Do you have questions about what you believe? How to live a good life? Where we go when we die? Join us for a lively discussion and an always-yummy potluck dinner as we explore what different writers and theologians of various faiths have to say about these issues.
The Spirituality Book Club meets every six weeks in host homes. You are welcome to join us. To find out when and where the next meeting is, call the church office at (801) 487-7576. Clare Coonan, Coordinator.
Pastor's Book Club
"All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation" by Rebecca Traister In 2009, the award-winning journalist Rebecca Traister started All the Single Ladies—a book she thought would be a work of contemporary journalism—about the twenty-first century phenomenon of the American single woman. It was the year the proportion of American women who were married dropped below fifty percent; and the median age of first marriages, which had remained between twenty and twenty-two years old for nearly a century (1890–1980), had risen dramatically to twenty-seven.
But over the course of her vast research and more than a hundred interviews with academics and social scientists and prominent single women, Traister discovered a startling truth: the phenomenon of the single woman in America is not a new one. And historically, when women were given options beyond early marriage, the results were massive social change—temperance, abolition, secondary education, and more.
Today, only twenty percent of Americans are wed by age twenty-nine, compared to nearly sixty percent in 1960. The Population Reference Bureau calls it a “dramatic reversal.” All the Single Ladies is a remarkable portrait of contemporary American life and how we got here, through the lens of the single American woman.
Book Discussion: Tuesday August 23 11:00am or 7:00pm
In the church library (on the office level) Pastor Scott will lead the discussion.
Pastor's Book Club
“The Worst President: The Story of James Buchanan” by Garry Boulard. Just 24 hours after former President James Buchanan died on June 1, 1868, the Chicago Tribune rejoiced: "This desolate old man has gone to his grave. No son or daughter is doomed to acknowledge an ancestry from him. " How to explain such remarkably consistent historical views of the man who turned over a divided and demoralized country to Abraham Lincoln, the same man regarded through the decades by presidential scholars as the worst president in U.S. history? Buchanan, a lifelong bachelor, has also been posited as the only gay president we have had. Boulard documents Buchanan's failure to stand up to the slaveholding interests of the South, his indecisiveness in dealing with the secession movement, and his inability to provide leadership during the nation's gravest constitutional crisis. Using the letters of Buchanan, as well as those of more than two dozen political leaders and thinkers of the time, Boulard presents a narrative of a timid and vacillating president whose drift and isolation opened the door to the Civil War.
Pastor's Book Club
The book for June is “Up From Slavery”, by Booker T. Washington. Up from Slavery is the 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his personal experiences in working to rise from the position of a slave during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education, to his work establishing vocational schools—most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama—to help black people and other minorities learn what they needed to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps. Booker T. Washington is remembered to have said the following: "I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him." "You can't hold a man down without staying down with him." "If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
This is not an easy read, but it is a part of a discussion our nation needs to be having.
Pastor's Book Club
The book club choice is "On My Own" by Diane Rehm. A deeply felt and thoughtfully written account, Rehm writes candidly about her husband’s decision to die when Parkinson’s disease had deprived him of the ability to 'in any way care for himself on his own'. It is a clear, moving and completely honest memoir. Rehm speaks passionately and courageously about issues that concern us all.
Pastor's Book Club
April’s book: "Damien The Leper" by John Farrow. The great adventure of Damien the Leper began quietly over a century ago. Since then, his remarkable story has become legend throughout the world. Joseph De Veuster left his secure life in Belgium, thrusting aside all thoughts of personal danger and spending the rest of his days as Father Damien, comforting the sick and the dying. Though virtually entombed among the living dead of a leper colony on the island of Molokai, Father Damien managed to find beauty and enchantment in the lush surroundings. His extraordinary journey of the spirit comes to life in this splendid biography, which has become a classic over the years and is sure to endure as long as people thrill to deeds of valor and pay homage to the great spiritual truths so perfectly reflected in this unforgettable story of courage, sacrifice, and devotion. For anyone interested in the life of a true saint or fascinated by the history of Hawaii, this is a fine work of nonfiction.
