Meghan Florian is the communications director at the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. In addition, Meghan is a writer from Durham. She earned an MTS from Duke Divinity School and an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. She teaches writing at William Peace University and the Center for Theological Writing at Duke Divinity School.
The Resource Center for Women in the Ministry in the South is a non-profit organization based in Durham, North Carolina, that works to support women and LGBTQ+ spiritual leaders in the South as they do their spiritual and liberationist work.
Savannah G. Lynn: Can you say your name for me? And where are we?
Meghan Florian: My name is Meghan Florian. We are at 1202 Watts Street, Durham, North Carolina, at the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. On the front porch, to be more precise.
SGL: And what did you have for breakfast?
MF: Oatmeal, with dried cherries.
SGL: We had very similar breakfasts. [both laugh] Can you tell the people what you do at the Resource Center?
MF: Sure. I am the Communications Director, which means that I do a whole variety of different things. Pretty much anything to do with words ends up inevitably coming across my desk. Some specific things—I keep the content on our website up to date. I run some separate websites for side projects we have. For instance, if we’re having a conference—we do a Women’s Preaching Conference every year. That has its own URL; I basically build and run that site. I do all of our email newsletters and email blasts about events. I edit and format and send all of those, scheduling them through Constant Contact. I run our Facebook page and other social media, and our Tumblr book blog. With that one I’m more of the editor. I write for it once in a while but mostly I solicit content from others. Then other editing as need be.
The preaching festival I mentioned — in addition to running the website, I do a little bit of programming with that, just because it’s run by a volunteer planning team who sometimes need a little more staff support that doesn’t really fall under communications. Especially being a nonprofit, sometimes the job title can be kind of loose. It’s like, “This needs to be done, and I’m gonna do it, even though I’m the communicator and this is programming. That’s fine. I’ll do some programming.” I pick up things as need be.
And sometimes I get to work with you all [interns] too, which is not technically in my job description but also fun!
SGL: Thanks. I appreciate that.
MF: It’s been a couple years since we’ve had interns. Some years I don’t do any of that, some years I do. It all depends.
SGL: Where did you go to school?
MF: I went to college in Michigan at Hope College, a small liberal arts school.
SGL: Where is that on the mitten?
MF: On the mitten, that is right there. It’s right on the shore.
SGL: Meghan is pointing between her head line and heart line, over at the western edge of her right hand.
MF: Right on Lake Michigan, seven miles from the beach, which was lovely…at least some months of the year. I went to college there, studied philosophy and religion, and then I moved to Durham to do a masters in theology at the Divinity School at Duke, and then I started working. I interned here, then worked a couple of years here, then went back to school at Queens University in Charlotte for a degree in writing and continued to work here during that. I have several degrees. I am overeducated, but happy about it!
SGL: How did you find the Resource Center originally?
MF: Well, I initially connected with Jeanette [founder and executive director] while I was still a student at an event. I never really got involved with the Resource Center at that time, but after I graduated, I was….I graduated in 2009, which was a terrible year to graduate, especially in theology. It was really tough to get jobs in literally anything, and Duke wasn’t hiring. I spent the first year after I graduated working retail and was a hostess at a restaurant for a while. I was doing a lot of things that didn’t utilize my degree. I ran into Jeanette at an alumni event, a Duke Divinity Women’s Center alumni and student meeting. We got to talking, because I was saying how I was doing all this work, but I wish I was using my degree for something too, even if it was just to volunteer.
She went, “Oh, you want to volunteer somewhere? I mean, we don’t have any interns right now.” [laughs] So, I came over here the next week, and, basically, we designed an internship for me. For that next school year, I interned. When that finished, I joined the board. There was a little gap between “intern” and actually becoming an employee, but I was still involved by being on the board during that time.
I think I was the youngest board member at that point. I was only twenty-six or twenty-seven, somewhere in there. Jeanette added a couple of other younger board members, and she’d love to go around and be like, “We have this many board members under thirty-five!” And then we all aged up, and she was like “What am I gonna do now?! I can’t say that about you.” It’s like, we’re still in our thirties! For a lot of boards, even having members under forty is doing pretty good, frankly.
SGL: What does a typical day look like for you, if there is one?
MF: To a certain extent, there is. Usually, I come to the office. I’m part-time. I usually come in the afternoons, after lunch. Basically, I get to the office a little bit before Jeanette so if there’s quiet work I need to do…we have this open-office format, which is amazing, but sometimes I need to do fine-tuning and editing work. I come in early to edit and do those types of things. When Jeanette gets to the office, we check in, see what everybody’s doing, and from there, if it’s a day Rebecca’s not in the office, I just kind of dive in. I do whatever projects I’m working on. It’s pretty independent, and I just check with Jeanette if there’s projects I’m working on that need feedback or confirmation.
