September 2019: "Lutherans in America"

Ever been curious about how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America came to be? Let me just say, it wasn’t quick and easy! The quick answer is that in 1986 the ALC, ELC, and LCA merged to be the ELCA. But before that, there were the AELC, ELCC, UELC, and TALC, not to mention individual synods organized in the 19th Century by folks from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, etc. When I was an Iowa teenager, in the square mile where my family’s farm was located there were two ELCs, an ALC, a Wisconsin Synod, and a Lutheran Brotheran (not to be confused with Lutheran Brotherhood). My family belonged to one of the ELC’s and though we shared a minister and struggled financially to keep up two congregations, we couldn’t possibly unite. After all, one was country and the other town.

Two new books at the BGLibrary address the questions. “Lutherans in America” by Mark Granquist and “Lutheran Denominations in America” by L. DeAne Lagerquist might not have been your beach reading, but they’re just right for the beginning of another academic year. Granquist (Professor of Lutheran History, Luther College, Iowa) and Lagerquist (same, St. Olaf College, Minnesota) are perhaps today’s best known Lutheran historians.* Granquist “brings to light not only the institutions that Lutherans founded…but the people that lived within them.” Lagerquist traces the development of Lutheranism in our country “from the colonial era through the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

These two volumes are currently on display. Both are lively, fascinating reads. You’ll be surprised at how complicated we are! To paraphrase Granquist, we Lutherans are about “politics and policies” combined with “piety and practical experience.”

*That is, besides Holy Trinity’s own Mark Edwards, who, incidentally, recommended these books.

August 2019: A Hope More Powerful That The Sea & Behold the Dreamers

Apropos of Pastor Tim’s message for us last Sunday, the BGLibrary has a couple of new books you might like to check out. A Hope More Powerful that the Sea by Melissa Fleming is the true story of a teenage girl’s immigrant journey to freedom. Doaa Al Zanel, along with 500 others, escaped Syria on a small fishing boat heading to Europe. The next several years took her through varied immigrant camps in Europe and Canada before she finally arrived in the States. Published in 2017 and soon to be a major film, Doaa’s “incredible story of laws, loss, and survival” reveals what millions go through to achieve safety. This book is also suitable for the young adult reader.

A second book, Behold the Dreamers, is Imbolo Mbue’s first novel. Mbue tells the story of a Camaroon family, the Jongas, as they navigate New York city. Jende Jonga lands a good-paying job working as a driver for the wealthy Edward family. Jende’s wife Neni tends their modest apartment, cares for their son, works a fulltime job, eventually becomes pregnant with a second child, and attends night school to prep for a university placement. You’ll champion this couple’s determination and hard work as they fight to win their case for amnesty. Some chapters will find you cheering them on while others will make you weep. You’ll also rage by turns against the Edwards, the Jongas, dishonest and conniving attorneys, and the American systems. The book is a 2016 publication.

Both books will be on display this coming Sunday. Move quickly to check them out! The new stuff goes in a hurry.

December 2018: Iringa Lutheran University library

One year when Kurt and I traveled to Tanzania to volunteer at Iringa Lutheran University the school asked me to do an inventory and assessment of their college library. When you go to Tanzania, you do what you’re asked...or at least try. The library is a beautiful building, albeit small, and they’re very proud of it. It’s fully stocked with a separate section for each of the dozen majors offered. Although Swahili is the national language, the entire book collection is in English; British English is their preferred language for higher education.

The collection occupies two floors. Counting the books section by section may sound like a daunting task. Not really. The whole operation took me less than a week. In 2015, Iringa University Library had 3,732 books, not counting the cardboard boxes yet unpacked that were hidden under the stairwell.

Those unpacked boxes had no doubt come from the book donation crates in mall parking lots where we dump whatever we’ve finished reading and want to get rid of. In fact, as I perused the shelf of English Composition texts, I opened the cover of one to see the signature of a colleague from my doctoral committee.

