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Learning, Growing, Serving

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Although the thermometer still insists it’s the depths of summer, our students and teachers are preparing to head back to school in the coming days. Every year around this time, I think back to all my first days of school, and all the teachers who had an influence on my life over the years. As one who loves to read and continues to try to learn new things, I especially appreciate all those faithful teachers who instilled a love of reading in me. Summer is a time when I often have the opportunity to read more than at other times of the year, and I’ve enjoyed catching up on some good books this summer. In the spirit of our beloved friend Linda Coats, who taught generations of students to love reading, and for whom our monthly book club is named, I wanted to share a few things I read and enjoyed this summer.

What Makes You Come Alive: A Spiritual Walk With Howard Thurman (Lerita Coleman Brown): Howard Thurman was a pastor, scholar, professor, and civil rights activist who had a significant influence on the development of the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th century. His book “Jesus and the Disinherited” profoundly affected Martin Luther King, Jr., who carried a copy of it with him whenever he traveled. This new book takes selections of Thurman’s writings and offers ten steps on a spiritual path to embracing both contemplative spiritual grounding and social action for the sake of the world. I highly recommend taking a journey with Howard Thurman.

The New Life (Tom Crewe): I love fiction, and this new novel by first time novelist Tom Crewe is a fascinating story, loosely based on the lives of two men who were pioneers in researching and advocating for understanding homosexuality in late 19th century Britain, and changing the unjust laws against it at the time. One of the men is himself gay, and after being married for 25 years, is struggling to find ways to live a more authentic life in a society that just sentenced Oscar Wilde to prison for “crimes against nature.” The novel is a beautiful, heartbreaking story of those who pioneered justice for queer people against what seemed impossible odds, and on whose shoulders we stand today.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin): This magisterial biography of the scientist and leader of the Manhattan Project in World War II won the Pulitzer Prize, and its reputation is well deserved. I won’t claim to have finished all of its over 700 pages, but I can attest that it tells a mesmerizing story of a brilliant, complicated man and the difficult choices he faced at a time of horrific world war. If you’ve seen the recent film based on this book, you’ll want to get a copy and learn more about the mind behind one of the most tragic episodes of human history.

I’m so grateful for all those who instilled a love of reading in me. As teachers prepare to return to the classroom, please join me in offering a prayer for them in this new year:

God of fresh starts and new beginnings:

Bless these faithful servants with courage and confidence, knowing you are in their classroom with a steady hand on their shoulder. Give them peace, patience, and balance in the pressures they face, and bravery to build structures and systems which justly serve all your children. Give them delight in the young ones before them, and recognition of the sweet ways children are also teachers. We prayer for health and wholeness, fun and growth, surprise and amazement, for this school year ahead, knowing you will hold us all the way through.

We thank you, God, and love you. Amen.


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