I have an editorial calendar, so I look at it and check to see what email blasts and Facebook posts I need to schedule for next week or the week after. I’m always doing those things a week or two ahead of time. When I show up to the office on Monday, everything for that week is generally already scheduled, so I’m looking at the next week. I’ll go through, do email, the Facebook stuff, check to see if there are blog posts that need to be edited and scheduled for the next week.
Once those immediate things are tackled, I start in on bigger projects. For instance, this fortieth anniversary storytelling project—that’s a bigger, longer-term thing. I go back and forth between those two things.
If Rebecca is also in the office, some of that gets punctuated with “Oh, Rebecca, can I talk to you for ten minutes about this point of overlap between our work?” Especially with her doing development stuff and me doing communications, a lot of our stuff overlaps. I love that she’s here, because I don’t really think like a fundraiser, and that’s an important thing that we need to sustain our organization. Tell me what I need to say about that and I’ll put it out through the communications channels, but I need her help figuring out wording and strategies for things like that. I proofread and put it in all the right places.
Another thing! Those are daily, weekly things. I also, at least a couple times a semester, will do webinars and continuing education to build new skills. Especially with online communications, that changes so quickly, I try to keep up with new strategies and things like that. Every once in a while, I’ll do a bigger training thing, like there was a conference for local nonprofit communications professionals, this was back in April. It was a two-day event. Once in a while, I’ll do something like that and go to panels to learn from other people in the field, and gain information to apply to what we do here.
All of that fits into niches in my editorial calendar, both month-long and a bigger-picture year-long. When I come in, on one level, I’m thinking “Here are the things I need to do today.” But those things also fit into that monthly and year-long strategy of what we’re highlighting when. The year-long plan tends to tie in more to communications and development stuff, and the monthly/weekly is more events, information, and resources that we share via our Facebook and newsletter.
SGL: What’s something you’re excited about that’s coming up?
MF: I am looking forward to the women’s preaching festival this year. We do it every year, and I think we have an especially good combination of different women preaching this time around. They always end up being wonderful, but I’m extra-excited for this year’s range of people. And I am also excited to co-teach a writing workshop with Bryant Holsenbeck [a local artist]. That’s something new and tangential to my job description. I teach writing outside of the Resource Center, so it’ll be fun to merge that in and teach a little workshop within the context of my work here, and bring that all together working with Bryant. That’s going to be this fall for one evening a week for three weeks. I’m looking forward to getting to do something new in my existing job!
SGL: To conclude, is there perhaps anything you might like to plug to your readers? Not necessarily work related?
MF: Oh, the fact that the Resource Center’s communications director has recently published a book!! [laughs] It’s called “The Middle of Things.” It’s an essay collection that deals with topics relating to feminism and the church and theological school programs. That’s a really messy way of putting that. Theological studies, and the ways that sexism manifests itself within the academy, particularly in theology schools. That’s better. It includes, among other things, some essays about some of my seminary professors (using cleverly disguised pseudonyms!). That’s neither here nor there. One of my rules, being someone who writes literary nonfiction, is that if you behave badly, I will change your name. If you’re a wonderful, nice individual, I’ll use your real name. That way, no one sues me.
Anyhow, that is out now. Published by Whippenstock. On the shelves of the Regulator, from what I hear. People have been going in and ordering it.
SGL: Any closing comments you would like to make about your experience working here?
MF: I think the only other comment I would make is…coming into a small organization with part-time staff that didn’t have a communications person when they hired me has been challenging but really amazing. Basically, I got to build the position from the ground up. One of the advantages of a small place is having that freedom to figure out your own way of doing things. I mean, also, I came in with certain skills that I was lacking and part of my job is to go and learn how to do those things. I’m learning how to do it for this organization, but then I can take it elsewhere if I want to, like if I wanted to go apply for a job at a bigger nonprofit or do something more national. I could. I don’t want to, because I like being at a small place, and I have another career that I’m focused on, but it’s a great thing to be able to learn skills on the job that you could potentially apply elsewhere.
One of the ways the Resource Center has been a resource to me is that while I work for them, I also gain skills that can help me have a career beyond this place. Hooray for being a resource in multiple ways! Thank you for paying me to learn how to do a job for you that I could go do for someone else! Don’t put that part in an article! No, Jeanette says that. She says, “Learn these things, you won’t be here forever probably, but then you’ll have this valuable skill you can use for us while you’re here, and you can take it elsewhere when life leads you there.” It’s a good position for an ED to have. Not being like, “We paid to train you, and now you’re leaving us!” She’d be like, “Go with God.” [laughs]