Starting in June 2019, we’ve invited clergy and lay leaders to share book recommendations in the weekly eNews email. (Subscribe using the button at right.) Below is a list of the recommendations that have been shared. Check back each week for more books!
If you would like to recommend a book, please send an email to email@example.com with a 100-200 word description of the book and why you’re recommending it. We’ll add it to the PSEC summer reading list and share your recommendation in eNews.
“A Companion to the Mercersburg Theology: Evangelical Catholicism in the Mid-Nineteenth Century”
Don’t hang up! I am sure some of you already began checking out when you read the title. On the other hand, there may also be a contingent among you that has already read or is planning to read this new book by William B. Evans, just released in 2019. I found out about this book at the Mercersburg Convocation at Lancaster Theological Seminary in early June.
I decided to submit this book for PSEC’s Summer Reading List because I have been involved in several conversations recently about United Church of Christ clergy and lay leaders who relocate to eastern Pennsylvania from other parts of the country or, for whatever reason, are unfamiliar with this 19th century theological movement that had a substantial impact on the historical German Reformed congregations in PSEC. I can relate to this scenario as a lifelong Lutheran who only joined the United Church of Christ in midlife and has been playing catch-up.
From Introduction through Epilogue, William B. Evans’ book is 139 pages. As one of the titles in the Cascade Companions series, it lives up to the series’ mission of providing “brief, yet compelling” introductions to Christian heritage topics. Evans includes questions at the end of each chapter. Tip: I found it helpful to read the questions first, as an orientation to the chapter. There is also an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources for further exploration.
Admittedly, this book is not your typical lighter-fare beach or lakefront read, but overall, you will not find a more concise, thorough and up-to-date review of the key people and concepts of Mercersburg Theology.
Ms. Caroline Dunleavy
Salem UCC, Doylestown
“She: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry”
Positioned between Johnson’s scholarly She Who Is and Spong’s anecdotal There’s a Woman in the Pulpit is a 2016 title by Karoline M. Lewis: She: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Women in Ministry. She is that best-of-both-worlds book: solidly researched and eminently readable.
Lewis’s five “keys” each speak to a different truth: women, the Bible, feminism, and theology; vulnerability, bodies, and sexuality; gender, identity, and authenticity; sexism; leadership. She points out, “The key before all of these keys is to tell the truth about yourself,” to acknowledge “a power already present.”
One section that particularly resonated with me concerns our language for God. “We betray our own biases, theological and gendered, when our primary references to God are male,” Lewis writes. My suggestion: On any given Sunday, note each example of gendered language in the bulletin, scripture readings, and hymns. Is the language of worship balanced, or does it tilt (perhaps heavily) in one direction? Words matter…
While She might first attract women readers, everyone can benefit from Lewis’s wisdom. Broadening perspectives, experiences, and understandings can open ways to healing and to unity, for all God’s people.
St. Paul’s UCC Birdsboro and Hungry Soul Ministries
Inspired is the last published work of the late Rachel Held Evans, who died May 4 at age 37. It’s a beach-worthy, fun read that will go quickly; an educated ride encountering the Bible without the academic heavy lifting (she does that for you).
“One woman’s journey back to loving the Bible” takes you on your own memory road trip. Her stories travel back to an evangelical upbringing and take you along her deconstruction/reconstruction route of understanding biblical stories. I laughed out loud when she recalls reading Exodus and comes to the part about restitution for oxes and slaves and thinks: “So what’s streaming on Netflix right now?” Been there, felt that! As much as she offers some readers permission to view the Bible with fresh eyes, she probes others with their tendency to borrow handy phrases from the Hebrew Bible to slap up on a protest sign. She asks all to dig underneath and appreciate a story for its context and reason for being, and then imagine “what if,” for — in echoes of the UCC mantra, “God is still breathing.” A favorite aspect is her own retelling and midrash. RHE includes a play on Job and short stories such as one where you pick either Adventure A or B as your ending.
Rev. Frances Chester
Falkner Swamp UCC, Gilbertsville
“The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage”
Sister Joan Chittister is a Benedectine Sister who has written over 50 books and many articles for publication. She has always worked on behalf of the marginalized, including women’s issues, and on behalf of a just world for ALL. Most of her books that I have experienced have helped my faith formation and spiritual practices but this latest one, has spoken to my heart in a way that I didn’t realize I was yearning. I posted to Facebook that this book was written “just for me” but realize maybe it was for you too! LOL
I ordered her book after hearing her interview with Oprah Winfrey for the SuperSoul Sunday show. The interview moved me to tears! In the interview she called out the daily injustices that we are all witnessing in real time and was emphatic about her belief that this country has to make a decision right now about what type of a country we want to be.
Her book outlines the hard work of being prophetic and includes a whole lot of biblical and historical references to support her words. According to the book cover, this book is “for the weary, the cranky, and the fearful, this energizing message invites us to participate in a vision for a world greater than the one we find ourselves in today.” I couldn’t agree more. It is the boost of energy to carry on the hard work, the understanding of the loneliness for the journey, and the vision of a more just world that I know most of us yearn for.
New Jerusalem Zion UCC, Lenhartsville