In the spirit of the Celts

Celtic people had prayers and blessings for just about everything they did: milking the cow, stoking the fire, putting yarn on the loom. They saw the power and creative force of God not only in each other but in plants, animals, the sun, the moon and the twinkling stars of night.

The early Celtic Christians retained this sense of interconnectedness and inclusivity, and they honored the diverse gifts of men and women as well as the sacredness of the earth. Early Celtic saints thought of themselves as “hospites mundi” (guests in the world) and sought to live in harmony with their surroundings.

The simple lifestyle of the early Celtic Christians strove to balance solitude and community, contemplation and action, while leaving space for imagination and creativity.

Sound inspiring? A Celtic Spirituality Conference this St. Patrick’s weekend — running Friday, March 16 (6:30-9 p.m.) and Saturday, March 17 (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) — will give participants a chance to reconnect with the wisdom of early Celtic Christianity and its implications for more wholesome living in the new millennium. The conference will be held at the Central United Methodist Church (27 Church St. in downtown Asheville).

On Friday evening, the keynote speaker — the Rev. Canon Kate Tristram of Lindisfarne (Holy Island), England — will give a talk on “Earliest Celtic Christianity and its Implications for Today.” After her presentation, there will be a Celtic candlelight worship service and a reception.

Tristram, an authority on Celtic Christianity in northern England and Scotland, taught for 28 years at St. Hild’s College, Durham, and served as director of Marygate Retreat Center on Holy Island from 1978-1997.

On Saturday (St. Patrick’s Day), Canon Tristram will lead a quiet morning instruction, introducing participants to three significant Celtic saints — Martin, Patrick and Columbanus — with time for reflection between the presentations.

Participants may also attend one of the 11 Saturday-afternoon workshops covering such topics as “An Adventure in Celtic Music,” “Extraordinary Characters in Celtic Folklore,” “Recapturing Our Communication With God,” “The Wind At Your Back” and “Iona: Place of Mystery and Mission.”

Live Celtic music, provided by Bucky and Micah Hanks, will accompany times of worship and reflection throughout the event. The conference will wrap up with a closing celebration and worship honoring St. Patrick.

The two-day event costs $105. Day rates are $40 for Friday and $70 for Saturday. Some partial scholarship assistance is available, and free child care will be provided during the conference.

The event is sponsored by Stillpoint Ministries in Black Mountain and the Central United Methodist Church in Asheville.

For more information, call Stillpoint Ministries at (828) 669-0606.

Calling all scribes

Many writers lead lonely lives, with the low tap of a keyboard or the clatter of a typewriter the only applause they ever hear.

The fact is, many people try to write, though few find the financial success of a Tom Clancy or the critical acclaim of a Michael Chabon. But there’s one trait that all successful authors share: They tried. At some point in their lives, they put pen to paper (make that fingers to keyboard), stuffed the finished product in an envelope, and sent it out to a potential publisher — for good or ill.

Writers Digest has been encouraging people to do just that for 70 years. The magazine is now seeking entries for its 70th annual writing competition. More than $25,000 in prizes will be awarded in 10 categories: inspirational writing, memoirs/personal essay, feature article, genre short story, mainstream/literary short story, rhyming poetry, nonrhyming poetry, stage play, television/movie script, and children’s fiction. One grand-prize winner will be selected from all entries. The grand-prize package includes $1,500 in cash and the winner’s choice of a trip to New York City to meet with editors and agents, or a journey to the 2002 Maui Writer’s Conference. In addition, the first- through 10th-place winners in each category will win cash and merchandise.

Entrants may submit as many manuscripts as they like (with a $10 reading fee per manuscript). Length restrictions vary by category, and the first deadline is May 15.

For more information, check the contest rules at, or send a #10 self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, Dept. PR, 1507 Dana Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45207.

Women of distinction

“What a Woman!” could describe any of the 67 nominees for this year’s Distinguished Women of North Carolina awards. It’s also the theme of this year’s awards banquet, acknowledging the great contributions to society made by women with strong ties to North Carolina, such as Maya Angelou, Eva Clayton and Elizabeth Dole.

This year’s nominees, who hail from towns and cities throughout the Tar Heel State, were named by individuals and organizations for their significant contributions in seven award categories: the arts, business/professions, education, government, journalism, volunteerism and the Jean H. Nelson Award.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 15 at the Embassy Suites in Cary, beginning at 6 p.m. Gov. Mike Easley and actress Eileen Fulton (of the daytime drama “As the World Turns”) will be there, and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue, a past award recipient, will give the winners their medallions. Tickets for the banquet cost $50.

Eight WNC residents are among this year’s nominees: Betty J. Budd (education) and Wilma Dykeman (the arts), both of Asheville; Alyce Hickerson of Lenoir (education); Debi Nelson of Hudson (volunteerism); Louise Bailey of Flat Rock (journalism); Susan Hanley Lane of Naples (journalism); Elizabeth B. Balcerek of Tuckasegee (education); and Louise Bigmeet Maney of Cherokee (the arts).

“This event has become a long-standing tradition in honoring many gifted women — nominees and winners — who have enriched the lives of others and who make North Carolina a special place to live,” says Gwynn T. Swinson of the N.C. Council for Women, which sponsors the awards.

For more information, call Peggy Alexander or Connie Hawthorne at the N.C. Council for Women, (919) 733-2455.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian honored

“Your museum is one of the oldest in our area. Instead of just resting on this laurel, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian has not only continued to preserve the history of native life in our area but also has brought the museum into the 21st century with a new and contemporary freshness and a modern facility. This is what has impressed us, and this is the reason we would be honored to present this award to your museum.”

So said David Holcombe of the WNC Historical Association in a letter informing the museum that it had been chosen to receive this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award. Museum Director Ken Blankenship accepted the award on Feb. 27 at a reception at the Smith-McDowell House Museum in Asheville.

Founded in 1948, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian has a vast collection of artifacts documenting the history and culture of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

A $3.5 million renovation completed in 1998 combines museum artifacts with computer-generated imagery, special effects and audio to tell the story of the Cherokee and their ancestors over the last 12,000 years. That ambitious retooling won the museum the 1999 Governor’s Business Award for Cultural and Arts Organizations in North Carolina.

And Van Romans of Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale, Calif., says, “The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is revolutionary in its ability to tell stories and should be a model to other museums that are struggling to engage their audience in their message.”

The museum is open every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is $8/adults, $5/children, and free for kids under age 6. The self-sufficient nonprofit is supported by revenues from admission fees and gift-shop sales.

The museum is located at the intersection of Hwy. 441 and Drama Road in Cherokee. For more information, call (828) 497-3481, or visit their Web site (

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