I have a tall stack of books at my bedside. Some are books on the reading list for Neighborhood Seminary. Some are Sunday School books. Some are books recommended by United Methodist Women. They each have provided new insights or engaging ways to look at the work of the church. A couple recent reads have really stood out. I’d like to share these.
The first is Tim Soerens book, “Everywhere You Look; Discovering Church Right Where You Are”. Recognizing that many of our churches are seeing declining membership, the author asks, “what’s a church for?” He challenges us to put God, not the church, at the center. What does God dream for us and for our communities? Learn to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is working in our lives and neighborhoods. To engage in God’s dream, the author says, we need to simultaneously honor individual people and the just and equitable systems by which we relate to one another. Our neighborhoods as our parishes, an area large enough to live, work and play, and small enough for us to be known. We are invited to build a common life together, a shared sense of belonging. Who is there? What are they up to? How are they sensing God at work in the neighborhood? What could we do together? What gifts can we share?
The second book is “Reading the Bible from the Margins” by Miguel De La Torre. We often read the Bible from the center, the status quo. How do race, class and gender influence our understanding of the Bible? How might our understanding change if we were to read the Bible from the perspective of someone with different social location and life experiences. Jesus can be found with the disenfranchised, not because they are holier, but because they must struggle for the abundant life. Jesus is with those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, alien, imprisoned and ill. If we want to commune with Christ, then we must walk in solidarity with those who are on the margins of society.
What might these two different books have in common? As I read them, I am struck that both books focus on ways we can and must share God’s love. Who is my neighbor? What do they need for abundant life? How might I be called to serve? As I look at the rest of the books in my stack, I begin to see a common thread. Which book next? “A New Day in the City; Urban Church Revival” by Donna Claycomb Sokol and L. Roger Owens. “My Grandmother’s Hands; Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hears and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem. “Halls Hill; More Than a Neighborhood” by Wilma Jones.
So, what’s in your stack of books?