A retired minister looks at the world around him from a different perspective -- the back pew. From this viewpoint his restless mind is free to wander out the door to topics secular as well as religious.
This is the end of a banner week in my life as a published writer. It was marked by two happy events. On Tuesday I introduced my first novel, Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough, to my fellow residents of Westminster Village in an evening book reading/signing, hosted by Melissa Manjone, our Director of Leisure Services. The reading had been announced almost a month in advance. It was well attended, and book sales surpassed expectations. Thank you, Melissa.
On Friday I received in the mail my first royalty check for books sold through amazon.com in August. It was a modest check, but the first month sales were a boost to my morale for they, too, exceeded expectations.
I’m not tempted to frame this first royalty check, but I will make a Xerox copy to file away somewhere to be discovered amidst my clutter by my heirs.
Of course I am not yet in the best seller league, but Parson Campbell’s Breakthrough is off to a respectable start, and I have reason to believe that my September royalty check, when it arrives, will reflect an even greater number of sales.
We have just concluded a five-week study of Revelation on Wednesday nights at Spanish Fort Presbyterian Church, led by the Reverend Samford Turner, our local presbytery executive. Though he has been out of the active pastorate for seven years, holding down an administrative position, Samford has not let his talents as a Bible teacher grow rusty. He made one of the most difficult books of the Bible come alive to the substantial number of folks who come out on Wednesday night for supper and Bible study.
On those Wednesday nights we sang some of the many hymns that are rooted in the book of Revelation. Of these, the old classic, Holy, Holy, Holy, is my favorite. When he announced it on the second night of our study, Samford told a story that took me back to my own childhood.
Samford lived in Mobile as a boy and was privileged to grow up in the Government Street Presbyterian Church, the historic old mother church of Presbyterians in coastal Alabama. He told us that in his boyhood the congregation at Government Street stood up and sang Holy, Holy, Holy as their first hymn every Sunday.
I may have been the only person in the room who could say a similar thing. When I was a boy, our family church was the Second Presbyterian Church of Washington, Pennsylvania. I have two early memories of that church.
One was the memory of being taken by my father to see the building site when our new Gothic church was being built. I was four or five years old. I don’t think I had ever seen any kind of building construction before, and this site was like a yawning crater opening up in the earth.
My other, more vivid, recollection is the memory of standing in that church with parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, great aunts and great uncles, cousins--the whole Scots-Irish Johnston tribe filling the same three adjacent pews--as the choir processed down the long aisle singing the same hymn every Sunday.
Of course, it was Holy, Holy, Holy. I have loved it ever since.
I’m stuck! Now that my novel, Parson Campbell's Breakthrough, is in print, I’m well into the writing of a new novel about a megachurch pastor’s struggle to maintain his church and his marriage against the machinations of an ambitious associate.
That part’s going OK, but one of the subplots follows the conversion of the pastor’s son to Islam and his marriage to a young American Muslim woman whom he meets in law school.
I want to get the Muslim wedding right, and I need a Muslim correspondent who will answer the questions I have about the wedding setting and ceremony and then read and critique the two short chapters that I will write as part of my larger story.
This novel will, I think, be a positive note in a time when American Muslim-Christian relationships are strained. Have I a Muslim reader of this blog who will share this brief effort with me? Or a reader with a Muslim friend who might be enlisted? Let me hear from you.
In this day when so many of the churches I’ve known over the years are diminishing in membership, and some of them struggling even to survive, I’ve been heartened by a video sent to me by Dean and Beve Finley, friends with whom I was associated some years ago when I was an interim minister in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The video tells the story of the Carondelet-Markham Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, where the Finley’s daughter, the Reverend Susan Finley, is pastor. It’s the story of a church in a depressed neighborhood, now reborn because its seventeen surviving members reached out to Liberian refugees, people of another race and culture, and found that in serving these new neighbors the life of their dying church was renewed.
I’ll say no more. For a story that will move you to hope, perhaps even to a new vision of commitment and ministry, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.pcusa.org/goodnews/.
Then click on the encircled arrow overlaying Susan Finley’s picture.
Back sometime in the early history of blogs my son Mike started writing “The View From My Rooftop.” In the last year or so, as business obligations have become more demanding, Mike’s postings have become less frequent. Since he and Mary will soon exchange their city condo, with its rooftop view, for a single-family home in a less urban setting, the fate of his view from the rooftop is uncertain.
It is obvious, of course, that I borrowed from Mike when I named my own blog “The View from the Back Pew.” (I should have named it "The View Out the Church Door," for it ranges wherever I choose to take it.)
Now Mary is posting a “A View from My Table"(http://aviewfrommytable.blogspot.com)--a third point of view. You can feast on this blog, for Mary provides mouth-watering pictures of what is on her table along with recipes for those who find the pictures irresistible.
In recent days the menus have included: lentil soup, featured in Dr. Angelo Acquista’s book, The Mediterranean Prescription; Caprese salad, with fresh tomatoes and sliced mozzarella; and potato-crusted flounder with fire-roasted red pepper and chorizo.
Lucky Mike! He eats at Mary’s table. That’s what I call a fantastic view.