Holy Week: Holy Bookshelves #4

5 Apr

Maundy Thursday.  A day to remember what God has done for us in our lives.  A day for us to remember with our students how community binds and how Jesus called us to something greater than ourselves: to be no better than anyone else and to serve.  We as professionals in higher education are called to this gathering of community as well, this call to be greater than our individual centers.  This is why we blog.  We share and we comfort, we give life to each other and we ultimately advance the field.  All this week we continue this through our recommendations of books and resources to all colleagues in the field.  Please enjoy our book suggests and get ready for more purchases and reading time.  Maundy Thursday’s reflection time is upon us.  Enjoy our reflections on the field.


# 23 Letters to a Young Doubter (William Sloane Coffin)

Inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Bill Coffin—Chaplain of Yale University for two decades and, later, Senior Pastor of Riverside Church in NYC—advises an imagined student “doubter” to love the questions that raise legitimate doubt so that, gradually, the doubter can “live into the answers.”

This is a great book to give to students who are experiencing religious, spiritual, intellectual or moral doubt, but is also a good read for campus ministers and chaplains who, themselves, must enter into these doubts through sympathetic understanding so as to be pastorally available.

#24 Holy the Firm (Annie Dillard)

This is a 76-page essay that defies categorization, let alone full comprehension. Not unlike Henry David Thoreau in the writing of Walden, Dillard lived alone for two years in a small cabin on the Puget Sound speculating about the mystery of every day (“Every day is a god”), the perennial question of theodicy and, at last, her resolve to worship God “by any means ready to hand.”  Our Faith & Lit Group on Mondays just finished this book that we divided into its three sections, which were taken up progressively over three weeks. I have used this book before and the impact is always the same: you either love this book or you don’t. But even those who remained baffled and confused, they wrestled with the mind of a mad woman who happens to be a literary genius.


#25 God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (Kurt Vonnegut)

One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors (yes, I’m a child of the 60’s), this is a satirical masterpiece that begins by saying, “A sum of money is a leading character in this tale about people, just as a sum of honey might properly be a leading character in a tale about bees.” The main protagonist, Eliot Rosewater, one of the richest men in America (who also happens to be addled by WWII-induced post traumatic shock and copious amounts of Southern Comfort) forsakes family, wife and reputation to befriend the friendless deadbeats of a small Indiana town named after his family generations before. A flawed Christ figure to be sure, but a Christ figure just the same. Those who conspire to have him declared legally insane (to save the family fortune) seem to have the upper hand until you get to the surprise ending. Although KV was an avowed humanist, his fascination with religious narratives is oddly and beautifully reflected in works like this. It is worth a personal enjoyment or a group reading and reflection over several weeks.

#26 The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (Ronald Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky)

We live in a “disruptive era” and this book will help you think creatively about leading effectively in this complex and constantly changing environment in which we find ourselves.

#27 The Paraclete Salter by Paraclete Press
This book is one my most loved devotionals.  Basically you are praying by using the Psalms throughout the day.  There are morning, midday, and evening prayers.  It just find that it is very calming book for me.

#28 The College Chaplain by Stephen L. White

When I first went into chaplaincy, I was looking for a good “how to be a chaplain” book. This is the closest that I have come to one. Rev. White goes in depth into on to get started in the path of chaplaincy.  He carefully details the different roles of the chaplain.  He has various helpful chapters on the Chaplain as priest, rabbi, steward, missionary, etc.  Rev. White gives great tips from everything from service trips, advertising, campus politics, to the day to day items which chaplains need to focus.  This book also comes with its own CD.

#29 This Odd and Wondrous Calling:  The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver. 

Two UCC pastors from different generations alternate chapters, in this brave, insightful look at real life and real ministry.  Chapters like “The Twin Imposters” (about praise and criticism) are worth the purchase price.

#30 An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor. 

Incarnational theology at its finest. BBT explores traditional Christian spiritual practices (prayer, Sabbath) along with some you might not have considered (getting lost).  I’ve read this one several times and am leading a student small group with it this semester — students are loving it, too.

#31  Finding Sanctuary:  Monastic Steps for Everyday Life, Abbot Christopher Jamison.

I read this with our residential community and it inspired a group silent retreat to a nearby monastery.  The subtitle is true — it was easy and compelling for students to imagine how to apply this is their own lives.

#32 The Danforth Study of Campus Ministries

As the editor of this blog, I’ll take any heat you would like to suggest as this book study was completed in 1967 and is well out of date.  What has intrigued me about this study from the beginning was it’s understanding of how the field began and where it was moving.  We may not be able to use it in applicable ways in today’s campus ministries, but we can have some sense of where campus ministry was then and how it’s history is built on a trajectory that uses the present culture to define itself.

#33 Cultivating the Spirit (Astin & Astin)

If the Danforth Study is the out of date resource work, this is most certainly the resource that is most relative to our time.  The UCLA study of Spirituality and Higher Education’s book on multifaith expression in the academy is sure to be a classic of the field and even the early to mid 21st century.  Campus Ministry must listen and discern how this study of college students, faculty, and administration calls us into a new day in the field.  If you haven’t read it, it’s a must and soon.



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