Monday, May 11, 2020

Some Books I'm (Mostly) Reading in Quarantine

Don't worry, no humble brags here. Like John Oliver, I am not learning new languages or otherwise setting the world on fire these days. I'm doing my best (better on some days than others) to be present to each day. And with each day, to the loved ones with whom I share a home, my church family, and my family and friends at a distance. In fact, connecting in varying ways with many of you has, on more than a few days, brought me to life. I thank God for you.

So I want to be clear that this is not a list of books I've read, because that would imply a far more polished version of these weeks than I have managed. This is a list of books I am reading, a few pages at a time, between sleeps, interruptions, and distractions (like other books and the inexplicable impulse to take them on). In fact, my reasons for sharing the list are two-fold: 1) because you might find it interesting (and/or be moved to share your own!), and 2) I want to make sure I can account in my own head for the books Past Me has started.

Without further ado.

Acts: A Theological Commentary on the Bible, Willie J. Jennings
WJJ was my academic dean at Duke, and so I've followed his work ever since with admiration and interest. (His work on land, lines, and race is hugely interesting, revealing, and important.)  I started reading this commentary in solidarity with a Bible study on Acts our church's men's group, The Brotherhood of St. Andrew, began about the same time. Now several chapters in, this commentary is simply the best book I can imagine reading in preparation for the church's celebration of Pentecost.

The Water Dancer: A Novel, Ta-Nehisi Coates
With Between the World and Me, I discovered that Ta-Nehisi Coates's was a voice I wanted and needed in my life. His writings, both personal and (now) fictional about African-American life in this country have been called urgent and devastating; Water Dancer is every bit that. It is the beautifully and poetically written story of a runaway slave.

Decoded, Jay-Z
I'm not very far into this one at all, but an offhand quotation in James K. A. Smith's On the Road with St. Augustine (which I may or may not finished yet) stopped me cold and sent me in the direction of an artist who has long intrigued me, and whose music I enjoy when the kids are not around.

The Come Back Effect: How Hospitality Can Compel Your Guests to Return, Young and Malm
I really don't like this book's title; the verb compel in this context rubs me wrong. And Christian community isn't a mouse trap. But looking past that, I've been convinced for months now that the most important factor, beyond safety, for the future gathering of faith communities is the strength and layers of the relationships shared by those communities' people. There's simply no dancing around a three month (or more) change in human behavior, and the idea that the permissions and laws of counties or states is the central challenge to reconstituting our physical assemblies is laughably out of touch. The desire to think through practices that can help bridge the gap led me to this book. That, and I've been grieving a bit that one of the projects this season has put on hold was a newly conceived welcoming ministry.

Teams that Thrive: Five Disciplines of Collaborative Church Leadership, Hartwig and Bird
It's not only folks don't run across each other as much who feel disconnected. During this season, several folks on staff (including myself!) have noted to each other that working from home for long stretches has taken an emotional toll. It is easy for each of us to have moments where we feel like "I'm the one on the outside looking in." Even simultaneously! That dynamic, plus an awareness that we now have a larger staff than perhaps ever before in Holy Trinity by-the-Lake's history has me looking for ways to see and lean into the challenges and opportunities of this (truly) special season.

So. That's my list! What's on yours?

Ask me about mine when we connect and as you're interested. It'll keep me reading! :)


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