Words: Kailin Richardson ’20
Photos: Tony Hughes
Isis Toldson ’24 is serious about what she does—but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. She laughs at her own jokes and explains her story with a sense of humor that revels in irony. As a poet, theologian, and debater from a young age, though, it’s clear she knows both how to appreciate absurdity and how to care deeply: tenets of a good storyteller.
Toldson started asking big questions as early as age seven. Even then, she knew she was called to ministry and would debate with her dad’s friends about Calvinism. As a teenager, she was excited to start conversations about Christology and quick to be inquisitive about identity and race.
She started writing poetry at age 12 when she discovered she could capture so much of her life’s meaning in just a few words. “Everything means something to me, which is so annoying 90 percent of the time,” she said. She laughed at this intensity and teased her middle school self for a misplaced notebook of poetry, even comparing it to the lost Ark of the Covenant. “I think God took my black notebook because it is probably the most embarrassing compilation of things that I’ve ever written in my life,” she said. Nonetheless, this early work helped her discover something about herself: “I am, for better or worse, an artist.”
Eventually, after processing her time working for an Anglican church in England, conversations at her home church, and COVID, this need to ask questions and seek out answers brought her to Wheaton to study theology. She wants to pursue “storytelling as a way of communicating the gospel.” She’s done this through performing spoken word poetry at Wheaton’s Christmas Festival and MLK Jr. Symposium and by serving as a devotional poet with Storytelling Project, a team of creatives making art based on Wheaton student life. She also serves as a program leader for the intentional, multiracial, living-learning residence on campus, Shalom Community.
“I really care a lot about my generation being able to track their theological or spiritual heritage,” she said as she thinks about what she’ll do next at the intersection of theology and storytelling. “I really care about people being able to see themselves in the gospel.”