Okay, first, the frustrating news. We have learned that A Burning in My Bones — the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson by Winn Collier (to be published by Waterbrook) — has been delayed by the publisher until March 2021. It was to be released next week and we had quite a waiting list who had taken us up on our discounted pre-order offer.
We were shocked and disappointed when we heard of this and it took a while to learn why.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the book. (I’ve read an early manuscript and was interviewed by Winn for the research since Peterson was a customer and friend. It’s really good.) The family is very happy with it as are all involved. No, it is only a clear-eyed marketing decision due to the mess we are in with Covid and the pandemic and the forest fires (and the contention of the election, for that matter.) The publisher concluded that now just isn’t the best time to be sending out such an important book and they want to give it the marketing attention and retail space it deserves. It seems like a long time to wait but I suspect they are right. The publishing world is a hot mess right now.
This is a disappointment but in the long run will be better for the book itself. I’m writing a personal letter to those who had pre-ordered it from us here at Hearts & Minds explaining this delay. In case you didn’t see that in your inbox, we wanted to announce it here, now.
TWO NEW BOOKS OF LETTERS:
ONE WRITTEN BY EUGENE PETERSON,
ONE WRITTEN BY ERIC PETERSON.
AND A HEARTS & MINDS SPECIAL OFFER, WHILE SUPPLIES: LAST 30% OFF — IF BUYING BOTH. 20% off if you are buying just one. Use the link at the bottom of this column to be taken to our secure order form page. Tell us what you want, we’ll do the rest.
Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son Eugene H. Peterson (NavPress) regularly $19.99 // $15.99 for one; $13.99 if buying both
Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church Eric E. Peterson (NavPress) regularly $19.99 // $15.99 for one; $13.99 if buying both
Instead of our customary BookNotes 20% off discount, we will deduct 30% off if you buy them both. You get 20% off for either one if you buy them singularly. That’s $15.99. But if you get both, our 30% off for the pair makes them just $13.99 each. That’s $27.98 for both.
We want to try to redeem this frustrating news that the authorized biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning in My Bones, by Winn Collier, has been delayed from the expected October 2020 release to a projected mid-March 2021 release date. As I said above, this is not at all due to any problems with the manuscript or author but a wise decision to give the book a better shot at being known and purchased next Spring. These are distracted times and a book this good and this important deserves to be well marketed, and we trust that the good folks at Waterbrook, owned by Random House, know how best to determine these things. We are sad, but glad, that they have the best interest in the book in mind. We are still taking pre-orders for it. It means a lot to many of us, and it means a lot to us.
So we will make you another Peterson offer. Earlier this Spring, in the midst of the shut-down from the pandemic, we got a case of two great books, books I couldn’t wait to lay eyes on. One is a set of letters from father Eugene, then a retired Presbyterian pastor, to his pastor son, Eric. The other is a book — in the form of a set of letters to his own newly formed church — from young pastor Eric. To say these are Peterson-esque is a tongue-in-cheek joke. How could they not be? The are by Eugene and Eric Peterson! Of course they are Peterson-esque.
Letters to a Young Pastor: Timothy Conversations Between Father and Son starts off with this great story: Eric explains that he felt unsure about his pastoral chops as a newish pastor, and wanted some advice from his dad, not unlike the encouragement offered in the Bible by the elder Paul to the younger Timothy. Eric says he was glad that his dad didn’t say, “Well, yes, I’ve already written a number of books about this very thing, the spirituality and practices of being a pastor, and you should read them.” No, his dad took up the task of writing, writing to his son as a Barnabas or a Paul to a sometimes befuddled Timothy trying to find his stride in this hard vocation of being a pastor.
This book collects letters carefully written by Eugene over almost a decade.
So there are two beautiful things, at least, going on it Letters to a Young Pastor. There is the father-son aspect, letters from a Godly man to his adult son. Gene didn’t just send Eric his books. Few of us get to engage in this kind of intentional lovely discourse, and even if we did, most of our dads where not quite like Eugene Peterson. So there is some tender stuff here, most that are very autobiographical, including fairly typical reports about his life with Jan and news about their other son and daughter. Like good letter writers of older eras, much of this is both mundane and stunningly beautiful. Most is not dramatic, but it is instructive in so many ways. How interesting to eavesdrop on these intimate conversations about Peterson’s own call, his work, his travels, his writing, his days off. I gasped a bit — but, frankly was not surprised — when he told about a book he had just ordered (from us here at Hearts & Minds!) I was glad to see him comment on Wee Kirk, the Presbyterian gathering for small congregations where he on occasion preached and taught. I was happy to read his letters that so affirmed his love and confidence in his adult son.
Of course, another part of Letters to a Young Pastor is Eugene’s conversationally offer teaching points about faith and discipleship, church work, pastoring. These are usually subtle, not forced, usually rooted in a story for his own past. A congregant he encounter, a book he read, a denominational exec he talked with, the aggravation he felt by the pressure to use sales-force lingo and sociology and marketing, the sad ethos of the Christian community. It is the very early 2000s (and following) when Eugene Peterson was writing these to pastor Eric, so much of this is conjured from rememberance of his earlier Maryland years and yet it feels like a live journal. For the fans of the writing of Eugene Peterson, this is now an essential volume in his body of work. It includes 37 letters, a poem, and is over 200 pages. What a treasure Eric has compiled for us all. It is a gift and we are grateful.
