Meet Donna Frischknecht

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. IMG_1087

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:



25 thoughts on “Meet Donna Frischknecht

  1. Donna,
    Helen is my wifes Grandmother, Sandi, Nancy daughter. (I’m playing the Salem name game). The family hasbeen a corner stone of faith for the 27 years i have known this family. I asked Sandi’s parent permission to marry her at Clarence and Helen’s 50th wedding anniversary. my grandparent were also married 50+ years and had a huge impact on my faith growing up, My grandfather was my confirmation sponsor. This year Sandi and I Cerebrate our 25th anniversary. To say it was not easy an under statement,there are challenges. But seeing 100 year of faith and love let us know anything is possible. Sandi and I are Deacons in our Church, I was an elder for 7 years and currently the treasure, Sandi was a youth Elder in Salem.
    I just wanted to thank you for your lesson on faith and Helen, i loved it.



    • Peter,
      So good to hear from you and how blessed you are to be part of that family. I know I count it as a blessing that God called me to meet folks just like Helen. I only wish that I had the chance to get to know Clarence as well! I am glad you enjoyed my sharing the lesson of faith Helen imparted to me. I am sure there are many other Helen stories for she did touch so many people. Wishing you and your wife (and the entire family) a blessed Easter. (And I love the Salem name game!)


  2. Looking forward to today’s message. Last week you were on vacation so I’m not sure when you’ll be back ? Also when you go back to church services will you be posting the services? I look forward to your message every week and have been watching you since last spring from Washington State.



    • Karen, your note made me smile. It is nice to hear folks like you look forward to these messages! My apologies for the technical glitches. Not sure, but my internet was painfully slow in uploading this video. Sigh. As for posting in-person worship at the church I am serving, we are working on that. They, too, are in a rural area and we need to iron out so many details. Till then, many thanks for being part of this virtual church family. I will lift a prayer of praise for you on my much-needed post-preaching run out in the woods today! Blessings!!! Donna


  3. I loved your Christmas/12 days devotional this year! Thank you so much for sharing it with the Presbyterian world! Blessings, Lynne Jones, Aurora, CO


  4. I have just discovered this blog and am thrilled to have been led to it. Your 2020 Advent devotionals touched me in so many ways (holy moments for me too) and I have wanted more of them. So today I set out to find you and other daily devotionals that you have written. I have signed up for your blog and look forward to reading them as often as you post them. Thank you for the work you do and the inspiration you are for me.


    • Dear Nancy,
      Wow! I was very touched by your note and in awe how God works. And, your “discovery” of me, was the divine push I needed to get back to regularly writing a post for this blog. With church work and magazine duties, it has been hard to post weekly, but it is something that has been on my heart. Your note was the affirmation I needed. And good news. I will once again be writing the Advent devotional for Presbyterians Today magazine. I just had a meeting last week and it was decided that I would be the writer. I look forward to journeying with you and discovering how amazing God is together! Blessings! Donna


      • I sent a reply earlier but I don’t think it “took” as I can’t find it. I just wanted to thank you for responding to my message and tell you that it meant a lot to me. Also, I wanted to let you know how God connected us through your writing. I stumbled upon the 2020 Advent devotionals but what drew me to them was the poem by Howard Thurman that you opened (and closed) with. We had read and discussed Howard Thurman in our adult Sunday morning class during Black History Month so I wanted to look further. And am so glad I did! Also, in the December issue of PT, I read the article about the Chrismon tree in the church in Statesville, NC. That was the church I grew up in and was married in. So your writings touched me in several ways. I have watched a number of your past blogs too and love them. I can relate to them in many ways. Peace, Nancy


      • Nancy, so good hearing from you. And thank you for reaching out again. Your note was a blessing to read. It never ceases to amaze me how the Spirit is at work in our lives. That Advent devotional came together at the last minute. I was blank with an idea for it. Finally, as I ran on the trail behind my house, the idea of Thurman’s poem came to me. It was amazing. And that is so cool that the article I wrote about the Chrismons was one that resonated with you. I can’t believe that was the church you grew up and were married in. Yes, the Spirit has been working on bringing us in touch with one another, and for that I give God many praises! We really aren’t alone in this life. So wonderful to meet you! Many blessings! Donna


  5. Donna, you have been on my mind since your message and video yesterday. I am so sorry you have had to deal with rowdy neighbors and damaged cars and house, not to mention the loss of sleep, hard (really angry) feelings toward them, and missing work and vacation. I would be struggling and having those feelings too. My hope and prayers are that dealing with insurance companies and finding new vehicles will go smoothly, that you two will get some rest and still go on vacation to celebrate your anniversary and birthday when you can (I have a June birthday too).

    As always, you spoke to me in special ways. Your message of the mustard seed and small gestures, kindnesses, and courtesies reminded me that I can’t control what others say or do, but I can control how I respond. And I loved the prayer song at the end while you were putting up the bird bottles: Give us faith to be strong, strength to be faithful, grace to go on, hearts to find hope, peace when we’re torn. I am going to add it to the music on my phone. Just what I need to remember this week. Blessings for the journey.


