by Barbara Sherf
Joan Diver, a former Chestnut Hiller (1989-2002) who served as Director of Contemplative and Healing Ministries at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, returns to the Parish Hall on Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m., to share insights from her newly published spiritual memoir titled “When Spirit Calls: A Healing Odyssey.”
Called “a book to watch for” by Publishers Weekly, Diver, who turned 75 the day before Election Day, spoke at length from her Boston home about her journey and the current state of affairs in our country and the world.
Diver cited a Washington Post story (1/17/18), in which interviews with individuals in 50 states reveal widely shared beliefs in “community and empathy, opportunity, diversity, freedom and fundamental rights.” And yet, an op-ed in the Boston Globe (7/19/18) concluded from weekly interviews with 500 Americans that “what we agree on most is how distressing our divide is.”
“If we can focus on the positive and give that energy to each other and the universe, then it seems to me that’s our job right now,” said Diver. “The mess being created in the world is causing a lot of pain. How do we create something new? It’s all about opening our hearts.”
Diver served as Executive Director of the Hyams Foundation in Boston for almost two decades, helping disseminate millions in charitable donations for social justice and urban betterment. While playing her first and last game of squash with her husband, Colin, Diver injured her back. Diver takes the reader on a journey from orthopedic surgeons and Christ’s tomb in Jerusalem to Santa Fe healers, from an ashram in India to a shattered temple in China and a final revelation at the Great Pyramid of Giza.
“I was at the height of my career, but after several years of being helped by healers, I found myself offering healing energy to people who became injured or ill,” she shared. Even her staff at work asked her to help them when they had headaches or kidney stones. “On a meditation journey to Egypt in 1989, I had an experience in a sarcophagus that told me it was time to move on.”
At first, her law professor husband was skeptical of her seeing healers and a guru. “But by the time I made the decision to leave Hyams (Foundation) Colin said I was ‘blessed’ to have heard the call,” she said, adding that he talks about “being a stowaway” on her journey. “He carried boxes of books on a recent book tour to Portland, Oregon, and says when he sees me signing books, it brings tears to his eyes. He knows the book has been a healing journey for me, and it’s very much a continuing odyssey.”
Diver’s page-turning book, published by Monkfish Book Publishing Co., was 24 years in the making. “In the 1990s I was exposed to predictions about the coming turmoil. As I was writing, I was afraid some people would think I was crazy, but by 2014 you could see the seeds of what was happening in our country and the world.”
A Wheaton College MA graduate in Government, Diver went to weekly services with her family to hear the powerful messages of the late Dr. Howard Washington Thurman, an African-American author, philosopher, theologian and educator. Thurman’s theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “My father was a Dean of Sargent College at Boston University, and he befriended Dr. Thurman in the 1950s. I knew Thurman was a great man, and what he said about common ground and the inner life resonated in my soul.”
As for her lifelong struggle with back pain, Divers has taken a ride with both traditional and non-traditional healing methods. “My back became my teacher, leading me to new discoveries about pain and illness. The medical establishment is great at so many things, but in focusing entirely on the physical, it misses the role that emotions or spiritual transformation may play. I need my medical doctor when surgery is needed or in certain medical emergencies. But I need my naturopathic doctor to treat the emotional and spiritual elements of any illness for the healing of both body and soul.”
Among those who have come to Diver for healing were a suicidal person whose depression was resolved, a man ill with AIDS in the ‘90s who lived four years beyond what was expected, and a woman with memories of sexual abuse who was able to re-establish a relationship with her father.
The message Diver hopes readers and attendees take away from her story is this: “Our world is in a time of chaotic transition, yet there is a spiritual force in the universe that is ready to guide us if we can only listen and have the courage to follow.”
St. Paul’s is at 22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave. For more details, visit contemporarymysticism.org