There is so much wisdom here for pastors, so you might earn favor with yours by buying it for him or her. But we who are not ministers will enjoy it, too. There’s so many interesting moments — his telling Eric about a brand new book called Gilead by one Marilynne Robinson or his enthusiasm for the new novel by Leif, Eric’s brother, called Catherine’s Wheels. He talks about meetings with publishers and about lectures he is preparing which eventually become books and he talks about friends who have left the church. He even lists some jokes.
Eugene H. Peterson was my dad. But he was also the holiest man I have either known or know of. His life formed me to be the person and pastor I am more than I would even venture to guess. I. hope that, in the pages that follow, you will allow the legacy of his enduring spirit to converse with you, as well. Eric E. Peterson
Letters to a Young Congregation: Nurturing the Growth of a Faithful Church, with a uniform, hardback cover, is by Eric Peterson.This companion book to the letters from Eugene Peterson is also rich, wonderful, and a truly edifying resource for anyone who cares about the integrity of congregational life. As much as I deeply loved Letters to a Young Pastor, to be honest, despite his lack of fame and reputation, this recent book by son Eric is perhaps an even better book. It is simply remarkable to have such a literate pastor who shares the style and tone and much of the orienting perspective of one of our most respected pastoral voices without it feeling like a copy-cat, affectatious, second-hand. No, it is clear that this is substantial and authentic. There are other books like this — pastoral letters written to a local flock — and this is by far the best I’ve read.
(Okay, except maybe for the fictional collection by Peterson biographer Winn Collier, who wrote several years ago a book Eugene loved called Love Big Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church which had the benefit of not needing to be stuck in the quotidian of real ordinary life. That is, it was a novel, for Pete’s sake, so it isn’t quite a fair comparison. But those are some great letters, there.)
Eric Peterson’s Letters… is a bit like that novel, actually, and he’s a very fine writer. Like his father, he cares about the ordinary, writes with a plainspoken heft, solid and clear. Funny that he isn’t luminous or elegant but yet is artful and literary. It’s a good style and it suits his voice, as it did his famous fathers. Unlike the fictional church in the Winn Collier novel, but somewhat like Eugene’s earlier setting, these letters are (as the title suggests) written to members of a church plant, a new church development, as some call it. These are letters from the pastor to the people of Colbert Presbyterian Church in Colbert, in the mountains of Eastern Washington state.
In 200 pages this epistolary collection unfolds in four majors sections. The first batch of letters are under the topic “What My Life Is All About” and the second set explore “What God Is About.” The third section is “What the Church is About” while the last set of letters instruct his congregation on “What Following Jesus is All About.” These are not quit sermons, but they are inspiring. They are not quite theological essays, but they are informative and thoughtful. They are pastoral letters, down to Earth, visionary and yet placed. Set in place.
In the very moving introduction, Eric writes of being raised in the church. (Quite literally, too, since his childhood during Eugene and Jan’s early days at Christ our King the worship space for the church plant was their basement, where Eric later had his bedroom, complete with left-over liturgical furniture.) It’s a great little read — don’t miss it. In the final pages of that opening piece, he shares that near the end of Eugene’s life he delivered one of his dad’s lectures for him, at Princeton Theological Seminary. Eric knew the thunderous applause was for his dad, even as he had voiced the words. And then he writes,
As dementia robbed him of his fertile imagination, I did some ghostwriting to help him meet his remaining commitments. The task of a ghostwriter is to communicate the ideas of another, and to do this in their own voice. I’ll never forget the first time I did this. After spending half a day attempting to “channel” Eugene, trying to get the words and the voice to sound like him, I pushed back from my desk and said to myself, “I no longer know where his voice ends and mine begins.”
I suppose the same could be said for the letters that here follow, and anyone familiar with Eugene’s writing will readily detect his influence on mine. My pastoral voice has developed largely through the many years and many conversations we have shared together to the point where it’s not always clear just where his ends and mine begin. Although Eugene died on October 22, 2018, I often feel as though he is still overseeing my life and ministry.
In death no less than life, he has been both my father and my bishop. With much gratitude, this volume is dedicated to his memory.
These are a very nice and valuable pair of books. We are happy to sell them, as it is what we do, as we did with Eugene. (When he writes in one of his old letters to Eric that a “friend” “put him on” to a certain author, believing that is was me just made me weep.) It’s honorable work, Peterson told me once, and so we invite you now to buy these books.
We have this offer, now, at least, while supplies last. Instead of our customary BookNotes 20% off discount, we will deduct 30% off if you buy them both. You get 20% off for either one if you buy just one. That comes to $15.99. But if you get both, our 30% off for the pair makes them $13.99 each. That’s $27.98 for both.
Please let us know if you’d rather have us send the order the least costly way (US Postal Media Mail) which can be slow. For one or two books that is usually about $3.25; a bit extra for more books, of course. Some people request the speedy US Postal Priority Mail option. For about $7 or so for two books, it is as quick as UPS and a whole lot cheaper.
Do, please, let us know your preference.
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