Pastor's Book Club
The book for March is: “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris. Calling him a humorist doesn't do him justice. He is read - aloud - to - your - friends funny, but he's also a shrewd social satirist and very, very smart, and so able to evoke the pain of childhood speech therapy classes, the humiliation of learning French as an adult, or witnessing a down - home rube’s experience of Manhattan. Sedaris is so brilliant he even makes that overcooked routine – ordering food in a trendy, intimidating New York restaurant – into something genuinely funny. And there's an emotional core to many of these essays too – particularly in ones involving his father, Lou, to whom the book is dedicated.
Pastor's Book Club
The Book club choice for February is “Lights on a Ground of Darkness: An Evocation of Place and Time” by Ted Kooser. This is a very short memoir, but don't be fooled, it is such a rich story, I know we will have plenty to discuss when we meet. Here is the publisher's blurb on the book:
“With a poet’s eye for detail, Kooser captures the beauty of the landscape and the vibrancy of his mother’s Iowa family, the Mosers, in precise, evocative language. The center of the family’s love is Kooser’s uncle, Elvy, a victim of cerebral palsy. Elvy’s joys are fishing, playing pinochle, and drinking soda from the ice chest at his father’s roadside Standard Oil station. Kooser’s grandparents, their kin, and the activities and pleasures of this extended family spin out and around the armature of Elvy’s blessed life. Kooser has said that writing this book was the most important work he has ever undertaken because it was his attempt to keep these beloved people alive against the relentless erosion of time.”
This happens to be one of my favorite reads, ever. I will be bringing several poems from Kooser's Pulitzer Prize winning collection, “Delights and Shadows” which compliment the memoir beautifully.
Pastor's Book Club
The January book we will read is “A Girl Named Zippy” by Haven Kimmel. This has to be one of my top ten reads ever. I liked the writing in this book so much I went through it a second time and copied out dozens of my favorite lines. Here’s a description:
When Haven Kimmel was born in 1965, Mooreland, Indiana, was a sleepy little hamlet of three hundred people. In this witty and lovingly told memoir, Kimmel takes readers back to a time when small-town America was caught in the amber of the innocent postwar period–people helped their neighbors, went to church on Sunday, and kept barnyard animals in their back-yards.
Laced with fine storytelling, sharp wit, dead-on observations, and moments of sheer joy, Haven Kimmel's straight-shooting portrait of her childhood gives us a heroine who is wonderfully sweet and shy as she navigates the quirky adult world that surrounds Zippy.
Biography Book Club:
"Gilead" by Marilynne Robinson. This is an intimate tale of three generations from the Civil War to the twentieth century: a story about fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage at America's heart. Writing in the tradition of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, Marilynne Robinson's beautiful, spare, and spiritual prose allows "even the faithless reader to feel the possibility of transcendent order" (Slate). Gilead won the Pulitzer Prize.
Biography Book Club
"Convictions" by Marcus Borg. This a very reflective autobiography in which Mar-cus Borg, who died last spring, recounts his theological journey into what he calls “Progressive” Christianity, and explains the central ideas and convictions (hence the name of the book) which led him to the central beliefs he grew to hold.
With each chapter embodying a distinct conviction, Borg writes provocatively and compellingly on the beliefs that can deeply ground us and guide us, such as: God is real and a mystery; salvation is more about this life than an afterlife; the Bible can be true without being literally true; Jesus's death on the cross matters—but not because he paid for our sins; God is passionate about justice and the poor; and to love God is to love like God. The Gospel, as Borg explains, is about all of life, not just what happens to us after death. Another conviction Borg unfolds is the idea that Jesus is the lens by which we must read and interpret all of Scripture. Borg calls all American Christians to reject divisiveness and exclusivity and create communities that celebrate joy, possibility, and renewal. Throughout, he reflects on what matters most, bringing to earth the kingdom of God Jesus talked about and transforming our relationships with one another.
Biography Book Club
"Martin Luther King Jr." by Marshall Frady is one of the best of the often excellent Penguin Lives series. Martin Luther King is presented as a real man with insecurities, self-doubts, college plagiarizing and womanizing. But he is also shown as the key individual in the incredible progress (I know it doesn't feel like it--but read the book and its picture of the country in the fifties!) we have made in the area of race relations. MLK is portrayed as a man who rose above his everydayness to achieve insights into the areas of race, poverty and oppression which would move a nation. Blessed in his enemies--the egregious Bull Connor, the banty rooster George Wallace (in his first incarnation) and the despicable J. Edgar Hoover--gave the nation a contrast in possibilities. Despite the reluctance of the Kennedys, the backbiting of his own lieutenants and the inconstancy of the national media, MLK made a difference.
