So, Kevin listed all the books he read last year. I don’t read that much but I thought I’d share about the books I’ve read so far this year.
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs
This book must have received a lot of media hype last year because I ended up with 3 copies of it. I was at a local discount shop, a place that gets a lot of one-off stuff, remaindered stuff, stuff with a torn box but the contents are perfectly good. I’ve noticed a lot of Costco stuff in that store. And they sell it at a great price. It’s our favourite store in town. But I digress.
Just before Christmas we were in there and I saw this book, read the jacket, and it looked interesting to me so I bought it. Well, it’s true that you shouldn’t buy yourself anything just before Christmas because I got it as a present from a sister-in-law, explained that I already had it, and passed it on to my brother-in-law. Then, just after Christmas, at a 12th Night Party a parishioner gave it to me as well. I explained that it was now my third copy and passed it on to someone else at the party and said she could just pass it on when she finished with it.
It’s a really neat book. It’s interesting. It’s funny. It makes you think. Jacobs admits that he’s an agnostic but it started to sound like he was discovering something profound as the year went on. The Holy Spirit? I noticed it the most when he wrote about prayer. He prayed because it was commanded but his praying seemed to change the way he thought about people and things. It’s like if you pray for someone you can’t help but start to feel godly toward them.
Living Lutheran: Renewing your Congregation by Dave Daubert
I find this to be a very practical book. Daubert is now part of the A.R.E. (A Renewal Enterprise) team of Kelly Fryer and Tana Kjos. If you read Fryer’s Reclaiming the "L" Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core then you might remember the "Five Guiding Principles" that she and her congregation came up with during their renewal.
Daubert writes about developing and using a Purpose Statement as well as developing Guiding Principles to help with congregational renewal. He even gives a sample day-long retreat agenda for developing the statement and principles. I’m hoping/planning to do this in my congregation.
An example that I found enlightening and (hopefully) encouraging refers to an ELCA study that found that after a decade-long churchwide evangelism strategy, membership and attendance overall had declined. The study found that declining and growing congregations had tried some of the same evangelism techniques and tactics but the growing congregations were almost always clear about two things. "First, they were clear about their purpose or their vision for ministry. They had an understanding of what God was doing and how they could be a part of that. It was known and shared by the membership. It was as important to many in the pews as it was to the pastors in the pulpit. Second, these vibrant congregations showed an openness to change in order to be faithful. ‘We’ve never done it that way before,’ was replaced with, ‘What do we need to do to be effective for God?’" (p. 15).
When I mentioned this to our council earlier this month I was greeted mostly by silence but at least no opposition.
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
I received this book from another sister-in-law who got it used herself and then passed it on after reading it. I really liked it. It’s rather sad at times, but there is redemption as well.
This is a screwed up family because of one decision that turned into a secret that snowballed into an unhappy marriage, an unhappy family. The truth does finally come out in a way but it doesn’t make everything better all of a sudden. It’s realistic. Even though it doesn’t end "happily ever after" I found it to be a happy ending.
Reclaiming the "C" Word: Daring to be Church Again by Kelly Fryer
This was a re-read. I love the stuff Kelly Fryer writes. I’m a regular visitor to her blog. Her next "reclaiming" book is supposed to come out this week, Reclaiming the "E" Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity. I look forward to getting it and reading it. Fryer is challenging to me. I get excited by the possibilities that I see for our churches. But I like some of what the church is and does and sometimes she says, or implies, that what we’re doing is holding us back from being all that we can in God’s mission.
I’m kind of a fan of the vestments, the ceremony, the liturgy, the organ, the old hymns. Can’t we keep that as we renew the church, as we dare to be church again? It might take a while for me to let go of some things and take others up.