For as long as I can remember I’ve had a vague idea that my life purpose is to help people. Just how that should play out was not very clear for a very long time.
I’ve held positions in sports PR and the hotel business. Years later when I started a position at a United Methodist Church retreat center a tug to go to learn more about my faith grew stronger.
I entered Columbia Theological Seminary in 1995. At the time I was divorced with two small boys. I worked full-time and went to school full-time and had to squeeze in work-study hours too. I married my husband, a photographer half way through my first year of seminary. Our daughter arrived two years later. It was a chaotic time.
As I struggled to discern where God was calling me, a thought came to me. My husband is a member of a group called Christians in Photojournalism. I began pondering what it would look like to be a caring presence for all journalists.
Early in my sports PR career I learned about the difficulties in being a journalist from a videographer friend. He told me back in 1981 that when lists of most dangerous jobs come out, photojournalists/videographers are usually at the top. That thought haunted me for years.
In the middle of my long tenure in seminary, it took 7 years to finish what is usually a three-year full-time program, I began to investigate what support was available for journalists. I found a group, not a faith-based organization, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma , that understands what I knew inside. The Dart Center offers tips for journalists on how to take care of them self after covering a traumatic events. I began corresponding with the executive director and the founder of the Dart Center.
During the 2001-2002 school year, my final year at Columbia, I was admitted to a clinical pastoral education (CPE) group. My context for ministry was working with journalists in the press room at Georgia Tech football and basketball games and the Men’s Final Four. While the journalists weren’t covering trauma, the access to reporters and photojournalists led to incredible conversations. I learned that year that journalists do benefit from having a caring presence in their midst.
The years after graduation were filled with wonderful opportunities to grow and meet journalists. I produced an interfaith dialogue cable television program called Faith And The City Forum: Interfaith Dialogue on Civic Issues. It was an exciting time.
Before the war in Iraq started I began a prayer list for journalists who were covering the conflict. The list grew and eventually my husband helped me put it on my website. Soon the National Press Photographers Association posted a link to the list and emails began coming in thanking me for my efforts. After developing regular communications with journalists in war zones, I knew this is what God called me to do.
Unfortunately my path with the organized church was not so clear. While I knew I was called to be a caring presence for journalists, finding a way to be ordained to that ministry did not develop. I claimed my call and moved forward.
Since that time I’ve had the privilege to be present for scores of journalists as they wrestled with the news stories they have covered. Even though I am not ordained I’ve had some incredible opportunities:
- Interviewed for the documentary War and Truth
- Interviewed on the Atlanta NBC station about journalism and trauma
- Led a break out session about pastoral care and journalists at the Workplace Chaplaincy conference at the Yale Center for Faith and Life
- Led a session for the Association of Professional Chaplains.
- Participated in a series of meetings at the Carter Center hosted by the Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism program
- Completed a year of Clinical Pastoral Education at the Atlanta VA Medical Center
I experienced a shift in my focus when my oldest son decided to attend The Citadel on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship. In spite of my personal feelings about the dangers of being in the military, I learned how to be a supportive parent in a very tough environment.
I realized that God was now calling me to be a pastoral presence with anxious parents. I started a blog site so anyone searching for information on preparing for knob (freshman) year could find it.
I continue to stay in touch with quite a few journalists while I keep up the blog site geared toward Citadel families. Both have a common thread of supporting people in stressful situations and working against the negative stigma of getting help for mental illness. My goal is to spread this work through speaking engagements to congregations. Please be in touch if you would like to learn more.
In April of 2014, Dorie Griggs was named the 2014 Pioneer in Ministry Award recipient by Columbia Theological Seminary in appreciation for her ministry of presence with journalists and for her support of parents of Citadel cadets. She is a member of: the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies; The Ochberg Society for Trauma Journalism; the Military Ministry at Roswell Presbyterian Church; and is a volunteer with the Atlanta Citadel Club. She just completed her 21st year as a press box volunteer with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Prior to seminary, Dorie had a career in various public relations and marketing positions in college and professional sports and the hospitality industry,
Dorie is the mother to 3 children and is married to Stanley Leary, a freelance photographer.
Contact Dorie here: email@example.com
Ministry Extra (formerly Monday Extra) both highlights bloggers in our web ring writing about the work of ministry and profiles women doing innovative ministry. Do you have an idea for a feature, or are you engaged in innovative ministry? Email RevGals Director Martha Spong at revgalblogpals at gmail dot com.