    • Nancy, thank you. Your words are so healing and a reminder that we are not alone in this world. I think that has been the lesson I am being taught through all of this. That is, to learn how to reach out to others for help. I often pride myself on being able to fend for myself, but we do need community. I am so glad, too, that you enjoyed the video. I had so much fun sharing the joy of my 18th century bird bottles and thinking about the little things we can do that makes a difference for others. And that song. Well, I listened to it again the other day and, boy, did it speak more powerfully to me now. Faith to be strong, strength to be faithful…God works in beautiful ways. Blessings to you!! Donna


  6. Hey, Donna. Your messages of the last month still resonate with me. We are fortunate to live near the Blue Ridge Parkway and last week we took a short ride to see the changing leaves. As I saw the leaves falling on the road, I was reminded of your message about “letting go” and how we have many moments of letting go in our lives – young children and grandchildren, friends when we move, friends and family members who die, former homes, work that we loved, etc. But we are also “reborn” to grown children and grandchildren, new homes, new friends, new communities, new volunteer work in retirement. What blessings we have all around us when our eyes are open.

    Your Halloween inspiration message “It is well” certainly is a reminder that, indeed, all is well even during these troubling times of the pandemic, politics, climate changes, refugees, poverty, etc. It feels overwhelming and hard to believe and trust it will ever be “well” again. I love that you carve messages in pumpkins rather than faces.

    Lastly, three other things: 1) I found Two Good yogurt in our grocery store. It is delicious and I like that some of the proceeds go to good causes, and 2) Did you see that your cat opened the cabinet door behind you in the video where you were peeling apples (which I can’t find now on your blog) and 3) I loved your chickens coming up close to the camera in “It Is Well.” Such curious creatures!

    That’s all for now! Sorry for such a long message. Your words motivate me to reflect and respond.

    Peace, Nancy


    • Nancy, I loved your note! Thank you for taking time to write and to share. It means a lot to me. And I had to go back and find that video with me peeling the apples. It was from October 2020…and I just noticed the cat trying to open the door! Too funny. Thank you for bringing that to my attention! Blessings, Donna


      • Great to hear from you! And the “peeling apples” video came up on my Ipad right after your “It Is Well “video. My computer is looking after me because I had not seen it before and I loved it.


  7. I love this years Advent and Christmas Devotional! It was/is like visiting with a friend each day, who gently turns you back to Christ and hope. It’s surprising how many things you wrote about that resonated with me. I was so surprised about the New York part of your life, when I was raised on ranches in Washington state and Montana, but we must be of similar spirits, because I felt so connected. Years ago I wrote a column called Mud Season and saw you too had wrote a piece on Mud! 😊 I’m recently retired and trying to find that new sense of place and fulfillment without the boundaries of work and intense family life of my younger years. Thank you again for writing such a wonderful devotional. All the best in 2022. Do you ever do retreats in the Midwest or West?


    • Cindy, how wonderful to meet you!!! And I am so touched that you are enjoying this year’s devotional. That makes me smile. And, yes, mud season is indeed very spiritual!! I am holding you in my prayers during this time of transition in your life. I just know God has some wonderful plans for you!!! And I would love to do a retreat or two out West. I have done retreats before. I will hold it my prayers. Blessings again and here’s to a new year filled with God moments. Donna


  8. Pastor Donna, I have absolutely been moved by your 2021 Advent devotions. They struck home and were so applicable to each day. I keep reading through the 12 days of Christmas. I live in Iowa and shared your devotion with our daughter who also followed each day. Thank you, thank you! K


    • Katherine, it is so wonderful to hear from you. And I am very touched by your kind words. It means so much to me. Thank you!!!! I will also be writing this year’s Lenten devotional for Presbyterians Today. It will be available online by early February, just in time for Ash Wednesday which is March 2. Again, thank you for reaching out to me. It is a joy hearing from readers. Many blessings to you and may the light of Epiphany shine brightly on you. Blessings, Donna


  9. Greetings, Donna. I loved your video about birthdays today. My husband and I used to celebrate birthdays, though not in a big way, but now not so much. After your video, I plan to celebrate in ways that you mentioned, which are much more meaningful. I am also going to look up Henri Nouwen’s quote on birthdays and share it with friends. Thank you.
    I appreciated your comments about the ages of our most productive years. I can actually confirm the truth of them as I have experienced more productivity, a better sense of well-being, and less stress as I have aged into those years.


    • You made my day! To think that more people like you might be spending a little bit more attention to celebrating birthdays is such a blessing. My husband and I are still not big birthday celebration people, but I am becoming more mindful of the importance of taking this time to thank God for life. And I, too, found the comments about age and productivity so inspiring. I just had to share!!!! 🙂


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