Ministry is one of the only professions besides writing where a person has daily need for poetry. Poetry refreshes and renews language and adds insight to stories we’ve heard many times. It can be woven meaningfully into sermons, and it bolsters the human spirit.
But pastors often turn to the same poets over and over again, and time to explore new territory is limited.
I recently interviewed cultural anthropologist and New York Times columnist Tanya Luhrmann about prayer and religious experience. After the interview, I asked her for some recommendations of books on prayer that are not "how-tos." What are some books that can help me understand prayer more conceptually and experientially?
Pastors know that religion and psychology are intimately connected. But what about theology and psychology? Can these two very different fields of study talk to each other? What do theologians have to say to psychologists and vice versa?
In a recent issue of the Century, I interview Kent Haruf, whose novel Benediction has garnered a nomination for the newly minted Folio Prize in the United Kingdom and recent reviews in The Guardian (by Ursula Le Guin) and the Telegraph. Haruf has made a life out of fine and careful reading, as well as writing. I asked him for recommendations on five books that have helped him become more fully human.
Our church is in the midst of a major transition: it’s becoming bicultural. The combined joy and pain of our growth is intense and surprising at every turn. Sometimes I wonder if this is how a tree feels when it begins to grow new branches. I often feel fatigued in advance by the complexity of the conversations we want and need to have, as well as scared of where we are going and what it will require of me.
It’s at these times that I find myself contemplating the comforts of what we used to be, a monocultural church
It started with food. A long line of people stood outside the church door waiting their turn as the groceries piled up on folding tables around the sanctuary. Most of these people, in truth, wanted nothing to do with our church itself.
In the last year, my church—St. George Episcopal in Leadville, Colorado—has gained a number of Latino and Latina members. Last week we held our first ever bilingual vestry meeting, at which we quickly realized that the language barrier itself was not our primary challenge.
Novelist Kent Haruf has often drawn on his upbringing on the sparse eastern plains of Colorado. But in his latest novel, Benediction, Haruf inches closer to his roots than he ever has. One of his central characters is a minister in a small town church that’s much like the ones that Haruf grew up in as the son of a Methodist minister.