Interviewee: Dannie Bell
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: May 2, 2013
Format: WAV file and transcript
Length of Interview: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Length of Transcript: 46 pages
Dannie Bell was born on January 31, 1937 in Decatur, Georgia. She is of English and Irish ancestry. Her family attended the Decatur First Methodist Church. When she was four years old, her father died suddenly. Mrs. Bell’s extended family was very present in her childhood and her mother eventually remarried. During her adolescence, Mrs. Bell was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship and sang in various choirs. She attended Emory University and continued her advanced degree at Auburn University. After moving back to Atlanta, she converted to Roman Catholicism. She graduated from GSU in 1988 with a Masters of Science in Education, with a concentration in Human Resource Development. She is married with three daughters. Mrs. Bell is now a retired educator.
Dannie Bell’s mother was active in the Methodist women’s group and her family attended Wednesday Suppers and church services on Sundays in addition to saying morning and evening prayers. Despite her father’s sudden death, Mrs. Bell was surrounded by loving men in her extended family and came to see God as a loving father. Although she did not discuss faith and religion with her friends throughout her childhood, after high school she was exposed to different denominations of Christianity, including Baptist, Presbyterian and Catholic, through singing in their choirs. In college, she began to explore her own faith. Mrs. Bell carried on an extensive correspondence with a Catholic priest during graduate school which later led to meetings with a local priest and continued studies in Atlanta. When she decided to convert to Catholicism, her mother asked her to explore her own faith in the same way she had studied Catholicism. Mrs. Bell was unmoved by her conversations with the Methodist minister and was re-Baptized with her family in attendance. During all phases of her life, including her husband’s unemployment, giving birth to three daughters and moving around the Southeast, a common theme for Mrs. Bell was her mother’s reminder to “Let go and let God.” When she experienced hip pain as an adult, she was introduced to a Reiki healer. Mrs. Bell took a Reiki course, developed friendships with her fellow practitioners and continues to heal herself and her family. Mrs. Bell sees Reiki as a universal healing power channeled through God. During her education at GSU, Mrs. Bell was not involved in religion on campus simply because she was taking night classes while working full time. Despite this, she has always enjoyed the cultural diversity of the school.
Methodist, Loving Father, Choir, Catholicism, Re-Baptized, Reiki, Universal Healing, Cultural Diversity
Interviewee: Allen Black
Interviewer: Diana Wallis-Bernstein
Date of Interview: December 3, 2012
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: 99 minutes
Length of Transcription: 62 pages
Allen Black was born on July 31st, 1954 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is of Scotch-Irish ancestry. His father was a non-practicing Catholic and his mother was a Presbyterian. As a child, Mr. Black attended Sunday church services with his mother, although he and his siblings stopped going to church in their teenage years. In high school, Mr. Black was awarded an athletic scholarship to a prestigious boarding school in Connecticut where he learned about Transcendental Meditation (TM) which spurred his interest in Eastern Religions. For a time, Mr. Black spent time as a TM teacher. Later he worked with his father in investments and bonds while taking undergraduate courses at GSU in finance. He went on to obtain a Master’s degree in Philosophy and Religion from the California Institute for Integral Studies. At the time of the interview, Mr. Black was a full-time Masters student of Religious Studies at GSU, as well as a yoga teacher, real estate agent and self-described yard man. He is divorced with no children and describes his religious views as humanist and eclectic.
Abstract:As a child, Mr. Black’s family attended First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta for Sunday services, social gatherings and various life services. Mr. Black’s mother was his first spiritual teacher and instilled a sense of morality and ethics in her children. While attending boarding school in Connecticut, Mr. Black was exposed to Transcendental Meditation (TM) which sparked Mr. Black’s exploration of Eastern religions. While hitchhiking down the coast of California and attending meditation retreats, Mr. Black was exposed to Hindu and Buddhist teachers such as Yogananda and Maharishi. He eventually traveled to France and Switzerland to attend official TM courses and become certified to teach TM. Mr. Black eventually became dissatisfied with the institutional and financial shifts within the TM movement and drifted away from the organization. While pursuing his financial career, Mr. Black continued to cultivate his spiritual growth through independent meditation. He spent time at the Catholic Trappist Monastery in Conyers, GA and started following the spiritual teacher Gangaji. He notes that while he has pursued various spiritual paths, he also has a worldly streak and an eclectic, fluid and flexible religious predisposition that prevents him from joining a monastic order or fully committing to a specific tradition. As a Masters Student of Religious Studies at GSU, Mr. Black enjoys the intellectual and academic approach to studying religion. He views some of the other students as “seekers” interested in their spiritual journeys, but acknowledges the university institution is a very secular environment.
Scots-Irish, Transcendental Meditation, Retreat, Buddhist, Hindu, Eastern Religion, Catholic Trappist Monastery, Maharishi, Yogananda, Gangaji, Spiritual Journey, Eclectic, Humanist, Religious Studies
Interviewee: Doris Bush
Interviewer: Suzanne Degnats
Date of Interview: June 7, 2011
Format: WAV file, transcript
Length of Interview: One hour, 36 minutes, 38 seconds
Length of Transcription: 33 pages
Doris Catheryne Bush was born on June 24, 1919, in Tokyo, Japan. Her family was American; her father was working for the YMCA in Japan. She received her Associate of Arts Degree from Yuba College in California. She was married in 1943 to Clarence, who was a conscientious objector to WWII. He was sent to a CO camp to work in Claremont, CA, and she visited on weekends. They had two children together. Clarence has passed away, and Doris lives with her daughter in Duluth, GA. She was originally a member of the Methodist church and was later baptized in spirit by the Charismatic church, and is now a Baptist. She is currently a member of Peachtree Corners Baptist Church in Duluth, GA.
Doris begins her interview by recounting an experience she had as a child. She was "devastated' that she did not receive a picture book for her Christmas gift. Although ninety-two years of age at the time of the interview, this episode still made her cry. She tells many other stories from her life and childhood. During her childhood, she considered herself a "naughty little girl." She knew that truth and righteousness were very important and greatly wanted to please God. In the interview, Doris shows a very keen and deep understanding of the workings of her mind, and articulates this knowledge in detailed explanations. As she grows older, she intentionally tries to become a better person, always in the context of God and her Christian religion. She experience a peak experience where God spoke to her and told her he would make her a better person during her baptism as a young adult. She had other experiences where she is comforted by Jesus during difficult times in her life. She and her husband left the Methodist church because the church began excepting homosexual pastors, which they thought was a sin. She joined the Assemblies of God and later the Baptist church. Her religious story is anchored by the themes of salvation and obedience to God.
Baptist, Christian, Methodist, Assemblies of God, Obedience, Absolution, Salvation, Conscientious objector, peak experience, Baptism, Baptized in the Spirit