Monday, June 29, 2009
Resource Review - The Episcopal Handbook
The Episcopal Handbook By: Church Publishing Incorporated 256 pages $15.00 Published by Morehouse Publishing
OVERALL - "The Episcopal Handbook provides historical and theological information about the Episcopal Church alongside fun-filled facts and practical tips for being a churchgoing follower of Jesus Christ."
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? A couple weeks ago I reviewed "101 Reasons to be Episcopalian" and you could think of this as a companion piece. If 101 gets the conversation started the Handbook starts taking us a little deeper into the discussion. Again the tone is decidedly lighthearted. Chapters include - How to Survive a Baptism, What Are All Those Books in the Pew?, Is Coffee Really the Third Sacrament? and Why (Most) Episcopalians Don't Kick Dogs (Answer: because we care for God's creation). You also get more serious topics talking about the Creeds, the Bible, How to Pray, How to Tell a Sinner from a Saint, and Why the Episcopal Church Welcomes Everyone. And that only scratches the surface of the book. There has to be close to 100 short chapters that touch on just about anything you could possibly imagine. Not only to do with being an Episcopalian but with being a Christian too. It really does answer, or at least tries to answer, all those "dumb" questions that we so often never ask. We never ask not because we don't want to know but more often because we're afraid we'll look "dumb". I would have loved having this book to fall back on as a teen. Again not written as a youth ministry resource specifically I think it is a great tool for ministry with our youth.
RESERVATIONS Because they are willing to take on all questions it's inevitable that some answers won't be to everyone's taste. Questions about sexuality, evolution and the Bible will not be happy reading for some folks. In reality I think they express the common understanding and feelings of most Episcopalians and are consistent with the stated positions of the church (where they exist). On evolution they note the church has no stated position on the subject explicitly but most Episcopalians agree with it and the church has said that we believe that God can create in any fashion or form, including evolution. That kind of openness is an essential aspect of Episcopal culture. You're either comfortable with it or not.
RECOMMENDATION I'm going to add this to my still theoretical list of "Must Have" resources for youth ministers in the Episcopal Church. (Note I'm aware of similar Lutheran and Methodist Handbooks and there may be others out there too.) The book is fun and funny, easy to read while still being a source for serious answers to deep theological questions. Again as a way to show not only how we live as Christians but also what our Episcopal traditions and understandings bring to the table this book is a fabulous addition to your library. My bet is that most Episcopalians will learn at least one new thing about themselves as they read this book.