The Rector's Pick for Summer 2017
Soil and Sacrament by Fred Bahnson
Fred Bahnson's book, Soil and Sacrament, sounded interesting to me when I first saw it. People I trust, like Parker Palmer and Rowan Williams, had praised it effusively. But I hadn't considered Soil and Sacrament for our parish's summer reading selection because I thought it was primarily about finding God in gardening. We have a lot of gardeners in the parish, but I wanted something that would have broader appeal. Fortunately, the author himself nudged me to read it, and I discovered that this book is about much more than gardening. It's beautifully written and one of the most touching and engaging books I have read in a long time. Soil and Sacrament is about what it means to be human, with profound spiritual insights on the joys and challenges of living a Christian life today. The colorful cast of characters in this memoir will move you – it’s hard not to love them – and when I read it, I periodically had to put the book down, close my eyes, and ponder all over again what makes for a good life.
Yes, gardeners will find much to love in this book. But so will young adults who are trying to balance work and family. So will our healing prayer ministers and jail ministers who have experienced Christ in vulnerable people on the margins of life. Anyone who has been to the Society of St. John the Evangelist or wondered about the experience of monastic life will be drawn in by the author’s chapter about his time at Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. Anyone who has pondered with regret our society’s tendency to segregate the elderly or the disabled as unneeded will be inspired. Anyone who has ever wanted to escape the messiness of life may well find the courage to embrace that messiness as the source of true meaning and joy. And if you’ve ever had an intimation that, in the end, a good life is all about relationships and love, however imperfectly we experience those, you will come away from reading this book with inspiration and newfound conviction about the possibility of cultivating such a life here and now.
I am happy to say that author Fred Bahnson will be with us at St. Stephen’s the weekend of September 16-17; we'll have more information on his visit later. For now, enjoy Soil and Sacrament, and remember that buying the book from the Bookshop @ St. Stephen's supports our speakers series. If you do not have the funds to purchase the book, we are happy to offer several copies as loaners.