughts regarding reconciliation, justice, forgiveness, and trauma. Get my FREE eBook of pictures and short stories from that project here! I returned to Belfast in March 2018 to shadow to Pádraig Ó Tuama at the Corrymeela Community to gain further training on facilitation.
I am compelled by peace and justice issues, especially as they relate to Israel-Palestine and U.S. prisons. I am fascinated by the role of storytelling in conflict transformation, trauma healing, and reconciliation; the intersections between religion and violence, forgiveness and reconciliation; theologies of liberation, nonviolence, and reconciliation; history told from below; and deconstructing the myths we build around ourselves.
Also, I especially love American Folk and Celtic music, Irish and Scottish whiskeys, coffee shops, the smell of incense, Netflix and bowl of good pasta, and meaningful conversations among good company.