Best writing of the year awarded. Reviews of Why You’re Here; The Bees of Rainbow Falls; Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved; The Sun and Her Flowers. Art by Blaine Rancourt
Best Writing of the Year Awarded
Writers from a variety of Canadian churches won awards from The Word Guild, a national writers’ association, on June 15. The annual contest drew entries published last year across 47 categories. Winners were announced at a gala event in Mississauga, Ont.
This year’s $5,000 Grace Irwin Prize went to W. Ross Hastings of Vancouver for his book Echoes of Coinherence: Trinitarian Theology and Science Together (Cascade Books).
The Debra Fieguth Award for writing on social justice, named after a former Faith Today writer, went to Faith Today editor Karen Stiller of Ottawa.
The award for an up and coming journalist, named after veteran journalists Bob Harvey and Lloyd Mackey, went to Craig Macartney of Ottawa, a regular Faith Today writer.
The Leslie K. Tarr career award went to Glen Argan of Edmonton, former editor of The Western Catholic Reporter.
Winning Faith Today articles included work by Stiller, Macartney, Carolyn Arends and Sheila Wray Gregoire, as well as book excerpts by Preston Manning and Preston Pouteaux. Love Is Moving student author Carly Ververs also won a fiction award.
Read a complete list of winners at www.TheWordGuild.com/Media.
Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World
By John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
Oxford University Press, 2017. 240 pages. $24 (e-book $9.99)
IN LIGHT of the huge cultural shifts confronting us daily, this is a timely book that goes beyond simply discussing what is right and wrong. It explores the meaning of vocation – of God’s intention for all humanity, Christian and non-Christian, to faithfully fulfill our "cultural mandate" to reproduce and make shalom by encouraging a "global, universal, cosmic flourishing."
Author John Stackhouse, a New Brunswick professor who has taught theology, religion and history at several universities, calls this mandate our "permanent human calling."
Christians also have a mandate to make disciples. It is the basic calling of the Church – of all believers. As he describes how this can be accomplished through congregations, paracongregations (his term for parachurch groups) and individuals, Stackhouse asks that we recognize and embrace the different ways each group or person may go about the task.
The second half of the book explores how Christians can effectively fulfill their shalom-making and disciple-making vocation in a mixed-up, broken world. Christians must expect and accept things will go wrong while continuing to work toward making matters better wherever and whenever they can. Stackhouse warns against adopting an "all or nothing" stance in working for change. He reminds readers that achieving the best possible (though not perfect) outcome is preferable to withdrawing and abandoning the public square.
The book concludes with four ideas to guide Christians intent on making the best of a difficult situation – engage the culture without capitulating to it, seek transformation, not conquest of culture, accept pluralism without endorsing relativism, and be confident of your convictions without delusions of infallibility.
This engaging, thought-provoking book would be a great choice for small groups and book club discussions. –DAVID DANIELS
The Bees of Rainbow Falls: Finding Faith, Imagination, and Delight in Your Neighbourhood
By Preston Pouteaux
Urban Loft Publishers, 2017. 192 pages. $18.95
NEIGHBOURHOOD ENTHUSIAST. That’s how Alberta pastor Preston Pouteaux describes himself – and what he urges his readers to become. Pouteaux guides readers to find beauty in nature and neighbourhood, cultivate a sense of awe, feel secure through faith and trust, discover the creativity resulting from boredom, recognize the importance of place and geography, and become curators or cultivators of neighbourhoods.
The neighbourhoods Pouteaux describes do not have to be unique or extraordinary. His description of Rainbow Falls suggests it is a new, nondescript subdivision near Calgary. And yet Pouteaux is an enthusiast of that neighbourhood. To transform his readers into fellow enthusiasts, he offers practical advice, personal anecdotes and evidence from various authorities. Indeed, his book is well researched, and readers will find gems in his considerable endnotes.
The Bees of Rainbow Falls could be dismissed as jargon filled (get ready for plenty of "postures" and "intentionality") and idealistic, if not for the bees that weave their way through the text. Bees travel without borders to find food, and their honey is a sweet sample of a neighbourhood’s flowers. Pouteaux is a backyard beekeeper, and he recounts throughout the text his own experiences with bees, as well as fascinating information about the history, mythology and future of beekeeping. Bees are both creature and symbol in the book, and Pouteaux’s enthusiasm for the intrepid insects is clear.
"When I saw the inside of a beehive for the first time, it took my breath away," he exclaims.
This hopeful book and its beautiful bees may not take your breath away, but they will certainly inspire a renewed love and zeal for work in any neighbourhood, or as Pouteaux calls it, "God’s Garden."
A free study guide is available at www.IntoTheNeighbourhood.ca. –DEANNA SMID
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved
By Kate Bowler
Random House, 2018. 208 pages. $35 (e-book $14.99, audio $24.70)
IT WAS the title of this book that first caught my attention, words I have heard as attempts to offer comfort in difficult seasons of life. Those exact words have even rolled from my own tongue to others in their times of distress. When life is sailing smoothly, it is easy to declare God is good. But life often turns tragic, and then what do we say?
Kate Bowler’s book is a powerful, messy memoir. She grew up surrounded by Mennonite communities on the prairies of Manitoba. She married her high school sweetheart, gave birth to a son in her 30s and obtained gainful employment as a Christian history professor at her alma mater in North Carolina. One minute she was a regular person and the next, she writes, she was someone with cancer. Her life spiralled into "a new, unwanted reality."
Her memoir walks readers along her medical and spiritual journey and reflects on the prosperity gospel she studied for her dissertation. She struggles with the reason she is sick and wonders what she did to deserve this life sentence.
She also describes comments from people who tried to find reasons for her illness, "explanations peppered with scriptures." In fact, she includes two insightful appendices to the book – a list of things not to say to people going through terrible experiences, and suggestions to consider when helping someone in a time of suffering.
Her writing is honest, raw, heartwrenching and humorous, offering many truths only gleaned in the shadowy valleys of life. –LUCY KRAEMER
Reading the Bestsellers
The Sun and Her Flowers
By Rupi Kaur
Simon & Schuster, 2017. 256 pages. $19 (e-book $9.99)
Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s newest collection of poems, released in October, is already a global bestseller. That should not surprise her fans or anyone who has been following the poetry world. Her 2014 debut Milk and Honey has sold an unthinkable 2.5 million copies and been translated into 30 languages.
Kaur, who was born in Punjab, finds her poems frequently mocked for being simple and trite – what Kaur calls accessible. For example: "a daughter should / not have to / beg her father / for a relationship." Dismissed by one writer as "the patron saint of millennial heartache," Kaur has nonetheless given a voice to a generation of young women who have wrestled with trauma and abuse, body image, loss and healing.
In The Sun and Her Flowers, 25-year-old Kaur’s writing style and subject matter have evolved. The poem "home," which Kaur performs on tour, uses metaphor powerfully as she describes the experience of rape: "you dove into me with a fork and a knife / eyes glinting with starvation / like you hadn’t eaten in weeks." (Her writing, including the book titles, generally does not use capital letters.)
In "refugee camp" she writes, "you are an open wound / and we are standing / in a pool of your blood." The theme of refugees is continued in "boat" where she writes, "this boat is not strong enough to carry / this much sorrow to a shore." Her parents’ immigrant experience is movingly described in the line "they turned a suitcase full of clothes into a life."
What Kaur’s work may lack in literary polish it makes up for in resonance with her generation, and so presents an opportunity for us in the Church to learn from. –MARIANNE JONES