Monday, February 20, 2017

Pastor's Book Club - February and March

I thought it might be fun and instructive this year to host a “Pastor’s Book Club,” not a small group meeting monthly, but a way for the congregation and others to be reading a book together – and then to have the author or an interesting person share with us about the importance of the book. 

We began in January with Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird - and Matt Rawle came and engaged in terrific conversation about it, which I'd commend to you!  It's on YouTube.

My goal isn’t to “endorse” a book or its viewpoint, and the goal isn’t to say “reading this will get you straightaway closer to Jesus.”  It’s trying to read things that will stretch us, or to read books others in our culture are reading and ask about the implications for us in the church.

For the “Pastor’s Book Club” this month, I wanted to read something related to race, reconciliation – and also taking note of Black History Month.  There have been so many books thoughtful, provocative books out in just the past several months, which I’ve read and tried to absorb – and I might have chosen any of them:  Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; Jim Wallis, America’s Original Sin; Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy; Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop; Debby Irving, Waking Up White; even Jodi Picoult’s novel, Small Great Things – and so many more.

We’ve also had quite a few films that are eye-opening, and that achieve that old “afflict the comfortable” – like like 13th (a must-see documentary), the rekindling of The Birth of a Nation as the story of Nat Turner’s rebellion, and the inspiring Hidden Figures.

Finally I settled on James Baldwin’s short and thoughtful The Fire Next Time, the 1963 classic of the Civil Rights movement, which expresses, among many other things, remarkable compassion on white people.  So interesting…  I read it years ago, and have quoted it many times.  I look forward to rereading it now, along with those of you who are interested and able.

My choice of this book coincided with the release of a provocative film, I Am Not Your Negro – based on Baldwin’s reflections on the assassinations of three of his close friends, Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X.  It's playing at two locations in Charlotte right now.

We have Toussaint Romain, a local attorney, community advocate, and spellbinding speaker, coming on Wednesday, March 8, 7pm, to talk with us about Baldwin’s book and whatever else he’d like to share with us about race, religion and our city.

Next month! (we’re a couple of weeks out of sync, sorry about that…), as we are inviting our church family into a season of thinking about and growing in prayer, I thought we might read a devotional classic together - one you might continue to read through the balance of the year.  There are so many terrific books... I could list dozens and dozens.

So to pick a great one: we will read the devotional classic by Oswald Chambers: MyUtmost for His Highest.  You could actually get the book today and begin the daily readings! 

I got more interested in this one when the Wall Street Journal and then later that same week the New York Times had reviews of a new book by Macy Halford’s My Utmost: A Devotional Memoir. 
She tells how she was given her grandmother’s copy of this great book, but ignored it for a long time.  Finally she picked it back up, began reading and learning also about Chambers himself.  It’s a thoughtful book about a thoughtful book.  I like that.

I’m working it out to have a grandmother and her granddaughter, both of whom I know well, coming to share their very intergenerational perspective on this wonderful daily devotional guide:  what it means to read a book over and over, year after year, and then to bequeath such a book to the next generation.  Details shortly…

Thanks for reading with me!