Welcome to the SSUC Library page. Please visit the library in the main floor lounge of our building, browse the shelves, grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a read, or borrow a book and bring it back when you’re done. Would you like to browse the catalogue from home? See the Title catalogue here; the Author catalogue here; and the Reference books catalogue here. In the meantime, get introduced to a new book: read a preview of a featured book every two weeks, written by our librarians. Enjoy.


Introducing the SSUC Library collection


“Read more books.”

Step through the door of SSUC’s Library & Lounge, the inviting room to your right as you enter church, and that is the exhortation you see on the poster above the bookcase on the far wall. It’s unambiguous in what it wants of you: to crack the covers of the books there to be found. But…

Why? Why bother? Why read these books, all about religion-and-such?

Karen Swallow Prior offers an answer.  

It comes in a writing of hers—she being research professor of English and Christian culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina—for Religion News Service; it was posted on February 7th. Now, it’s true that her reflection arises out of, and tackles the kerfuffle current in America regarding the banning of books, especially those in school libraries. But her reasoning is widely applicable. Read this foreshortened version of her essay, and you’ll see for yourself.

She begins by admitting she’s less concerned with what’s being read—it was a Tennessee school district’s aversion to the award-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, Maus,that prompted her jotting—than this: what’s most important “is that you read.

“This has always been true. But in this digital age in which we are assaulted all day long, to deleterious effect, by images, music, pop-up ads, headlines, clickbait, TikTok videos, Facebook videos, Instagram videos, cat videos, dog videos…taking time to read is more important than ever….

“…[R]eading literature doesn’t just inform us in the way a newspaper article does…. Rather, reading literature forms us.”

[A brief pause here: defines “literature” as, “Writings in which expression and form, in connection with ideas of permanent and universal interest, are characteristic or essential features, as poetry, novels, history, biography, and essays.” Our Library is chock-a-block with “literature”.]

“How does reading form us? Philosophers, critics, cognitive scientists, and book lovers, have been answering that question, in many different ways, for thousands of years. I think in our current context—one in which reading good words, and reading them well, is rarer and rarer, whether because of our own choices or circumstances beyond our control [think pandemic restrictions]—there are some new, or newly important, answers.

“Reading literary texts requires and cultivates attentiveness. It requires and cultivates patience. It produces questions, challenges, understanding, delight, growth. This is because words require interpretation, artfully used ones especially so. We are living in a time marked by perhaps nothing more than impoverished abilities of interpretation. …[Consider] our inability to correctly interpret one another, our words and ideas. […]

“Literature—in ways that pictures and videos don’t—requires us to interpret, because letters are symbols. They must be interpreted, or they are but squiggly lines on the page. The critical thinking inherent in the simple act of interpreting letters into words that form ideas is part of the very basis of modern civilization. […]

“To put it most generally and succinctly, the form of literature inherently promotes critical thinking by requiring an interpretation. Books ask readers to consider things…. Learning to read well requires reading that challenges us, requires us to pay attention, ask questions, wonder, and think. […]”

So it is, if Karen Swallow Prior is right, that, in her words, “reading literature forms us”. Which would explain why spiritual seekers, certainly—we who are ever striving to become our own best selves—should, and should want to, access the SSUC Library’s collection: read, and grow.

The collection—of about 700 books, of ideas—explores religion, church, spirituality, theology, faith, doubt, values, beliefs, Jesus, God and gods, and all such things. These are writings to be pored over and pondered, weighed and wondered about. And valued. 

The classics are present and accounted for, everything from The Confessions of St. Augustine to Martin Buber’s I and Thou. There are works written by such luminaries as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Northrop Frye, Abraham Heschel, Albert Schweitzer, Paul Tillich, and Simone Weil. Others will acquaint you with such great church figures as John Wesley and Hildegard of Bingen. There are plays—The Trial of God by Elie Wiesel, and Lucas Hnath’s The Christians. Progressive Christianity pioneers like Jack Spong and Lloyd Geering penned still other of the volumes. Consider Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God, but also Richard Dawkins’ refutation in The God Delusion.

On the shelves you’ll come upon the Iona Abbey Worship Book, Bible atlases, an eco-foods guide, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, self-help books, including lots on loss and grieving by the likes of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, even Nancy Steeves’ doctoral thesis. There’s fiction, too: challenge yourself and read Nikos Kazantzakis’ controversial The Last Temptation of Christ, and Putting Away Childish Things, the novel that, as one reviewer put it, “flows out of Marcus Borg’s life.” There are books about the Earth Charter, LGBTQ concerns, the Dead Sea Scrolls, fundamentalism, myths and mythology, bullying, preaching, sexism, the labyrinth, mid-life crises, evolution, Christmas, human rights and humanism, feminist theology, Buddha, Islam, justice, the parables, prayer, Christian ethics, Celtic wisdom, parenting, sin, eternal life, shamanism. Whoa, catch your breath.

Discover The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot; read how Jesus became Christian, and also God; see why No Man is an Island; explore The World of Anne Frank; join in The Battle for God, or play Hide and Seek with God, or go along with SSUC’s Clair Woodbury Looking for God; go In Search of Paul; learn how to love nature; spend The Last Week with Jesus; get acquainted with the Middle East; ask, Can We Trust the New Testament?; ask also The Great Questions of Life; meet The Pagan Christ; find faith, peace, the right words, your way home, and your religion. Why, You Can Teach Yourself Philosophy of Religion. And this litany of authors, titles, and topics, only scratches the surface!

Along with handfuls of DVDs and videos, all this is waiting to be browsed and borrowed; what’s not to be circulated are the slim number of reference works. Everything has been ordered and shelved, arranged by author, from A (Abbott, Deborah) to Z (Zuckerman, Andrew). Book-borrowing has been made as easy as can be: you’ll find lists, both by author and title, in a binder atop the first of the two tallest bookcases; as well, these can be accessed on the Library’s webpage (, so you can pick and choose what you’ll want right from home. Simply sign out the books using the in-and-out form—it’s in the same binder; later on, please be sure to note on the form the date you return the items you’ll have borrowed, and place them in the basket atop the second of the taller bookcases. It’s pretty much grab and go!

So, please, get going!

Ellen & Ken Fredrick

Library Learnings: Church: More than meets the eye, part 2

Library Learnings Church: more than meets the eye, part 2 “Who will be left to care?” Arising out of The Great Courses DVD set, The World’s Greatest Churches—which is available in SSUC’s Library—this second instalment in a multi-part essay about “Church” picks up where part one ended: venerate church buildings less. It’s, in the words of Matthew French writing for, “the individuals

Featured Book: Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us

Simone Weil “was French, born to a Jewish family, and lived a short 34 years, dying in 1943,” V.H. Cassler writes in Square Two. In WWII, she, active in the French Resistance, “began to fast in solidarity with soldiers at the front, weakening herself so much by daily deprivation that tuberculosis claimed her life. The doctor in attendance declared her

Featured Book: With or Without Me: A Memoir of Losing and Finding

“This is an explosive exploration,” the reviewer for Inspire Magazine, John Woods, declares, of author Esther Maria Magnis’s loss of loved ones to cancer, who “then as a consequence,” has “her faith in God shattered….” The critic agrees: “This is a journey that is often raw, angry, hopeful, searing, sacred, and profane—and often all at the same time. Magnis would come

Featured Book: Sacred Earth, Sacred Soul: Celtic Wisdom for Reawakening to What Our Souls Know and Healing the World

In introducing the Celtic world’s ancient spiritual path, John Philip Newell, former warden of the iconic Iona Abbey in Scotland’s Western Isles, pictures “a stream of wisdom that nourishes the deepest knowing of our being—that the earth and every human being is sacred.” What’s more, and this Spirituality & Practice points out in its review, “He goes on to show how a

Featured Book: Cultural Literacy for Religion: Everything the Well-Educated Person Should Know

“Religious literacy—the knowledge of basic teachings, symbols, practices, founders, institutions, and values, of the world’s religious traditions—can…knock down boundaries between us,” The Great Courses contends in its overview of this DVD set, a brand new addition to our Library’s A/V collection. Learners agree: as one alumnus puts it, “This course provokes thought, opens minds, and broadens perspectives.” In fact, the program gets

Featured Book: The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions

“This course should be a prerequisite for living your life.” That is one student’s take on this DVD set—that’s right, it’s not a book—the eighth of The Great Courses programs now available in your church Library. His is one of the 117 five-star reviews—the most allowed—the study garnered. In 36 half-hour-long lectures, the instructor, Jay Garfield, renders, according to The

Library Learnings: Church: More than meets the eye, part 1

.Church: more than meets the eye, part 1 “Throughout this course, as we look at both spectacular and simple buildings, we never want to forget that the essence of the word ‘church’ is people.” At the very start of the first of his 24 illustrated half-hour-long lectures in The World’s Greatest Churches course, William Cook makes the point that, “Churches were

Featured Book: Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

In this book, Sarah Bessey “talks about that tension we feel as our faith changes,” reviewer Leia Johnson observes. The Calgary author and blogger Bessey tells how she left church for six years, then found her way back: “Faith is a risk, and it’s gorgeous to leap out into the free fall.” And she does it through “raw storytelling,” according to

Featured Book: My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer

“[A] daring and urgent book” (New York Times); “[N]ot for the theologically squeamish” (Christian Scholar Review); a “taught, grave, go-for-broke meditation” (; “[A] life-changing book” (Virginia Quarterly Review); “[O]ne book I’ll relentlessly recommend” (; apt to “become part of our literary-theological canon” (Books and Culture). “It is a testament,” Kathleen Norris avowed in her 2013 review of My Bright Abyss for The New York Times, “to

Featured Book: How God Works: The Science Behind the Benefits of Religion

In this new-in-’21 book, research psychologist David DeSteno goes “cherry-picking the world’s religions to find useful practices for living better lives,” Kirkus Reviews adjudges. “[T]he author’s emphasis is…results-oriented,” Matthew Hutson adds, writing in The Wall Street Journal. Religion, he explains, is not just “a source of inherent meaning for the majority of the world who do worship,” it is, or should be, as well, “a