Biography Book Club
"Julia Child: A Life" by Laura Shapiro. Did you know that Julia Child worked covertly for the OSS during WWII? There are many details about Julia Child's life that her adoring public did not know. This small but comprehensive biography is an excellent overview of her long life and successful career. Here we learn the details of her training, how her acclaimed first cookbook came to be, and what went into the success of her TV shows.
What shocked me the most was her siding with the food industry when radical changes in production came to be. She was against organic food, calling it "even worse than health food." She called the genetic engineering of food "one of the greatest discoveries" of the 20th century. I would have imagined someone so enamored of food in its natural state would have been at the very least leery of such radical changes.
Later in her career, she turned to more convenient methods, such as using frozen foods. She was a great fan of the American supermarket, and believed a good cook could create fine meals with all ingredients from a supermarket. Laura Shapiro has created an enlightening narrative which gives a complete picture of our one and only Julia Child. You can get this book for a penny plus shipping from Amazon.
Biography Book Club
This month we are reading "Citizen Soldier: A Life of Harry S. Truman" by Aida D. Donald. When Harry S. Truman left the White House in 1953, his reputation was in ruins. Tarred by misunderstanding and his controversial decision to drop nuclear bombs on Japan, he ended his second term with an abysmal approval rating -- his presidency widely considered a failure. But this view has changed markedly since. Many call him the best post- World War II president of the 20th century, mostly because of the size of the gargantuan challenges he faced. This is a wonderful biography of Truman the man. It doesn't get bogged down in political minutiae. Not overly long, it is a very good read.
"Song of Survival: Women Interned" by Helen Colijn. This well written book is a weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Sarah Vowell, a contributor to NPR's This American Life takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each - and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. But note, she admires Lincoln totally. Vowell also draws frequent connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's preemptive war against Cuba and the Philippines and the recent war in Iraq. This is history at its most odd and fascinating. Fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour.
Helen Colijn was a 20-year-old Dutch woman living with her parents on a small island near Borneo when the Japanese invaded in 1941. Shipwrecked, she and her two younger sisters were captured by Japanese soldiers and shuffled from concentration camp to concentration camp for the duration of World War II. This book chronicles their personal travails and the horrible sufferings of the British and Dutch women with whom they were interned. Perhaps more significantly, it tells the remarkable story of Margaret Dryburgh, a Presbyterian missionary who gave her fellow prisoners a means to survive spiritually: the vocal orchestra. Working from memory, she reconstructed the "Largo" from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor, and works by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Ravel, and Grainger- and taught them to a chorus of prisoners. Even the often-brutal Japanese guards were moved by the concerts, Colijn reports. Although this book often glosses over the horrors, it is a moving account of some remarkable women and the music that sustained them.
"Assassination Vacation" by Sarah Vowell. This well written book is a weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Sarah Vowell, a contributor to NPR's This American Life takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln's skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each - and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. But note, she admires Lincoln totally. Vowell also draws frequent connections between past events and the present, noting similarities between McKinley's preemptive war against Cuba and the Philippines and the recent war in Iraq. This is history at its most odd and fascinating. Fortunately, one needn't share Vowell's interest in the macabre to thoroughly enjoy this unusual tour.
"The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary" by Simon Winchester. This month’s book is as well written as any we have read thus far. Simon Winchester is a master storyteller. When the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary put out a call during the late 19th century pleading for "men of letters" to provide help with their mammoth undertaking, hundreds of responses came forth. Some helpers, like Dr. W.C. Minor, provided literally thousands of entries to the editors. But Minor, an American expatriate in England and a Civil War veteran, was actually a certified lunatic who turned in his dictionary entries from the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Simon Winchester has produced a mesmerizing coda to the deeply troubled Minor's life.
The January biography book we will discuss will be "A Newer World: Kit Carson, John C Fremont, and The Claiming Of The American West" by David Roberts
Unlike in many ways, but forever joined, the figures of Kit Carson, frontier scout, and John Frémont, explorer, politician, loom large in the history of the American West. Carson is remembered today as something of a dime-novel hero or as an Indian fighter. For his part, Frémont, famed in the mid-19th century, is all but forgotten.
