It’s the little things that bring joy to ministry.

today’s email included:

Hi Kimberly, I’ve googled St T[homas] A[quinas], boy, that guy rocks!!  Just incredible!!  Is  there  a ‘Rough Guide’ to the Summa Theologica!  How does someone or anyone  think like that?

Now, isn’t that what every priest lives for?

Can anyone offer the rough guide?  I am no expert in Aquinas.  Where does the curious casual reader start?


So, I know I should have brought any one of the 11 unfinished books with me; but I was packing, and I took what was near.   And I am so glad.

This might be the novel we’ve been waiting for (when Catherine Fox and Susan Howatch have been too often read and we are out of mysteries).  The first pages are of a heaven-in-ordinary sort of vision, and then we meet Amos, a son of the Brethren manse in rural America who grows up to love Tillich.  The first glimpse of Amos is of him tossing and turning in bed, failing to meet his own standards of discipline:

A single thing gnawed at him at night, an idea he had no name for, although if anyone asked him he could have written a book, as they say, on the subject.  Perhas he was even called to write it, but he was vexed by the how and the why.  Amos knew as well as anyone what went into writing a book, having written a master’s thesis, and he considered the process to be akin to having one’s nerves stripped with a curry comb.  A ghastly experience, not to be endured. He imatined the tower of reference books clotting his study, and the botecards he would use to try to keep
his thoughts straight, and the inevitable architectural work that would need to be employed, and the hours spend in the overstuffed chari facing Plum Street, lost in thought and picking at the threads in the upholstry; and most of all, the way writing a book makes a person feel the’d rather be anywhere than inside his own skin.  He’d rather be on Plum Street, that’s for sure, kicking along in a tangle of leaves or stopping to pet one of the litter of mountain cur pups born next door (beautiful little dogs that would be feral in the blink of an eye — he knew he should pet them quickly, before he had lost his chance).  But if he were on Plum Street his mind would be drawn to his own study window, and he would think with longing of the work he could be doing and how work is the only thing that saves the soul, the only thing that makes a man a man, as he remembered Emerson saying, or something like it.  Writing a book brings a single irreducible truth right out to the edges of a person: there is no place to be, there is no place in this world, it is impossible to be happy.

Haven Kimmel,
The Solace of Leaving Early

The next pages offer the excitements and frustrations of a theology seminar and the challenges of ministering to the deer hunters when you grew up next door to the opera house.

The sense of hope is delighfully unbearable…

fish net

One of the books I forgot to mention in my list of partially read books was Jonathan Rosen’s The Talmud and The Internet.  The title is the best of it, I’m afraid, but as I trawled for ideas for an assembly, I stumbled on this:

The promise of the Talmud, I suppose, is that it isn’t a book– it’s a sort of drift net for catching God, stretching out through time and space in ever-widening spools.  The fact that just about everything else swims into the net — legal questions and sartorial questions and culimary questions and agricultural questions and calendrical questions and apistemological question, the Talmudic equivalent of porpoises and turtles and old boots — becomes part of the lesson the Talmud teaches.  It is the humble interruptions as well as the lofty aspirations that matter.  In that regard, the Talmud is a net for catching God, but it ensnares men and women in the process.

This is the Judaism I grew up with and encountered through classmates, neigbours, friends.  What happens in Gaza and the West Bank is as far removed from this — from the best of Judaism–  as the proposed bill in Nigeria is removed from common decency and any semblence of Christian love.

(oh dear, an innocent and lovely quotation seems to have turned into an excuse for buzzy bees.  still…)

literary butterfly

After a phase of reading lots in the summer, I paused for a few months to watch The West Wing (complete set on sale, you see, and so very addictive).  Now it’s reading time again, and I find I’m like a  four year old let loose at an Easter egg hunt.   A few pages here, then catch a glint of colour from across the room, read there for a while, then get distracted…

I was trying to think, yesterday, what  book I last  finished.  I still haven’t quite figured it out.  ‘Last started’ is easy…  ‘Last started’ and the ten other books ‘started, enjoyed, but not yet finished’ that are sitting by my chair.  So which shall I choose tonight?

(These are in balancing order, if you were wondering.)

John Buchan, Witch Wood.   I began this one during a short phase of West Wing overdose at Christmas.  Enjoying it well enough, but I do wonder why I ever read so many of his books.  (Those of you who know the answer, hush now.)

Heather Wood, Third Class Ticket.  This was a book chosen for the church book group that I was so sure I did not want to read.  ‘Travel books’ rarely interest me, and out-of-print travel books make me all the more suspect.  So, I began reading it two days before the meeting with a sense of dread.  I loved it, and did little but read for two days (well, in-between things, of course).  It is a fascinating story of people moving well beyond their comfort zone and revising their sense of themselves and the world.  There is a remarkable chapter when the elders of the village visit the university and are overwhelmed by the beauty and wonder of the books.    Too many good bits to name.   Try to find it if you can…

Ross Thompson, Spirituality in Season.  This was another book I didn’t expect much from.  I bought it rapidly, hoping it might be useful for people in the congregation who needed a stronger sense of the liturgical year.  It’s been superb– drawing lots of familiar threads together, with clever gems and mirrors woven in to keep ideas glinting.   I can’t tell you how many ‘if only’ liturgies it’s lead me to (the ‘if onlies’ involving time, space, children, and lack-of-triplicate).

Brian Greene, The Elegant Universe.   The jury is still out:  do I prefer string theory or chaos theory?  Greene has not yet convinced me that the strings are beautiful, but I am not far in yet.

Elizabeth Garner, The Ingenious Edgar Jones.  A curious curious book about an extraordinary birth, an extraordinary child, and the struggle to live with the remarkable.   I’m not far into this one either, but suspect it might be a rare and memorable novel.

James Joyce, Ulysses.  One day I will finish it.  Every time I start, I love it; every time I stop because I haven’t the time.

Michael Arditti, Easter.  The book group has just chosen to read this, so I really must look at it again before lending it away.  I have read it twice over the years, and found it interesting both times.  Will it live for a third time?

Moltmann, Experiences in Theology.  I recommended it to Kate the other day, and realised I wanted to read it again.  So, I’ve just been dabbling.  Can I justify re-reading with so many virgin books on the shelf?

James Alison, On Being Liked.  I have enjoyed the first half of this book several times now.  It is my ferry book, and I keep forgetting where I stopped reading.  Do you suppose I really have finished it, and just didn’t notice?

Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being.  I’ve talked about this one before — and am not very much further than I was last time.  It may be the theological equivalent of Ulysses.

Robert Robertson, Vegan Planet.  … because cookbooks make good bed-time reading, and I’m considering keeping and age-old Lenten custom.  (the recipes are much more interesting than you might think — and did you know that you can use ground linseeds & water as an egg replacement in baking?)