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Featured Book: Drink From the Well

“Who are we?” It’s the question Fred Plumer puts as the heading of the first chapter in his book, Drink from the Well, in which he, in the words of his publisher, seeks to “define the Progressive Christianity movement as it evolves.” He should know: for about a decade, beginning in 2006, Plumer served as president of ProgressiveChristianity.org, aka the Center for Progressive Christianity; in this role, he wrote the study guide for The 8 Points, by which progressive Christianity in America accounts for itself.

An anthology of his speeches and writings, this book “remind[s] us we [as progressive Christians] are on a spiritual journey into the Great Unknown. The idea that we are always progressing helps us not only from becoming complacent about our faith,” he reckons, “but hopefully keeps us from assuming we have arrived.” Plumer goes on to declare that “there are at least five essential components” to this iteration of the faith, beginning with this: adherents follow Jesus and his teachings; they’re not “believer[s] in a creed.” (All five are found on page 15.)

Once a church drop-out, Plumer came to minister for 18 years a United Church of Christ new-start forward-looking congregation in Irvine, California.

Drink from the Well
By Fred Plumer
St. Johann Press, 2016

Featured Book: The Emerging Christian Way: Thoughts, Stories & Wisdom for a Faith in Transformation

Said by its publisher to cover “every aspect of this developing Christianity,” The Emerging Christian Way is a book it took 14 authors to write—each penned one chapter—including such luminaries as Matthew Fox and Tom Harper [six have a connection to the United Church of Canada], plus one editor, Michael Schwartzentruber, to compile and refine.
Together, they conjure a fresh Christianity, which CopperHouse, an imprint of Kelowna’s Wood Lake Books, describes thusly: “Christianity is primarily about transformation—about the transformation of the self through a living and dynamic experience of God, who is not separate from us, but who is part of us; and about the transformation of society. This new vision is best described by Marcus Borg’s emerging paradigm, which he brings to life in new ways in the opening chapter….”
Hear Borg out: “In a sentence, it [the emerging paradigm] sees the Christian life as a relationship with God as known in Jesus that changes us, that transforms us…. The Christian life is not very much about believing a set of claims to be true, but about a path, a way of transformation that leads to God and to participation in…God’s passion for the world.”
The Emerging Christian Way: Thoughts, Stories & Wisdom for a Faith in Transformation
Edited by Michael Schwartzentruber
CopperHouse, an imprint of Wood Lake Books, 2006

Featured Book: The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?

In a National Public Radio interview a dozen years ago, Peter Gomes admitted that his book “isn’t at all what its racy title suggests”: “I’m sorry to disappoint you,” he remarked, noting that, for example, The Scandalous Gospel doesn’t spotlight Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene. As NPR reported, “…the ’scandal,’ according to Gomes, is the lack of attention to the gospel, even among those who consider themselves to be faithful Christians.”

The Galilean’s was “a disturbing and redistributive gospel,” Gomes avows, adding ruefully, “we do not preach what Jesus preached. Instead, we preach Jesus.” “Gomes doesn’t pretend that following Jesus’s teachings would be easy,” NPR reported. It’s as he told his interviewer: “‘…if we actually tried to apply it to our communities—feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love our neighbours—those are dangerous things.’”

The late Peter Gomes, a gay black Baptist minister, was for decades a Harvard professor of Christian morals and pastor of that university’s Memorial Church. “A born storyteller,” according to Publishers Weekly, “his tone [in this book] is compassionate, even when he chides those who fear conflict and change.” It describes The Scandalous Gospel as “an incisive original, aimed at cautious defenders of conventional wisdom.”

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What’s So Good About the Good News?
By Peter Gomes
HarperCollins, 2007

Featured Book: A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story

“This is the book that progressives and liberals having been waiting for,” progressivechristianity.org proclaimed a decade ago, “a deeply researched history of Christianity that sheds new light on the underreported personalities and movements of the faith.” It points up “grassroots movements in Christianity that preserved Jesus’s message of social justice for 2,000 years, and their impact on the church today.” 

Philip Jenkins—he’s the author of The Lost History of Christianity—acclaimed this book by church historian and popular speaker Diana Butler Bass: “It would be difficulty to imagine anyone reading A People’s History without finding some new insight or inspiration, some new and unexpected testimony to the astonishing breadth of Christianity through the ages.” Writing for spiritualityandpractice.com, Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat explain, “In place of the dogmatic, oppressive, and violent militant Christianity we often read about, she writes about a generative faith which ’transforms the world through humble service. It is not about victory; it is about following Christ in order to seed human community with grace.’”

A review in the Jesuit magazine, America, explains how “The author’s prose is uplifting and positive. Her style is conversational, allowing one to feel she is speaking directly to the reader.”

A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story
by Diana Butler Bass
HarperCollins, 2009

Thinking Ahead to 2020

Each November, we enter a time of considering the part each of us will play in our shared work. Whether you’ve been connected to SSUC for many years or just a few months, we invite you to consider the ways that you can contribute your experience and expertise, your time and your financial resources and legacy gifts to extend and enrich our work as a vibrant spiritual community.

As we think about the possibilities of 2020 as a community, we invite you to read and respond to our 2020 Stewardship Campaign. Visit our stewardship 2020 webpage for your letter and invitation to respond.

2020 Stewardship Campaign

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