Online Book Club Reads

Interested in reading some of our past selections? Following is a list of books read and discussed to date:

Holy Solitude, Heidi Haverkamp

For Lent 2018 the Online Book Club chose Holy Solitude, a book of reflections and practical devotional activities. Reflections draw on figures from scripture and Christian history “whose stories of discernment and discipline are a guide for our own spiritual practices as we seek to know God more fully and follow Christ more faithfully.

Watch for the Light, Plough Publishing

Watch for the Light was our Advent read for 2017. The book is a collection of daily writings for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany written by diverse, well-known authors. The selections challenge readers think about these seasons in new ways and the different authors keep the reading interesting. The book group had meaningful, in-depth discussions each week around the past week’s readings.

Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

What does it mean to truly belong, especially in these times of extreme polarization? This is the subject of Brené Brown’s latest book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Brown talks about the nature of spirituality and the “spiritual disconnection” she says is endemic in our current society. She provides four key ways to “brave the wilderness” of addressing the disconnection and describes the “braving” skills necessary to do this work: boundaries, responsibility, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgement, and generosity. The book club found this a worthwhile read and it generated good discussions.

Walk with Jesus: Stations of the Cross, by Henri Nouwen

About Walk with Jesus (from Amazon): This book of meditations by Henri Nouwen, inspired by a series of drawings by Sr. Helen David, represents traditional Stations of the Cross through the passion and suffering of the world’s poor. A political prisoner behind bars, a peasant burdened by a load of wood, an abandoned child, a mother grieving for her murdered son, an exhausted farmer, four martyred churchwomen . . . In these images Nouwen sees the ongoing passion of Christ.

Sr. Helen’s drawings are stark and moving, but they do not lead to despair. Rather, they “help us unite our own broken humanity with the humanity of the men, women, and children portrayed…This union becomes possible through the suffering and risen body of Jesus. In and through Jesus, our world can become one because in this divine love he embraces all of us, and desire that we all be one as he and his father are one.”

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World – Douglas Carlton Abrams with His Holiness The Dalai Lama and The Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The following summary of The Book of Joy comes from Publisher’s Weekly:

Cultivating joy was the subject of a five-day conversation between the Dalai Lama and Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa, held in 2015 at the former’s residence in exile in Dharamsala, India. The two Nobel Peace Prize recipients argued for a “true joy that was not dependent on the vicissitudes of circumstance,” writes Abrams, who moderated the rare meeting between the two friends on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. Highlighting the men’s playful joking and delight in each other’s company, Abrams carefully balances their strong voices during intense discussions on the many obstacles to joy (including fear, anger, and adversity) and ways to cultivate greater well-being, using as a framework the “eight pillars of joy” (perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity). Throughout, Abrams skillfully incorporates information about each leader’s life and work, basic Buddhist principles undergirding the Dalai Lama’s perspectives, and current scientific research. The dialogue intentionally focuses on areas of common ground accessible to readers of any faith or none, though Christians can be assured that Tutu’s contributions are infused with his deep love of God. This sparkling, wise, and immediately useful gift to readers from two remarkable spiritual masters offers hope that joy is possible for everyone even in the most difficult circumstances, and describes a clear path for attaining it.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis – J.D. Vance

Many have called Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis the most important book published in 2016. Author J. D. Vance tells the story of his growing up in a dysfunctional family, maturing in the Marines, and earning a Law degree at Yale University (where one of his professors was the original Tiger Mother!) He has given us a compassionate, discerning autobiography and analysis of the white underclass. Vance holds both his kin’s actions and attitudes, as well as lack of will at all levels of government, responsible for what ails them. In the telling, he makes it clear why so many of his neighbors believe that the “elite” not only ignore but actually disparage their unique culture. Believe it or not, this book is intelligible and uncomfortable to all, Democrats and Republicans alike. Imagine that.

Read The New York Times review of Hillbilly Elegy.

The Social Media Gospel–Sharing the Good News in New Ways – Meredith Gould

The Social Media Gospel is a good resource for churches exploring the use of social media in their church communications. Find out which types of social media are best for different audiences and learn to be discerning in how you select and implement social media.

My Church is NOT Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century – Greg Garrett

My Church is Not Dying - Greg GarrettIn October 2016 the on-line cohort finished its discussion of My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century (Morehouse, 2015).

Greg was the speaker at the 2015 diocesan convention and led a retreat at Cathedral Ridge in October 2016. If you didn’t have a chance to read his book already, take time to read it now and engage this timely text dedicated to “the Episcopal Church, and all who love her.” Topics covered include Anglican spirituality, questioning faith, liturgy and music, community and justice, evangelism and outreach.

Full Description:
The old way of “being church”—measured by political influence, money, and congregants in the pews—may indeed be vanishing, but it is being replaced by something new and beautiful for those with the eyes, ears, heart, and soul to experience it. Prolific author Greg Garrett reminds Episcopalians of the many gifts that our tradition can offer a doubting and hurting world. He reveals a church that values intellect, beauty, diversity, and community, and promotes thoughtful engagement with questions of faith, ethics, and community. This church espouses a generous orthodoxy, welcoming left and right, mystic and doubter. It values education, social justice, and engagement with literature and culture. And in opposition to the radical individualism espoused by most of American Protestantism, it offers the unique gift of a tradition shaped by English culture that believes the individual is a part of her or his community—not in opposition to it.

Greg Garrett, PhD, is professor of English at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where he has received university-wide teaching honors from both the administration and student congress. Author of multiple nonfiction books on faith and culture, he also writes a weekly column on faith and culture for Patheos and has written for numerous other publications, including The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Christian Century, Huffington Post, and Christianity Today. He is an acclaimed speaker, preacher, retreat leader, and musician who resides in Austin, Texas.

Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus – Michael Curry

Crazy Christians - Michael CurryWonder what our new Presiding Bishop, the Very Rev’d Michael Curry, is all about? Get a taste of what makes him tick by reading this book, Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus (Morehouse, 2013), based on his acclaimed 2012 General Convention address in Indianapolis that left delegates speechless and subsequently went viral on the web.

David Lose (Luther Seminary) had this to say about the book: “Filled with wisdom, humor, and insight, Michael Curry’s Crazy Christians is one of the finest introductions to the great breadth of Christian faith I’ve ever come across. But be warned: this isn’t the staid, predictable, straight-laced Christianity too many of us were spoon-fed in Sunday school. Rather, Curry penetrates to the radical heart of the Christian gospel and invites us—indeed, dares us—to join the long line of those throughout history who have followed the rabbi of Nazareth. If we take his dare, we may be surprised to see ourselves do amazing and, yes, even crazy things as we are caught up in the power of God’s transforming love.”

The Very Rev’d Michael Curry, recently installed as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, previously served for nearly two decades as 11th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina. A graduate of Yale Divinity School, before becoming bishop he served as rector of St. James—Baltimore, MD, Simon of Cyrene—Lincoln Heights, OH, and St. Stephen’s—Winston-Salem, NC. A noted preacher and teacher, he has been featured on The Protestant Hour, North Carolina Public Radio’s The State of Things, and The Huffington Post. He served on the Taskforce for Re-imagining the Episcopal Church and recently was named chair of Episcopal Relief and Development’s Board of Directors. His book of sermons, Crazy Christians, came out in August 2013.