Frémont was a complicated, flamboyant, and scandal-ridden figure whose quest for fame proved to be his undoing. David Roberts writes "Frémont's expeditions were significant not so much for crossing land never before seen by Americans as for thrusting the Great West into the awareness of a nation hungry to expand. He was the classic example of the right man in the right place at the right time." So, too, was Kit Carson, the taciturn frontiersman who guided Frémont and saved his life on more than one occasion. Carson’s relationships with Native American’s was much more complicated than the dime novels let on. Roberts sympathetic but not uncritical tale of their crossed destinies puts human faces on two men lost to legend.
"Ishi In Two Worlds" by Theodora Kroeber. Imagine it is the 20th century -- we have electricity, movies, telephones, trains, cars, the latest audio recording devices, indoor plumbing, and access to the usual luxuries and amenities of our western world. Then one day - here in the United States - a man appears out of the wilderness, almost magically transferred from the stone age to the steel age. Truth is stranger than fiction. Ishi was the last of the Yahi Indians, living in Northern California under a cloak of fear, secrecy, and evasion from white men, carrying on this lifestyle for the better part of four decades. In this thoroughly researched book, Theodora Kroeber tells Ishi's story. She covers the historical and geographical background of the Yahi Indians, how their lives began to change and their numbers decimated with the coming of the Europeans in the mid- 19th century, and how Ishi and the few remaining people of his tribe lived until Ishi was the last one left. She then tells us about the man himself, the last (happy) five years of his life in San Francisco, and the adjustments Ishi went through in his new home. This is a truly great story. Very moving.
Biography Book Club
"I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
"Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir, first published in 1969, is a modern American classic beloved worldwide."
This is a book everyone should be familiar with. It's beautifully drawn and deeply moving. It is also readily available new and used.
Biography Book Club
"Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life" by Adam Gopnik . This is a remarkable book; one I (pastor Scott) read while away on vacation this summer. I’m very happy to recommend it to all. Here is a blurb about it . . .
“On a memorable day in human history, February 12, 1809, two babies were born an ocean apart: Abraham Lincoln in a one - room Kentucky log cabin; Charles Darwin on an English country estate. It was a time of backward - seeming notions, when almost everyone still accepted the biblical account of creation as the literal truth and authoritarianism as the most natural and viable social order... Together, Darwin and Lincoln became midwives to the spirit of a new world, a new kind of hope and faith.”
This book is eloquent while being easy to read, totally engaging, and deeply human in the best sense of the word. The book is $9.99 on Amazon. We will meet to discuss it on Tuesday, August 19 at noon and also 7pm. I will be leading the discussion.
Yes, we will offer a summer class this year. It will be taught by Alex Lines who recently returned from Ecuador where she worked with a non - governmental agency (NGO) to focus on the relationship between farmers and consumers. This allowed small organic farmers to bring produce to the city markets. The class will be discussion - based using the book Food and Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread, edited by Schut. It contains essays from many writers, including Wendell Berry, Thomas More and others known for their thoughts on social justice. There are eight chapters and Alex will do one introductory week June 1 to tell about her experiences in Ecuador and how this motivated her desire to teach such a class as this. We anticipate having Second Sunday breakfasts so there will be 8 more classes during the summer. To pique your curiosity, the chapter titles follow here:
- Celebrating Food and Community
- Your Health, The Western Diet and Politics
- Creation, Theology and Food as Sacrament
- Industrial Agriculture and the Family Farm
- Global Markets to Backyard Gardens
- The Voiceless
- GMO -- Addressing Hunger
- Promising Directions
You will have some reading to do between weeks but, not a lot. Classes will be discussion of the readings in relation to each week's topic. I think you could benefit, even if you had not done the readings. I am checking with King's English to see if we can purchase books with them as a book group with their discount and hope our "buying local" might lead people from our neighborhood community to our doors. We can also get books through Amazon; I checked this week and there were 35 used copies starting at $8.09, 32 new starting at $13.43; kindle would be $9.99. I will buy a few copies for our library so that it would be available to check out for those unable to buy a book. The book contains study questions at the end of each chapter and these are good discussion guides.