I met Wanda Gail Campbell at a Unity on the Mountain service over 20 years ago. Since then, she has become Rev. Wanda Gail Campbell, Ph.D. I remain acutely aware of her service to support inclusion and diversity, in her Huntsville, AL community and she has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Award by the Delta Theta Lambda Chapter of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc for her humble work in this area. However, Wanda Gail is also a global being, who has spread her light to many all over the world. I count on her for sage advice, and she is forever one of my “sister friends. “ Wanda Gail, we see you. – Victorine
Growing up in rural Alabama, Campbell was the middle child of a blended family with 5 children. As a child, Campbell had a wide range of farm duties which included picking cotton, milking cows and tending hogs. “It was hard, but we grew up with a good marinade of home and a Christian community.” Campbell indicated. This “marinade,” however could not contain Campbell’s desire to move away. Leaving at age 18, Campbell joined the Amy, where she began her foray into photography. She was sent to Anniston, AL for basic training and then New Jersey for more photography training. Afterward, she was based in San Francisco, at the base in Presidio. “I loved San Francisco,” admits Campbell. She left the army to become a wife and mother. Her first marital experience was with a man “who didn’t think that a woman should be working,” Campbell admits.
Campbell separated from her husband and began to work in nursing. (Campbell decided that the next man she married had to be liberal-minded about work and her two daughters ) She became a registered nurse and early in her career she went to Saudi, Arabia where she met her first Muslims and assisted in setting up a 50-100 bed hospital. Afterward, though she maintained her licensing, she began to work in administration and management. Campbell taught healthcare workshops around the country including Hawaii. “In one week, I was traveling to 5 different places…Hurricane Andrew destroyed our corporate office, and I began to work with nursing homes,” recalled Campbell. She worked for Consult American for 10 years., during which time she met Mike and married him. With the rigors of consulting and traveling, Campbell found she had little time with Mike, and when he offered her retirement, as an option, in 2003 she took it. “I was worn out,” quips Campbell. She was left with finding time to “work on being me.” That “me” included her ministry.
Campbell had a vision at Unity on the Mountain. Campbell recalled. “I had a vision of me standing behind a lectern as a minister.” Her vision triggered her looking into becoming a Unity minister. However, because of the logistics, Unity did not work out. She discovered a Church of Religious Science in Huntsville and immediately started classes there. “I realized I wasn’t called to be a pulpit minister, I serve in a way we call Ministry of the Moment.” Campbell indicated. After completing four years of course work with the center, she had received an email about a ministry called The Beloved Community. After reading about it, Campbell had “a soul recognition.” “The application asked for a response of only the word, “yes.” I responded with a “YES!” Created by the spiritual leader, James Twyman, this ministry was “all-inclusive, with no barriers,” explained Campbell. “Its mission was to give foundational awareness of a true heart service- ministry of the moment. “I got it!” The study work was so available for her, with an individualized program. James Twyman ordained 600-700 ministers before he decided he didn’t want the responsibility of the seminary. Campbell was part of a collective group of approximately 25 ordained ministers who worked as mentors for assisting the course of study. Because it was loosely structured, with minimal guidelines, the program for the Community waned, but not before it impacted ministers that touched the world.
Twyman encouraged traveling for Beloved ministers, and Campbell went on several spiritual excursions with him. “We went to Israel and the South of France in search of the Black Madonna; did a peace walk in Assisi, and a Mary Magdalene pilgrimage in the South of France,” Campbell indicated. “We traveled for 10 years.” Campbell attended the Parliament of World Religions in Capetown South Africa in 2009. “There were thousands of people from all over the world with different traditions,” remembers Campbell. “The diversity was unimaginable. I met numerous religious representatives and watched Tibetan monks drawing sand mandalas.” Ten years ago, Campbell and Mike traveled to Australia to the Parliament, and her experience was “overwhelmingly rich and fulfilling.” They also traveled to New Zealand. At the behest of Twyman, Campbell officiated a Beloved Community ordination in Australia and one New Zealand. The diversity Campbell experienced became part of her life’s work.
Growing up in rural Alabama, Campbell knew in her heart that racial inequality was “not OK.” It was one of the reasons she left. “ When I left at 18, I had little exposure to Black people, Campbell recalls. “They were not in our schools, and nobody wanted to talk about it.” Her writing career started in Mountain Home, Idaho with writing for the school newspaper. “I remember writing an article called The Great Injustice. It was about racial conditions of the rural south,” recounts Campbell. “At first they weren’t going to print it because they said it was too controversial.” However, with limited submissions, they printed it. Her work would continue in the South.
When she moved to Huntsville, Campbell started a 12 Step group for co-dependency. “I put an ad in the paper, and 50 people showed up for this 6-month course,” Campbell recalls. “Then, I learned about Interfaith Mission Service, (IMS) and in 2007-2008, for 2 years during Season For NonViolence, I did a hometown pilgrimage called Heart to Heart.” Earlier on a pilgrimage that included Lourdes, France she had discovered her prejudice against Catholicism and that it was totally unfounded. She gathered 8 congregations from different faiths to share their traditions. “They might not visit a mosque by themselves, but with a group, it was do-able.” She found that there were not many people that shared the vision of The Beloved Community. “We tried, but there was little commitment to move forward,“ recalls Campbell. “We made some progress with lesser-known traditions and in race relations, to some extent…but I didn’t see things changing.” For “that reason,” Campbell left IMS, and began work for her larger community, Campbell still serves the local community but with great focus on her own inner work.
Campbell has a vision for Alabama. She has noticed that there is a “gentle, almost imperceptible weaving” of different cultures. The South, in particular, has dehumanized our cultures,” says Campbell. ” I’m seeing a gradual increase in humanizing.” Campbell envisions for Alabama “a weaving of human beings where when seeing another person, we don’t call up prejudices and labels, but just see another human being.” Her current work is primarily on healing her personal trauma. “We all have been traumatized for generations, every one of us, “says Campbell. “We will continue to be traumatized until we recognize that we are all human beings that need to heal.” She calls herself “an inner activist” and feels that until we, as a culture, get beyond our transgenerational traumas, we cannot truly help others.
Time is “irrelevant to our healing.” “One of my teachers says “we walk forever.” Focusing on time is counterproductive to healing. All generational healing takes time. Time puts pressure on our hearts and souls. Campbell feels that rather than setting a timeline for the inner work she must do, she needs to rest in “awareness that we, as souls, walk forever.”
Campbell and Mike enjoy their family of her two adult daughters, and they vacation together.
Photo by Carol Zukosky
Wanda has served thirty plus years as a healthcare professional. Currently, she serves as a Minister of Peace ordained by The Beloved Community. In July, 2007 she completed her PhD in Philosophy focused on Intercultural Peacemaking. For her own spiritual nourishment, she enjoys reading both contemporary and ancient spiritual writings.
Victorine Founder, Editor-in-Chief