Joy in Confession: An Interview with Hillary Raining

Our Interviews Editor Esteban Rodríguez talks with Hillary Raining—Rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania—about The Hive, a wellness and spirituality website focused on faith, wellness, and the spiritual tools to help change the world. 

ER: Tell us about the inspiration behind The Hive, and how did it come about? 

HR: Before the creation of The Hive, I was looking for a place that could speak to deep and meaningful topics in a way that fostered conversation and community. I found a lot of great stuff—wellness blogs, lifestyle gurus, theological research— but nothing that blended it all together. So, I do what I always do when I get stuck—I meditated and waited. One such session ended with a bolt of inspiration and a vision of a honeycomb with bees sharing and working together. Just like that, The Hive was formed! Based on a model of community and support found in the hive of the honeybee, this wellness and spirituality website is for you in your quest to change the world! 

The bee is an ancient symbol of wisdom, since it gathers nectar from sources far and wide and transforms it into something new, delicious, and sustaining. They are also wise because of all the roles they play within their community. Over a bee’s lifetime, she (after-all, most of the bees in the colony are female) will learn and execute every job there is to do in the hive—all in service to their Queen and their sisters. That should sound very familiar to those of us who seek to live wholistic and spiritual lives. The quest for wisdom that helps to better our communities in service to God and others is exactly how we try to live. 

ER: Was there any trepidation about having The Hive as an online community, and what has the response been since you began? 

HR: Even though we are an online community, we are blessed to have a “home base” in the congregation that I lead, St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwyne, PA. This gives us the grounding of having a worshiping community that helps to guide some of the classes and offerings we present. What we have found is that people from all over the world are looking for an authentic spiritual experience but may not be able to be a part of a “brick-and-mortar” religious community. It has been a really wonderful way for the community to grow beyond the physical walls. In this time of COVID-19 it has been even more critical for supporting people in their spiritual growth when being in person has been an impossibility. 

ER: What does a typical day for you look like, both for your role at your church and for The Hive?  

HR: One of the things that I love about my vocation is that there is never a “typical day.” I have truly never had the same kind of day twice. Some of the tasks that need to happen while you are guiding a group–pastoral care, volunteer coordination, staff leadership, fundraising, community organizing, teaching & preaching, etc.—are common every week. But you never know when some immediate need will come up that changes the shape of ministry that day. I am also a writer (you can find more about my writings at and a yoga teacher which are skills I get to use a lot on The Hive. The Hive is a creative place where I get to do a lot of teaching as well as help people be incorporate their spirituality into their every day lives. And no day is complete without a little family time with my husband and daughter! 

ER: On top of the many things you do, you are also a writer, as you mentioned above. Can you talk about the inspiration behind your book Joy in Confession, and what it’s about? 

HR: Sure! In the Episcopal tradition, Reconciliation of a Penitent (as defined in the Book of Common Prayer) it “is the rite in which those who repent of their sins may confess them to God in the presence of a priest, and receive the assurance of pardon and the grace of absolution.” It is often referred to as “private confession” and can get a really bad rap. The theological explanation of reconciliation is both complicated and simple. At its heart, reconciliation is the very cornerstone of our faith—the love of God proclaimed in the forgiveness and healing offered to us by Jesus. The Rite of Reconciliation exists so that we can live into the forgiving action of Jesus as found in his Body, the community of the Church, and as people of God. What I found in my research was that few people even knew that we had this pastoral gem in our tradition and the preconceived notions (or indeed, negative associations around the topic of sin and confession that many carry with them from other traditions) were barriers from taking part in confession. This book was an exploration in how to make it more accessible and help make churches centers of reconciliation in the world. 

ER: What has been one of the most rewarding experiences thus far? 

HR: Tough question! We are constantly hearing from people that The Hive has become a transformational place where they can be open and vulnerable while finding thoughtful support and social activism. Personally, one of the most rewarding things for me has been leading a small group class in discernment tools. This group of motivated women know that they have been called to make a difference in the world, and this class has helped them figure out exactly what that vocation might be as well as how they can achieve it. It has been great to see that kind of hope in these hard times. 

ER: How can people interested become a part of The Hive

HR: People can join our Facebook Group page and at our website at Be sure to sign up for the newsletter to hear about all our upcoming programs! We also have a podcast called The HiveCast and you can find that anywhere you get your podcasts.

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