Author. Facilitator. Story-Practitioner. Conflict Mediator. Educator.
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Michael McRay is a writer, facilitator, and story-practitioner. His work explores the capacity of narrative to reduce harm, transform conflict, and reconcile relationships. Through his platforms, he prioritizes the sharing of stories that people rarely hear, the ones he believes can help save us from our division and despair.
Michael is the author of multiple books, published articles, and contributed book chapters. He’s the co-editor of the popular Keep Watch with Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers, and his most recent book I Am Not Your Enemy received praise from internationally acclaimed authors, like Ishmael Beah, Raja Shehadeh, Becca Stevens, Pádraig Ó Tuama, and National Book Award winner Colum McCann.
Michael’s story-work has taken him the world over. With over 20 years of visits to Israel and Palestine, Michael found a deep passion for peacebuilding that has since led him into South Africa, Rwanda, Ireland, and U.S. prisons. During his graduate studies in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin, Michael lived in Belfast and fell in love with live public storytelling and the use of story as a tool for transforming conflict.
Michael is the organizer and host of Tenx9 Nashville, a Belfast-originated monthly community storytelling night for the telling of true stories on stage based on a theme. Michael launched the Tenx9 in Nashville in September 2013 and has run at least one event every month since. Beyond Tenx9 Nashville, he currently works as a story consultant, curator, trainer, and facilitator, most often with two programs: the global nonprofit Narrative 4, using personal story exchanges to build empathy and shatter stereotypes; and The Storytelling Leader, partnering with David Hutchens to help global organizational leaders find and tell the stories that define them.
Michael spent four years volunteering regularly inside maximum security prison, even taking on the responsibilities of a volunteer chaplain in the mental health and death row units of Riverbend prison. In early 2014, Michael organized volunteers to protest policies of the Tennessee Department of Corrections and was consequently banned from Riverbend. He’s been unable to enter Tennessee prisons since. In the fall of 2014, Michael co-founded No Exceptions Prison Collective with the founding director Jeannie Alexander in order to address the systemic issues of injustice in Tennessee prisons. Before being banned, Michael was hosting Tenx9 storytelling on the inside, as well as teaching forgiveness and reconciliation courses as part of Lipscomb University’s LIFE program.
Today, Michael speaks and leads retreats around the themes of story, conflict, reconciliation, and peace. He teaches courses as adjunct faculty at Lipscomb University on reconciliation and forgiveness, conflict resolution, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has spoken across the country, from New York City to Seattle to Malibu to Nashville. His work has been published and discussed with reputable places like Sojourners, BookPage, The Tennessean, The Mennonite World, The Porch Magazine, and Plough Magazine.
Michael is an engaging public speaker, accomplished writer, trained conflict mediator, skilled facilitator, and energizing teacher. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his family. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram at @michaeltmcray.
For more on Michael’s work history, see his LinkedIn page.
- I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World, foreword by Ishmael Beah | 2020
- Keep Watch with Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers, with Claire Brown | 2019
- Where the River Bends: Considering Forgiveness in the Lives of Prisoners, foreword by Desmond Tutu | 2015
- Letters from “Apartheid Street”: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine, foreword by Lee C. Camp | 2013
SELECTED PUBLISHED CONTRIBUTIONS AND ARTICLES:
- forthcoming, “How to Dismantle an Enemy” in Abunasser and Dennis, ed., Voices of Freedom | 2022
- “On Parables: A Litany for Telling Stories to Bridge Divides and Build Empathy” in Britney Winn Lee’s Rally: Communal Prayers for Lovers of Jesus and Justice | 2020
- preface to Tony D. Vick’s Secrets from a Prison Cell: A Convict’s Eyewitness Account of the Dehumanizing Drama of Life Behind Bars | 2018
- Meet a True Story, Plough Magazine
- Him and Her: A Love Story, The Porch Magazine
MAJOR PROJECTS AND WORK:
- Retreats | dive deep into your personal story
- Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling | true personal public storytelling on stage
- Narrative 4 | story circles for empathy building
- The Storytelling Leader | helping organizations and leaders find, craft, and tell their defining stories
- Upcoming Speaking Events and Workshops
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
- Harvard Kennedy School, Executive Certification (in progress), Public Narrative: Leadership, Storytelling, and Action, 2020
- Trinity College Dublin at Belfast, MPhil, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation Studies, 2013
- Lipscomb University, BA, History, 2011
- Master Practitioner, Narrative 4, 2018
- Storywork: A Summer School in Narrative Practice, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, 2018
- Certified Mediator, Different Tracks Global, Northern Ireland, 2013
BIOS FOR EVENT/WEB USE
TWO SENTENCE BIO:
Michael McRay is a Nashville-based writer, facilitator, and story-practitioner, and the author of I Am Not Your Enemy. You can follow him at http://www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook and Instagram.
Michael McRay is a Nashville-based author, story-practitioner, and facilitator, using the power of personal stories to heal harm, make meaning, and create connection. He works most often with the global empathy nonprofit Narrative 4 and hosts Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling. Michael writes and speaks on issues of story, conflict, and reconciliation. You can follow him at http://www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook and Instagram.
Michael McRay is a writer, story-practitioner, and facilitator, using the power of personal stories to heal harm, make meaning, and create connection. He’s the author of multiple books, including his 2020 publication I Am Not Your Enemy: Stories to Transform a Divided World. He works most often with Narrative 4 and The Storytelling Leader, hosts Tenx9 Nashville Storytelling, and lectures at Lipscomb University. Michael holds a Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation from Trinity College Dublin, and an Executive Certification in Public Narrative from the Harvard Kennedy School. His work has been published and discussed in places like Sojourners, BookPage, and Plough Magazine, and he’s been a featured guest on numerous podcasts. He lives in Nashville with his family. You can follow him at http://www.michaelmcray.com and @michaeltmcray on Facebook and Instagram.
“[I Am Not Your Enemy is] important, timely, and needed … McRay … has prepared the path for us to start that journey in finding wisdom again in stories as opposed to fear.”
— Ishmael Beah, bestselling author of A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
“Michael McRay gets poignantly to the heart of the matter. [I Am Not Your Enemy] is a book about the varied faces of grief and love and reconciliation. It is incisive, smart, and acutely necessary for our times.”
— Colum McCann, author Let the Great World Spin, winner of the National Book Award
“Michael McRay is a skillful midwife for deep story.”
— Rita, retreat participant
“Where the River Bends … is rare yet essential if we are going to move to higher ground.”
— Michelle Alexander, author of the bestselling The New Jim Crow
“[I Am Not Your Enemy] is a muscle, an ache, a practice of asking the troubling questions at the heart of peace.”
— Pádraig Ó Tuama, poet, theologian, and author of In the Shelter
“Michael is a rare gift of a facilitator.”
— Julie, retreat participant
“Michael McRay has written a stunning book … [I Am Not Your Enemy] can help all of us get our bearings…”
— Becca Stevens, Founder & President, Thistle Farms
“Michael McRay is a caretaker of stories, and he’s a master at it.”
— Shane Claiborne, bestselling author, speaker, activist, and co-founder of Red Letter Christians
“Pay serious heed to Michael McRay.”
— David Dark, author of Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious