Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer Reading Groups

If you have some reading planned for summer, the adult ed committee has picked out some books you might want to read and talk about. The books are set out in the Abbot Road entrance on Sunday mornings with a sign-up sheet. The idea is that you sign up for the book (or books) you want to read, and someone on the list agrees to take responsibility to gather the signees for a discussion sometime this summer.

The discussion can be one or several times. It can be at church, in someone's home, in a coffee shop or in a restaurant. It is up to the group how they want to meet.

The books cover a wide range of Christianity and spirituality. Some are fun, some are informative, some are deep. Here's a quick look at them.

Lamb, by Christopher Moore, is an irreverent but well-researched novel that wonders what Jesus did during those years of his youth, prior to beginning his public ministry. It purports to be written by Biff, his childhood pal. ("Biff" is the Hebrew word for the sound made when someone gets slapped upside the head.) Very funny, but not for the easily offended.

Speaking of Faith, by Krista Tippett, lets the radio host share what she has learned about faith and her own spiritual journey by hosting the public radio show "Speaking of Faith" and conversing with spiritual leaders like Thich Naht Hahn, Elie Weisel, Karen Armstrong and others. She is wise and honest about herself and her own journey, and what she has gleaned along the way. This is also proving to be one of the most popular reads in our summer sessions.

A Generous Orthodoxy, by Brian McLaren, is one of my very favorite books. In fact, I can't find any of my copies of it to put out on display, because I keep loaning it to people to read. Written by one of the leaders in the Emerging Church movement, it offers a readable, engaging theology of faith. He offers a way forward for Christians of many denominations and persuasions to focus on what they have in common -- a faith that moves beyond "us and them" to a focus on "we" who love Jesus and want to follow him in embodying his love. Also, a sticker on the book promises that if you don't LOVE this book, it's free!

The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs, is both hysterically funny and deeply informative. In it, Jacobs, a secular Jew, decides to read the Bible for himself and to try to follow every precept in it. The big ones, like "love your neighbor" and also the small ones, like "stone adulterers" (the stoning section is too, too funny!). He also does lots of research on these traditions, finds spiritual guidance from Jewish and Christian experts alike, and in the process of making us laugh, teaches us a whole lot about the Bible and the way different faith traditions read it. Yes, he visits snake handlers, too.

Jesus for the Non-Religious, by retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, is an excellent choice for people who struggle with some of the claims of Christianity, and who especially struggle with the conservative, fundamentalist interprestation of those claims. Bishop Spong has helped many people (including some All Saints' folks) come back to faith and to church with a sense of intellectual integrity that allows their reason and their faith to co-exist. If you have never read any works by Bp. Spong and wonder what the fuss is about him, this work is a good survey of all his thinking over the last several decades.

Abraham, by Bruce Feiler, is a search for the founder of three world faiths -- Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Feiler travels the Middle East, speaking to rabbis and imams, patriarchs and monks, Israelis and Palestinians, in his search for how these three faiths find their common heritage in this one shared ancestor. Feiler's writing is engaging and accessible, and his journey is enlightening. Also, he's giving me lots of insights for Sunday's sermon!

Happy reading, and happy discussing!

+ Kit

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