Lauren Winner first drew widespread literary attention in 2004 with the spritely spiritual memoir Girl Meets God: A Memoir, which told the story of her conversion first to Orthodox Judaism and then to a Christianity of a Jesus-loving-Anglican-intellectual-evangelical kind. That book, with its fun and its chatty tone, snuck up on me like a charming guest at a cocktail party.
Here’s a reality show I would like to see. Take 20 Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists and leave them on a tropical island with these three: the recently resigned governor of Illinois, a United Church of Christ parliamentarian and David Letterman.
I was speaking at a Methodist clergy gathering when a pastor told me
that at first the hotel had not been excited about hosting the group,
since its members weren’t going to run up any kind of bar bill. But then
the hotel manager noted that they had more than made that up in how
much was spent on dessert. The Methodists were welcome there anytime.
When I began my ministry at Church of the Redeemer, I worried each Sunday that the choir would outnumber the congregation. Everybody knew we had to grow. “We have to grow, you know,” they’d say, with all the enthusiasm of a person scheduling a dental appointment. “We need to attract new members and change,” they would say.
"You can be a minister. Just don’t marry one,” I heard myself telling a little girl in my church, and then wondered where that came from. I suspect that I meant it as a compliment to my husband, who was standing nearby. Perhaps I had been short-tempered, as I sometimes am on Sunday mornings, so the comment was my way of saying that I know it is not always easy to be married to a minister.
Like most pastors, I claim that the face-to-face meeting is the best way to do the ministry of the church; also like most pastors, I spend an enormous amount of time reading and composing e-mails. I am driven not so much by my own schedule or preferences as by those of my church members. Many of them use e-mail all day long and expect the church to do the same. If I want to keep up, I have to keep typing.
Eight years ago, shortly before Palm Sunday, our eight-year-old son was under the weather. My husband, Lou, had volunteered to cover the doctor’s appointment and a trip to the drugstore for whatever prescription would clear up Calvin’s little infection. “Go to the gym,” he said. “You need to relieve some stress.”
On the island of Hawaii, you can hike across an active volcano. It doesn’t look a bit like the models I made in grade school, where a triangular papier-mâché mountain spouted dry ice smoke and red yarn lava from a small hole at the top. No, this volcano is an enormous crater whose hot lava spills underground and pours into the sea.
No one can accuse Dorothy Bass and Craig Dykstra of thinking small. In this volume they tackle the macro questions: What is life abundant? How can we live it more fully? How does the church foster it? How do pastors lead it and lead others to it?