By Dr. Mike Graves
When I was only part-time at Country Club Christian Church, and still serving part-time on the faculty at Saint Paul School of Theology, I actually had three offices, including the one at home. That meant I had three sets of bookshelves for all those volumes. When I retired from teaching to become full-time Scholar in Residence, I weaned my collection, some 22 boxes worth of weaning. Mostly, I donated volumes I would no longer be needing to teach seminarians, giving some to the person who took my position after me. Books are everything to professors and ministers alike, the veritable tools of the trade.
Back in the mid-1980s, cultural critic Neil Postman noted that it was the first time that public libraries checked out more videos than books. He naturally feared that trend would only grow. I wouldn’t claim that books are everything for everyone, but they are crucial. Thankfully, we have not only a bookstore within our church, The Well, but a library too. The bookstore is hard to miss, somewhat centrally located. The library is perhaps a different story, at the end of a hall on the north end of the building. But for those who seek it out, it is a proverbial treasure trove.
In just the past month or so, several volumes have been added to the collection, titles such as Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, Rob Bell’s What We Talk about When We Talk about God, and Christianity after Religion, by Diana Butler Bass. One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors is also now in the collection, John Dominic Crossan’s The Greatest Prayer. I referenced it in my classes on “Rethinking the Lord’s Prayer.” There’s a collection of fine sermons by the late Peter Gomes, who was chaplain at Harvard University. Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World is also now available. You get the idea.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about someone who stumbles upon buried treasure by accident, followed by one about a pearl merchant who had searched for the finest pearl ever. Accidentally or on purpose, libraries and bookstores are always worth the effort because one never knows what might be found therein. Happy hunting and happy reading.