As a ministerial staff, we have begun a habit of reading and studying together over the past couple of years.  Sometimes we read through a book of the Bible together.  Sometimes we focus on a particular topic covered by various articles.  Recently, we have been working our way through a couple of books that I would like to tell you about.  

Earlier this year, we read The Gravity of Joy by Angela Williams Gorrell.  This book is part autobiography and part theological mediation.  In both mediums, Gorrell seeks to account for an understanding of joy that sincerely grapples with the reality of hardship and suffering that presses in upon every life at some point.  She powerfully recounts a series of griefs that she had to walk through just as she began her work studying joy for the Yale Center for Faith and Culture.  At first, these two realities seemed ironically cruel—that she would be hit by so much grief right as she was to study joy.  In the end, however, she finds that her understanding of joy’s gravity and enduring presence has deepened as she discovers, or is found by, joy in unlikely places.  

Currently, we are reading Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger.  While we are only a third of the way into this book, it is already proving incredibly fruitful as we discuss where we are as a church in the midst of a changing world.  Bolsinger’s thesis is that the church finds itself in very much the same place that Lewis and Clark did at a certain point in their mission of finding a passage from the East coast to the West coast of America.  Lewis and Clark were skilled explorers who knew how to navigate river systems with great proficiency, and they assumed, like everyone else, that those skills would take them all the way to the end of their mission.  Eventually, however, they found that the rivers ran out and that the Rocky Mountains stood between them and the fulfillment of their mission.  

Likewise, the church in America today finds itself in a world it did not anticipate and fitted with equipment and skills that were for where it had been, not for what is in front of it and where it needs to go to fulfill its mission.  In this situation, we can keep clinging to our canoes and fail in our attempts to make it over the mountains before us, or we can choose to do what Lewis and Clark did as they ditched their canoes and choose to navigate the adventure of new and unexpected terrain with courage, adaptability, and teamwork.  I look forward to continuing to learn from Bolsinger’s work on leadership in unexpected territory as we continue reading through it as a staff team.  

I share these with you because we have benefitted from them as a staff and some of you may be interested in picking them up, as well.  I also share them with you so that you know our ministerial team takes our role of ministry seriously and seeks to continue growing together in our leadership and service for the sake of our church and God’s mission in the world.