What I’m trying to say here is not that we should feel sorry for these folks. The internet is available and widely used at Iringa U, and their faculty are some of the smartest, best educated people in the world. What I want us to realize is how blessed we are with the riches of reading and how casually we take those riches for granted.

In Isimani all the kids go to school and learn to read. But their are no public libraries, and many homes have absolutely no access to books. And then what happens is the phenomenon of “post literacy.” Some kids actually forget how to read.

Two years ago Holy Trinity donated a collection of children’s books to our partner congregation. You gave the money, we sent the money to the Lugallas, and Sapi visited the Bible bookstore in Dar es Salaam to make the purchase. Pastor Msungu has arranged a preschool on the church grounds, and the children’s library is located in a separate room in the school building.

Advent and Christmas are wonderful times for us to realize and appreciate our riches. The BGLibrary has an Africa section, and I encourage you to check it out. In the springtime, when we weed out old books and DVDs to sell, we’ll again donate the proceeds to buy books for Isimani.

October 7: Three New Additions and a Magazine!

Our beautiful little BGLibrary continually adds new titles to its collection. New acquisitions are placed on display near the bright yellow arrow. I’d like to entice you here with quick descriptions of three of the latest.

“The Lessons of History” by Will and Ariel Durant teaches that the most reliable path to understanding our present is to look at the past. History helps us anticipate the future. The Durants describe history not as science but industry, art, and philosophy. As industry, it points toward fact. As art, it seeks order out of chaos. As philosophy, it gives us perspective and understanding.

“Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders is a novel exploring grief, friendship, and American history. “Bardo” is a Buddhist term that describes the place between life and afterlife, and this story follows Lincoln’s ghost as it passes through to the other side.

“A Piece of the World” by Christina Bader Klein is a novel about friendship, passion, and art. Klein’s inspiration is the enigmatic Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World.” Don’t pass these up! Check out any or all of them before someone else gets them.

And while you’re browsing, notice the Gather magazines on the table. The official magazine of the Women of the ELCE, Gather is full of newsy articles, explorations about our faith, suggestions for activities to try, and devotional materials. Borrow a copy—keep it a week—return it for the next reader to enjoy.

August 2018: British Books and DVDs

Posted by Mark Donahue on Thursday, August 2, 2018 @ 2:27 PM

Ah, summer. Hot days, warm nights. The perfect time for…binging! Ignore the lawn and the weeds, put your feet up, watch movies, and read. Feeling guilty? Not if you tell yourself you’re doing a cultural study. So let’s go British.

Some binging suggestions from the BGLibrary”

  1. DVDs. Call the Midwife, all seven seasons. Set in England in the 1950s, this series explores medicine, poverty, and Church of England politics, all through the eyes of midwives living under the auspices of the Church. Their home—the vestry—is in an impoverished city district outside London. As the young midwives minister to expectant mothers, they find various health issues connected to poverty, often becoming embroiled in family and personal issues. Watching the Midwives, you can argue that besides cultural studies, you’re pursuing reproductive medicine.

  2. DVDs. Downton Abbey, the complete series. Live vicariously in a grand English manor and experience the vastly differing life styles of upstairs and downstairs. Live through the First World War, vicariouslly explore the Pyramids, suffer the drama of royalty, and feel the excitement of foxhunting. Love and romance, secrets and lies, and the absolute proper way to set a table.

  3. Books. The Starbridge fiction series from author Susan Howatch explores beneath the surface of the Church of England, its religion, politics, and drama…even scandal. The series begins with Glittering Images where you’ll be introduced to characters you’ll follow through Mystical Paths and beyond. Working your way through the whole series will take you all the way through August.
  4. Books. Or if you prefer something more lighthearted, try Alexander McCall Smith. Explore “crime” with the Ladies #1 Detective Agency. Agency owner Mma Precious Romatswe and her assistant, Mma Makutsi, solve all sorts of dilemma from lost properties to wandering husbands to stolen recipes. Pick one up, and you won’t quite till you’ve read them all! The BGLibrary has both the books and DVDs. Bonus: The author is British, but the novels are set in Botswana, so you’ll be doing double the cultural study!