Donna was born and bred in north New Jersey where she grew up with a view of the New York City skyline greeting her everyday. Early on, that skyline shaped her dreams of someday being a fashion editor in Manhattan.
Her dream eventually came true, having graduated the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in advertising and communications, and spending a brief stint or two in public relations before landing a job at a fine jewelry trade publication as associate fashion editor.
It was at the magazine, Donna honed her reporting and writing skills, traveled the world and interviewed the most amazing people. She worked her way from reporting on fashion to covering the retail jewelry industry and eventually was named editor in chief.
However, while living the dream and calling her one-bedroom co-op in Manhattan’s historic Murray Hill home (Lexington Avenue and 36th Street), she began to feel there was more to the life she was living.
When she returned to church after many years of being a Christmas/Easter Christian, something happened. Donna felt a call to use her love for writing and communicating to tell the story of an incredible God at work in our lives.
While she wrestled with whether she could leave corporate America for the unknown world of ministry that was tugging at her, a major life event shoved her to take the scary of leap of faith she had been contemplating.
One winter night, news came that her then boyfriend was killed in a jeep accident in Africa. Donna soon realized life was too precious to waste on playing it safe and left the world of magazine publishing to enter seminary.
She graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 2007 and was ordained in the Presbyterian church that same year. Packing up all she knew (along with her jewelry wardrobe and cute shoes and handbags!), she began her journey as an “accidental country pastor,” serving in the most unlikely place she ever thought she would serve—rural upstate New York. It was there, though, her heart healed as in the midst of challenges, changes, questions and doubt, she saw God at work in the most amazing ways.
In 2011, ten years after the death of her boyfriend, Donna met and married Paul Jackson, a local boy from the rural village she served. The two purchased an old house in Vermont with the most beautiful views of the neighbor’s cows from the back porch.
After what Donna describes as her time of “exile,” that is, serving a church in Maryland for a while, she moved back to Vermont in 2016 without a church, deciding to trust God all the way with this crazy and wonderful journey.
Today, she works in communications for the Presbyterian Mission Agency. She is currently the editor of Presbyterians Today, a magazine sharing the stories of faith and hope with more than 56,000 readers.
As an advocate for rural communities, much of her writing is on the challenges and opportunities these communities face. Her “Rural Realities” series in Presbyterians Today, which covered topics such as food deserts, obesity among youth and opioid usage, received the top award in reporting in 2019 from the Religion Communicators Council. She also received several awards the same year from the Associated Church Press for in-depth features and her editorials. In 2020, her editorial, “The Holiness of Mud Season,” won the award of excellence from the Religion Communicators Council. Two other stories also received honors.
In her free time, she leads retreats and is a guest speaker on the topic of listening to one’s heart and daring to follow those big, scary dreams. She admits she is still trying to create an 18th century kitchen garden, but the weeds are currently winning. She is now dabbling in the art of 18th century cooking, using the tools and techniques of the time. Her husband, Paul, keeps the number to the local pizzeria on speed dial.
You can listen to some sermons here: