John Updike, who died January 27 at age 76, was one of the literary giants of our time. As I mentioned in my column in the February 10 issue (written before Updike’s death), I have read as much as I could of his work—ever since I saw him interviewed on television and heard him respond to a question about why religion and clergy appear so frequently in his writing.
O Lord, the house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that thou
mayest enter in. It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases thy sight; I
confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, or to whom shall I cry
but thee? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare thy
servant from strange sins. --St.
I’m always interested in what my friends are reading, and I find that people tend to ask me about what I’ve been reading. So, to continue that conversation, here are three books that have meant something to me recently.
From Britain to Denmark, Europe has hundreds of empty churches. The closing of a church is painful—especially in villages where the church for centuries served as a community anchor, even for unbelievers. Efforts are often made to adapt the buildings for a community service, such as a library. Because they are very expensive to maintain, empty churches are more frequently turned into some kind of commercial endeavor. The Church of St. Joseph in Arnhem, Netherlands, still owned by the Catholic Church, has been turned into a skate park. The Netherlands has the largest number of idle church buildings. Roman Catholic leaders in Holland estimate that within a decade two-thirds of their 1,600 churches will be closed, and 700 of the country’s Protestant churches will likely close over the next four years (Wall Street Journal, January 2).