Faithful Readers celebrates 20 years

News | October 17, 2017

Editor’s note: Katie Hanson and Dave Crowe teach at Augustana College. For the past 20 years, they have led St. Paul people through a rich variety of reading and discussion. They recently answered a few questions about the joy of leading this particular group.

How did this all begin?
Katie: As I recall, one fall day, in 1997, Peter (Marty) came to our house and said he wanted to talk to us. He wondered if we would be willing to start up a book club at St. Paul. We had three children under the age of 6 and both worked full time at Augustana College. He acknowledged that it would be a lot of work, but we quickly agreed that we’d give it a shot. We started with A Green Journey by the Minnesota writer, Jon Hassler, and we have been meeting eight months of the year on the second Thursday ever since.

Dave: I remember an organizational meeting we held after church one day in the choir rehearsal room. About 80 people came, expressing excitement about reading books about faith – which was both encouraging and frightening. Once the actual reading began, about 30 showed up, and soon it was more like 20. We’ve met with 15-25 every month since, and the members and friends have certainly evolved. There are two or three stalwarts, dear friends who have been with us the whole journey.

How do you select the books?
Katie: We have several specific criteria for our book selection. We know people are very busy, so we incorporate reading short stories instead of a novel for at least three or four months of the year. If we have a longer book, we read it for the September meeting so people can have all summer to read it. We only choose books we have read and know have theological issues incorporated in the fiction. We only choose paperback books that are readily available. We choose high quality literature, but in no particular genre. We mostly read fiction, but some nonfiction. We have read memoir, graphic novels, young adult novels, plays, and short stories. We read widely – Shakespeare and Marilynne Robinson, Elie Wiesel and C. S. Lewis.

Dave: Because we’re college professors, we treat the group like a college class in a way. We open up a discussion and see where it goes, trusting in smart contributors. We try to provide biographical background on an author, and maybe point out features of the story that professional critics would notice. But mostly we just enjoy people’s reactions. And then there’s another college-like aspect of FR: we don’t censor books much. If the stories have violence or overt sexuality or a bit of profanity, we discuss whether it’s gratuitous and what it means for a Christian reader to confront those things. We view our group as sophisticated readers who aren’t surprised much by contemporary culture. So we don’t reject modern books. We do, however, insist that our selections include some genuine discussion of faith or God’s nature or the responsibilities of believers — Christians, mainly, but also faithful Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others.

Why do you believe FR has continued for two decades?
Katie: St. Paul has so many curious, open-minded people who love to read and talk about ideas. Our group is informal and we have plenty of social moments, but we also always discuss the books or short stories and try to figure the important themes together. Dave and I bring in outside information about the author, time period, and share articles we have read about the book, and then the group is off and running. Discussions are rich and everyone participates as he/she feels comfortable.

Dave: I think the mutual love of books and stories is very powerful, but we also benefit from the generosity of the friends and fellow parishioners who attend. They seem to forgive us our trespasses.

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,

“YOU ARE MY SON,

TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”;

6just as He says also in another passage,

“YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER

ACCORDING TOTHE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight