With her new book, “Out on a Limb with No Place to Hide,” Dianne Van Der Meer-Kelley, co-pastor of the Way of the Cross Holy Church in Dorchester, says she hopes to inspire “those who are looking for direction in life from a faith point of view.” (Van Der Meer: Talia Whyte photo)
|Book cover: Photo courtesy of Tate Publishing|
Last Saturday, following the season’s first snowstorm, Pastor Dianne Van Der Meer-Kelley spent the day worrying about how homeless Bostonians were coping with the inclement weather.
For Van Der Meer, thinking of others in need comes naturally — she has spent most of her life giving back to others, both through her ministry and in her personal life.
Van Der Meer and her husband, Bishop Frank Kelley, are co-pastors of the Way of the Cross Holy Church in Dorchester; the two also host the weekly “Bread of Life Hour” telecast on the Boston Neighborhood Network. She recently brought her ministry from the pulpit to a new book, “Out on a Limb with No Place to Hide,” which she said details her experiences in dealing with a “life in progress.”
“I wrote the book out of divine inspiration,” said Van Deer Meer. “I was praying one morning, and got inspiration to share my story with those who are looking for direction in life from a faith point of view.”
Among other things, Van Der Meer’s book chronicles her introduction to charity, which came as a child growing up in Trinidad and Tobago. She recounts early memories of taking food from her grandmother’s kitchen to feed a homeless woman in her community. Her family was at first disappointed when they learned about her “Robin Hood ways,” but over time, Van Der Meer said, they began to feel inspired by the young girl’s example — her grandfather even fed the homeless weekly until his own death.
Not all of the book’s stories are so positive.
Van Der Meer spends much of “Out on a Limb” focusing on the difficulties of being a woman of color who experienced abuse, racism and sexual harassment, both in her Caribbean homeland and here in the United States. The tales are jarring, but Van Der Meer said she hopes that by raising such troubling issues in print, she will inspire other women — those who live secular lives as well as women of faith — to speak out on the pain that they have suffered.
“Many women in the church experience abuse, and we need to have more discussions about these issues,” Van Der Meer said. “There are people who don’t feel comfortable talking about this, but abuse, unfortunately, happens to many women.”
Van Der Meer also talks about the thorny issue of racial discrimination in the workplace. She recalls being denied a position in the development department of a prestigious university. Later, Van Der Meer met another woman of color who told her that the department had a history of not hiring people of color, but that she didn’t dare speak out about it for fear of the backlash she’d face.
Encouraging women to overcome such fears and raise their voices is at the heart of “Out on a Limb,” according to the pastor.
“The key to my book is that although I have been through so much, that doesn’t mean you should be a victim,” Van Der Meer said. “You can’t sit around wanting things to change; you have to make things happen yourself.”
The book has received praise from women all over the country. Van Der Meer said she has been invited to speak at women’s groups to bring her message to those who she said may feel doubtful of their future path.
She has also earned accolades from both women and men in the ministry for her approach to reaching out to people of many different faiths. Prior to coming to Boston, Van Der Meer ran the Living Water Christian Fellowship ministry in Boca Raton, Fla., a largely Jewish community, where she extended her hands to local rabbis to bring communities of both faiths together.
“While writing this book, I spoke with rabbis, ministers and priests and asked them what advice they had for people going into the ministry,” Van Der Meer said. “We all might have different ways of worshipping, but we all have the same common spirit and bond to help make the world a better place.”
Van Der Meer is now working on opening another ministry in Brooklyn, N.Y., in addition to beginning another book exploring the same themes as “Out on a Limb.”
In the meantime, she still works with the sick and shut-in whenever she can. She said she anticipates spending Christmas Day with the elderly in her community. For Van Der Meer, giving back is a way of life.
“We can’t just think about ourselves,” she said. “Sometimes we must try to help others as we look forward. The lives I touch are my reward.”