Monday, June 5, 2017
Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column
Dear Church, As always, to commemorate the conclusion of yet another academic year for our schools and their students, I'd like to commend to you a few books for some summer reading should you be so inclined to use these days of summer to continue your search for understanding of mission of the church for today. A couple of friends have produced books recently that make this year's summer reading list, and I cannot say enough about the good work they do for the Gospel.
"Healing Spiritual Wounds: Reconnecting with a Loving God After Experiencing a Hurtful Church," Carol Howard Merritt (HarperOne, 2017)
Carol has been a friend and role model for me in ministry ever since she came to speak at a regional conference in Yakima a few years ago. Her latest book touches on her own journey out of fundamentalism and into ordained ministry in profoundly vivid and vulnerable ways while also weaving in the narratives of other souls who have crossed her path after experiencing pain and hurt in the name of the church. For those who have had difficult experiences with faith in the past, she includes guides and exercises with each chapter. It is such a strong narrative that I am actually going to be using this book as the basis for my autumn sermon series, so if you want to get a jump start on it, seek out a copy!
"Pre-Post-Racial America: Spiritual Stories from the Front Lines," Sandhya Rani Jha (Chalice Press, 2015)
I met Sandhya during my seminary days in Berkeley when she was the pastor of a Disciples congregation just south of me in Oakland. Like Carol, Sandhya is an excellent storyteller, and she puts those skills to use sharing about one of her biggest areas of expertise: racial reconciliation and justice. It is easy to say when we worship in a relatively homogenous church that reconciliation between races and ethnicities is not a concern for us, and yet I promise you, for the wider church it absolutely is a concern--a massive one--and Sandhya is one of the saints doing the work on the ground that needs to be done on behalf of the Gospel in this particular arena.
"Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn't Say," Adam Hamilton (Abingdon Press, 2016)
Unlike Carol and Sandhya, I don't really know Adam personally--I've only met him once--but I have a family friend and colleague who works with him at Church of the Resurrection in my hometown of Kansas City, and Adam is consistently a thoughtful writer across several books of his that I have read. This one tackles one of the things that often rankles us pastors about cultural Christianity--the platitudes that we repeat to ourselves and others (often with the best of intentions) that have no basis in Scripture and can in fact do more harm than good. Adam's patient, methodical style helps dismantle several of these platitudes while offering up more substantive and helpful alternatives for our faith.
These are a few of the books that will be on my shelf for this summer--what about for you, and your bookshelf?
Yours in Christ,