New Books on Christian Living and Spirituality

Hello Readers!  After taking the last several months off to complete two first-draft manuscripts, I’m back to blogging. Now that I’ve come up for air, I’m delighted to report that I’m also back to reviewing new books and sharing my thoughts and recommendations.

I know many of my followers are Episcopalians, and I want to let you know about several new books on Christian living and spirituality that have been published lately or will be published soon. Here are some new titles you’ll want to check out (and possibly use in adult forums, book clubs, or just for personal devotionals):

Richard Rohr, Just This. Highly recommended for fans of Richard Rohr. This book includes brief one-page devotionals; it would be great for daily use or to take on a retreat. I would recommend this for the spiritually mature. For “seekers” or those unfamiliar with Rohr, I would read one of his other books first.

Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Retreat. Highly recommended, especially for retreat leaders, adult Christian formation leaders, and conference or retreat center staff.  This book makes the case for taking quiet, alone time for yourself to discern what’s working (and not working) in your life, what God might be calling you to do, and what you might need to let go. The book covers both the “big picture” concepts and more practical advice for your own retreat. The imagery of this book was particularly helpful.  I appreciated that this book reached out to all Christians. The author includes nods to those in more Evangelical traditions, Episcopalians (including references to the Book of Common Prayer), Roman Catholics, and anyone seeking spiritual growth and refreshment. Liturgies and suggestions for retreat reading materials are included, along with differentiation between silent retreats, “preached retreats,” or purely solitary retreat time in your own space. (Coming in September, available for pre-order now.)

Bob Goff, Everybody Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People.  I loved this book. Bob Goff is a terrific storyteller who tells marvelous stories of “becoming love” to neighbors, a homeless guy who shacks up in his truck, and even witch doctors. (Yes, witch doctors. The fingerprints on the cover are from actual witch doctors in Uganda.) Highly recommended for uplifting, inspirational, engaging stories about daily living-out of the Christian faith. Perfect for seekers and mature Christians alike. Great for adult forums, book clubs, and for personal use.

Cynthia Coe is the author of several resources to introduce children, youth, and adults to environmental stewardship. Visit her author page on Amazon here.   

 

 

 

Christian Nurture in the 21st Century – About this Book (And What has Changed – or Mostly NOT Changed – Since I Wrote this Book)

I wrote Christian Nurture in the 21st Century back in 2003, in response to lots of social changes I saw that the Church had not adjusted to  – working women who no longer had time to volunteer for church work, ever-increasing demands on children’s time, and parents who had never learned the basics of the Christian faith themselves.

In my book, I advocated for high quality, professional efforts in the ministry of Christian formation.  I suggested that we pay teachers, train them, and take this ministry seriously if the Church intends to survive.  I also strongly advocated that the Church focus on the basics and use modern teaching methods and knowledge to provide quality adult formation, meeting adults where they were in their lives with timely, relevant resources. 

What’s Happened in Children’s Christian Formation

At the time the book was written, I headed up a formation ministry that served 185 children between the ages of 3-12, almost all of whom attended regularly.  Within a couple of years of writing the book, most of the conservative church members had left my parish, and this number dropped to one child at one point. That number has gradually crept back up, but it will almost certainly never be the robust program it once was.  The aging population of Episcopal parishes has taken its toll as well.  With the average age of parishioners going up and up, the number of children attending parishes will, of course, decrease.  I think efforts to restore the old Sunday School model of formation are pretty much in vain.

On the brighter side, Episcopal schools and camps seem to have picked up steam.  In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen the local Episcopal school grow from a tiny start-up into a large elementary school, along with a middle school and pre-school – all with daily chapel services and a weekly religion class led by a seminary-trained chaplain. Clearly, there is a demand for quality educational programs led by paid professionals. 

Episcopal camps also seem to be popular and well attended.  I think their success addresses several social trend I discussed in my book – the lack of time during the week, increased homework, weekends filled with extracurricular activities, but too much free time during the summer.  Parish VBS programs also seem to retain their popularity, likely for the same reasons.  I’m glad to see these summer programs flourish.

As far as resources go, we’ve seen some new initiatives to provide high quality curriculum resources to Episcopal parishes for little or no cost.  I’ll give a lot of credit to Episcopal Relief & Development for providing the Abundant Life Garden Project and Act Out resources digitally and for free.  I think the success of these programs and others like them showed that if quality, flexible content is provided, teachers and formation leaders will enthusiastically use them. 

