It has been a while since Beth and I have been as run ragged (is that a phrase you grew up hearing?) as we have this week. We had the great pleasure of being with some of our favorite friends and customers (and a few crazy fans) and the important opportunity to serve some of our favorite faith gatherings. We pulled and packed, lugged and set up, moved to another gig, back to the other, tore down, drove to a third in another vehicle, managed to work with literally a few hours sleep setting up at yet another venue, as we hustled back to make book announcements at the second event. Or something like that. Three overlapping conferences stressed our backs and vans and feeble minds, but it sure was a whirlwind of fun and friendships renewed. Thanks to everyone who put up with our zany complaining.
Last weekend saw us packing up for the North East regional gathering of APCE, the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators. We are honorary members, and feel great solidarity with those who work in our Presbyterian (USA) denomination to do education, Bible study, childrens’ ministry, small group stuff, and assist in the faith formation of the local parish. These are creative and steadfast folks, mostly women, mostly un-ordained, who care for kids and adults and their nurture in the faith. There were several good workshops (and a show and tell time of Hearts & Minds selections) and the keynote speaker was the nearly legendary church educator (and author of Teaching Today’s Teachers to Teach) Donald L. Griggs. He’s been at this a while and knows well the shifts in trends and approaches—workshop rotation? Godly play? multiple intelligences?—and cleverly titled one of his talks something about the shift from film strips to facebook. Uh-huh! He even showed excerpts of the spectacular computer Glo Bible, now available for Mac, too, by the way. (See our initial description of it here. And check out the fabulous Glo website, here.)
Griggs is most recently known for his two books The Bible From Scratch: The Old Testament for Beginners and The Bible From Scratch: The New Testament For Beginners (WJK; $13.00 each.) (Buy the two as a set a save a couple of bucks–email us if you want more info.) Rev. Griggs is now collaborating with Bible scholars with specialized knowledge, and has produced Genesis from Scratch, Mark’s Gospel from Scratch, and, just recently, Matthew’s Gospel from Scratch. These include solid cultural and historical background information, helpful teaching stuff, outlines, discussion questions, and so forth. Perfect for adult classes or anyone who wants a thoughtful, moderate, helpful overview. Charles “Buzz” Myers, by the way, (who co-wrote Mark’s Gospel From Scratch) is a local Presbyterian clergyman who is currently working as a professor at Gettysburg College. He is in demand as a speaker, teacher and preacher and does an excellent job teaching with passion, humor and clarity. This whole series is very useful and we are glad for this tool for teaching God’s Word.
Another popular multi-media resource that was popular was the CD package that has been put
to supplement the children’s Lectionary Story Bible Year A by
Ralph Milton (Wood Lake Books; $30.00 in hardback; $49.95 for the audio set.) The CD and CD-rom audio set includes not only the audio portions
of the Year A Bible stories, but all the artwork from the Bible that can be
clipped and shown. I love the Margaret Kyle watercolor artwork on this, and the stories tend to show nicely men and women, boys and girls.
Penn SE Conference of the UCC
While Beth finished up with our APCE friends, I was holding forth with another mainline denominational gang, an annual clergy convocation for Penn Southeast conference of the United Church of Christ. Think what you will about their provocative branding slogan (God Is Still Speaking…) these are good friends and very supportive of the array of literature we bring for their perusal. Since the theme was being inclusive and effective with young adults in our congregations I got to share some of our important books on that theme. The recent book by researcher Thom Ranier is helpful; it is simply called The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation (Broadman; $22.99.) There are other such books and it is helpful, I think, to know the sociology of various demographics, even if we we run the risk of caricature and stereotype…I appreciate clergy who want to learn, who move out of their typical work and seek to understand different sub-cultures, or, in this instance, different age groupings.
Of course I highlighted Steve Garber’s Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior (IVP; $17.00) since that is not one of my own all time favorite books but is based largely on stories of those whose faith commitments where nurtured during their college years and expanded in the subsequent decades. Garber’s book is very important for anyone who wants to take faith seriously, figuring out how best to encourage young adults to keep their cares and concerns and sense of calling intact. I’ve mentioned it often and hope it generates thoughtful discussion about mentoring, vocation, walking alongside younger adults in their quest for purpose…
Naturally, I explained to them my fondness for Gabe Lyon’s book The Next Christians (Doubleday; $19.99) (which I reviewed when if first released, here.) Watch this 5-minutes interview from ABC News that allows you to see Lyons’ overview; it will make you want to read the book, and share it with others! It is a tremendously interesting and inspiring book about how younger generations of Christians are truly interested in being culturally engaged and contributors to the common good. As you might suppose for an event dreaming about reaching younger adults, we had plenty of books about faith-based views of film, stuff about work and career, social justice resources, and titles about human sexuality such as the new and stunningly interesting The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Us by Jannell Williams Paris (IVP; $15.00.) That is a book that I hope to write about more…see these very appreciative endorsements here and if it intrigues you, and come back and order it from us.
