Ah been a while since I shared some insights from my rolling through works picking out gems for the book on community building that will begin to hopefully take shape in the Summer 2021. Also, coupled with just the ongoing life of teaching post-secondary online as semester’s wind up my reading has defaulted to more popcorn for the brain in these moments (and with Dollarama’s having graphic novels for $3-4 it has been quite fun).

But here we are with a few thoughts, and the amazon links to the books for your own further reading. We will go from most recent to oldest. Which brings us to the Sabar’s (2020) Veritas: A Harvard Professor, A Con Man, and the Gospel of Jesus’ Wife an intriguing mystery-conspiracy that truly reveals the prat falls and traps of being led down the garden path of our own bias. It explores an emerging and leading scholar in feminist Gnosticism, the impact of the continuing well fictionalized accounts of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code with the ponderance (that comes from Holy Blood, Holy Grail) about Jesus’ marriage and bloodline.

This crafted bias, wanting to humanize Jesus, which makes sense as the balance of Christ’s celibacy was more of an appeasement than a gospel truth (Re: Jesus Seminar & Vatican II). Why is this book worth the read for reflective practice? Simple, it takes one through exploration, unpacking and verification process of evidence based belief praxis. It illustrates the importance of the word gospel, and how to ensure we take the steps of critical thought even with something that fits our belief system still needs to be taken through a process.

The next step book I enjoyed, was from a bible college professor of mine, Tim W. Callaway’s (2020) from a new Calgary based publisher, God is Loser Friendly: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob & Me, a redeveloped sermon series and research to explore what it means to authentically follow God. Rev. Dr. Callaway’s humour shines through, as he walks through the stories of Genesis, the patriarchs, matriarchs and what they mean for our current walk in faith. The concept of loser here is not something of a mocking, but rather pointing out that there are those moments in time when we all fall short or may not make the cut, but in the grand scheme there is growth and life happening.

The practical applications and discussions found within the Hebrew Bible texts that are all to often glossed over, or so heavily sanitized to pass the “holy” test of church is refreshing. Whether reading by yourself, or as part of a household or a skype/zoom/teams discussion group it will be a fun and insightful ride in 2021.

The final work is a second edition of a book on endings, or rather death if we want to extend the metaphor that churches are the Body of Christ. It is Rev. Michael Jones’ (2020) Empty Houses: A Pastoral Approach to Closing Congregations. The author shares the journey, that touches on an intersection with my own, he was the minister when Trinity United closed in Calgary, for those who may be familiar with this congregation’s closure many moons ago, what sticks out the most is the news story of the locked out congregation by the denomination. Is this touched on? Not in so much sensationalism, what is touched upon in the work is the process, and within the process of closure the hard conversations that need to be had. In my reflection, like the discussions around end of life, and the grieving that ensues. How to move through the grieving, hold firm within the process, the answer, and the plan. Also the important side bar around media messaging, which has taken on a whole other layer with the 24-7 instant world of online platforming.

It is a practical and reflective tool for anyone involved in human services. Yes, it is church centric, but as we enter a new emergent reality. Where many institutions whether religious, political, or service are struggling. It is a process of reflection to outline the problem (is it a lack of time, talent or treasure in the mission? Or all of the above)? Thinking of mission and legacy (that is what can emerge from the end)? Is it time to merge with other organizations to continue forward or is that simply postponing the inevitable? Is it time to reach out possibly (my own thoughts) to other struggling institutes to craft, as those in palliative care speak of, ending well. Sharing resources to collectively mourn and release, but also take the treasure and create a healthy legacy plan.

Take time as 2020 and all it brought comes to a close, and we emerge into what ever is to come in 2021 to understand and become who you are being called to be.

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