I’d love to see more new initiatives to provide resources to address issues people actually face on a daily basis.  It’s now possible to provide resources quickly and at very little production cost.  (You can now publish an e-book or a paperback book for free.  Believe me, I’ve done it.)  I’m aghast that development of resources by the mainstream Episcopal publishers continues at glacial speed.

Adult Christian Formation is Now DIY

One of the reasons I went into Christian formation was the huge transformative change the church’s adult programs had made in my own life.  The vehicles of this transformation were small group Bible studies I attended in my late twenties and early thirties.  I had an opportunity to ask questions, share my story and my journey with others, and get wise advice and guidance from others. 

But sadly, these groups at the end of the 1990’s were apparently the tail end of the small group adult Bible study movement in the Episcopal Church.  By the time I graduated from VTS in 2003, these groups had ended.  With the exception of an Alpha group here and there for newbies, there were no study groups for adults.  Did I offer to start or lead one (or several) myself?  Oh yes.  My offers have yet to be accepted.  The few adult study groups that exist are attended almost exclusively by seniors and retirees

So here in 2017, I really wish I had friends my own age in the Church (locally, not just on Facebook), but I don’t.  I truly wish I had some sort of support group or study group I could attend.  But there isn’t one.  No, I’m not going to hang out with women my mother’s age to attend the only programs that meet during the few times my schedule is free.  And I’m no longer willing to give up my family time in the evenings, either.  That leaves Sunday mornings, but I look at the few groups meeting on Sunday morning, and they look like either self-serving info-sessions (e.g. “stewardship”/ how to give more money to the Church) or topics that simply don’t interest me.

Yet my own formation continues.  All of us continue to change and grow through the years.  These days, my formation has taken on a much more quiet, meditative character.  I take walks in nature with my dog, do yoga, write in my journal, or knit as my daily spiritual time.  I’ve found myself using these old-fashioned things called “books” to help guide me through my continuing spiritual journey.  They cost very little and arrive on my doorstep with a couple of clicks on my laptop. Formation has become do-it-yourself for me – and likely for many people.

In this time of vast change, I look forward to what happens to the Church in the future.  In the meantime, I’m mostly content with DIY formation.  It is what it is.  What happens next will certainly be shaped by social changes which started decades ago – changes the Church simply hasn’t adjusted to yet. 

Christian Nurture in the 21st Century is available in both paperback and Kindle editions at this link.  The book is also available through many online book sellers and distributors, including Amazon’s worldwide affiliates.  This book is included in Kindle Unlimited.

***Important Note:  The Kindle edition of this book will be FREE on January 14-16 ONLY.****

 

 

Publication of Christian Nurture in the 21st Century

Sycamore Cove is delighted to announce the publication of its first book, Christian Nurture in the Twenty-First Century: A New Vision for Christian Formation.  This book, by Cynthia Coe, envisions new ways of nurturing children and young people in the Christian faith – backed up by scripture, church history, and theology.

Christian Nurture in the Twenty-First Century is available in both print and e-book editions through Amazon.com at this link.  This is a great book for Christian educators, clergy, vestry members, and anyone else looking to re-think their Christian formation programs.

Here’s more information about Christian Nurture in the 21st Century:

The light of Christ is passed from one generation to the next, keeping the faith alive. Christian Nurture in the Twenty-First Century imagines a new vision for sharing the Christian faith with young people. Based on scripture and a fresh look at how Christian education was done in the past, this book presents new ideas and models of nurturing the Christian faith of young people.

Cynthia Coe asks church leaders to give the ministry of Christian education a “fresh think” and explore new but more effective means of passing the Christian faith to young people. Coe also gives churches a theological and scriptural basis for trying new ways of Christian formation, such as paying Sunday School teachers – providing well trained, well prepared teachers in a world where volunteers simply can’t or won’t spend the time to provide effective Christian education programs. She also strongly advocates teaching parents who never learned the basics of Christianity before these young parents attempt to ingrain their children in Christian values and morals.

In a series of essays included in this book, Cynthia Coe tackles many specific challenges facing Christian educators, such as quality adult programming, Vacation Bible School programming, and how to reach children most in need. Based on her field experience as a Director of Children’s Ministries and curriculum developer of Christian education resources, Cynthia Coe presents a fresh voice and insightful ideas to better pass the faith to young people in the twenty-first century.

Cynthia Coe is an honors graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and the University of Tennessee College of Law. She also holds a degree with highest honors in the College Scholars program of the University of Tennessee, focusing on Honors History.