We also sold a lot of the brand new Joyce Rupp devotional (Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine; Sorin Press; $22.95), the brand new, quite poetic, Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life (Bluebridge; $19.95), and the two new Richard Rohr releases, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass; $19.95) and A Lever and a Place to Stand (Hidden Springs; $15.00.)
For an activist denomination who are known for justice and hospitality, they do appreciate the spiritual disciplines and gentle writers like that. One of the books I dared ’em to take is a splendid new book about pastoring, cleverly called The Truth Shall Make You Odd: Speaking with Pastoral Integrity in Awkward Situations by Frank Honeycutt (Brazos; $18.00.) I recommend it for anyone in ministry, and even for lay folks who wonder how their pastors ought to be acting. It isn’t easy being paid to be a prophet; most leaders know how hard it is to speak the truth in situations where it is awkward. Of course, even the most bold pastor wants to be liked–few of us relish being seen as, well, odd. Can we support them in their odd calling to speak to us the truth? This book can help–designed for pastoral leaders, but fascinating for anyone. Highly recommended.
The main speaker at the UCC clergy event was the very vibrant Presbyterian inner city clergy woman with a passion for giving voice to the concerns of younger folk, Carol Howard Merrit. Carol has done considerable work in thinking about the cultural shifts in this new millennium, and as a fairly young pastor, knows herself much of what makes her generation tick. She is a good speaker with an infectious laugh so we were pleased that these mostly older pastors so appreciated her. She is confident that many smaller ordinary churches can be hospitable to younger adults, and gave plenty of illustrations of how that can happen. We had a display of her two Alban Institute books, The Tribal Church: Ministering to the Missing Generation and Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation (Alban; $17.00.) These have both garnered awards and are considered important contributions to the necessary renewal of the mainline, progressive churches. Carol recently penned a cool forward, too, for another recent Alban Institute book which speaks to the ways new Web 2.0 mindsets—what some call Wiki—can shape how we do theology and think about the church. See the very thoughtful (and very engaging–citing recent pop research like The Wisdom of Crowds) Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All by Landon Whitsett. (Alban; $17.00.)
As Beth and our hard-working employee and friend Patti boxed and boxed and boxed the unsold stuff, I zoomed off to yet a third event, a regional training seminar of my beloved CCO (the Coalition for Ch
ristian Outreach.) CCO partners with local churches that are near college campuses to do culturally relevant campus ministry, working to bring the vision of the Kingdom into the context of American higher education. What a great time hanging with these bold young leaders, doing such innovative work in such unique places. Every college is different and ministries must be custom made to nurture faith in everything from training schools to large Ivy League schools, from evangelical Christian colleges to nominally church-related institutions in the grip of secularization. Some staff work with athletes, some with international students, some with seekers at the coffee houses scene. I take our job resourcing them seriously and they buy a lot of books, always keeping me on my toes as I try to find titles that will inform their work and that they can share with students.
One of the best selling books at the CCO retreat was a very new book that has been long-awaited in those circles, Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society by Jason Locy and Timothy Willard (Zondervan; $17.99.) They spoke at the CCO’s Jubilee conference last February and were real hits there—college age and other young adults swarmed to their workshop after hearing their 7-minute short overview from the main stage. These guys are not only way cool, they are, more importantly, authentic. They tell the real story–one has been a writer in religious publishing, the other works in the ad world of branding and marketing– that our wounds and brokenness and yearnings are part of who we are, not to be airbrushed or covered over. Isn’t that what veneer does—make pretty what isn’t really true? No, we don’t want fake glitz, and our consumer culture has been way to influential in pushing churches (especially evangelical groups, it seems to me, who are most savvy about adopting cultural trends and modern forms of communication) into accommodation with consumerism. Here and here are two very short video clips about their work, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the book seems timely and helpful. Glad it is out. It has garnered some buzz and they deserve it. (And, if you guys are reading—thanks much for the hard work, and for allowing me to play a small role. I’m grateful and humbled by the shout out. Cheers to you!)
CCO staff and students also had heard Gabe Lyons at the Jubilee conference last February so they were still interested in his important book Next Christians (Doubleday; $19.99) which I mentioned above. Lyons runs the very innovative conferences called The Q and some DVD curriculum just has been released from previous Q events. (Next year, by the way, Q will be hosted in Washington DC. Make plans now!) Check out their ongoing conversations at their very extensive website.
Next week I’ll tell you about these DVDs which I promoted at all three of our recent events–they are fabulous! I am giving it the old college try to interest folks in these excellent discussion starters. I think they will resonate with many folks, older or younger, but they are not the sort of curriculum that we’ve seen for church groups, so we are thrilled about them, hoping that BookNotes friends will consider investing in them, sharing them with your friends, small groups, and congregations. For now, though, thanks for your prayers and interest in the events we travel to, for wishing us well as we set up displays and chat with attendees. If you were at these events, thanks for stopping by the book display, and, probably buying something. This is important work, we believe, and we couldn’t do it without you.
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