The Subversive Evangelical (Peter Schuurman); Faith, Life and Leadership: 8 Cdn Women Tell Their Stories (Margaret Gibb); This Is Not the End (Manafest); The Seamless Life (Steve Garber); Five Wives (Joan Thomas); Pink Venice (art by Christie Hayhoe)
The Subversive Evangelical: The Ironic Charisma of an Irreligious Megachurch
By Peter J. Schuurman
McGill-Queen’s, 2019. 384 pages. $32 (e-book $18.99). Preview content at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
BRUXY CAVEY is the teaching pastor for the 5,500 people who attend Sunday services at The Meeting House, based in a former industrial complex in Oakville, Ont.
It’s not that all those people are in Oakville – the church includes 19 satellite centres all over Ontario (many in cinemas) offering the Sunday teaching by technology and a similar local midweek home church experience.
How does this model of church life arise? This book is based on a sociological PhD thesis by Peter Schuurman, an Ontario Christian academic who has been studying The Meeting House in person for several years. It summarises how Cavey, who moved to this Anabaptist church in 1996, transformed it into what it is today.
Cavey’s teaching and persona are theologically conservative and Bible-based, but expressed in ways that distance The Meeting House from negative stereotypes of right-wing evangelicalism. This "charisma," Schuurman argues, is much bigger than Cavey alone – it is a "dramatic production" in which Cavey, staff and attendees co-operate.
Schuurman sees the church as an ironic "third way" between liberal and conservative Protestantism. The Meeting House focuses on spirituality and relationship while bracketing religion. It holds annual Purge Sundays to urge "Christian tourists" to leave if they cannot commit to active participation.
This well-rounded study also considers whether this church will survive after its charismatic leader, and to what extent it is a white, middle-class suburban phenomenon. –PYE CHEW
Faith, Life and Leadership: 8 Canadian Women Tell Their Stories, Vol. 2
Edited by Margaret Gibb
Castle Quay, 2019. 360 pages. $19 (e-book $9.99). Preview content at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
THE SECOND volume in the Faith, Life and Leadership series (supported by www.Women-Together.org) again offers a refreshing compilation of eight Canadian Christian women – broadcasters Cheryl Weber and Moira Brown, breast cancer activist Leila Springer, pastor evangelist Marie Miller, recording artist Ruth Ann Onley, and Susan Finlay of Nation at Prayer, Wendy Hagar of Sew on Fire Ministries and Aileen van Ginkel of The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Their autobiographies are varied. Most were not privy to a life of privilege. Many were unwanted, rebellious, abandoned, bullied and ridiculed. None sought to be leaders.
They relied on the promptings of the Holy Spirit to guide them, to transform them into His image. These women believed He was leading them in their life journey and professional development.
Most also had a cheering squad of husbands, coworkers and/or professors who championed them. They loved, guided and encouraged the women to achieve their God-given potential. They celebrated them.
While some churches continue to imply that women must act in a supportive, submissive role, Faith, Life and Leadership proves the contrary, painting instead the possibilities for women to richly impact others globally for the glory of God.
This is an inspiring and comforting book, and an excellent resource for churchgoers – especially men, who can learn how to support the women and daughters in their world. The book offers important wisdom about being stretched in our capacities. – LUCY PAVIA
The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work
By Steve Garber
IVP, 2020. 128 pages. $27 (e-book $15, audiobook $15). Preview content at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
WE OFTEN speak of our lives as juggling acts. Every day we strive to balance our work, relationships, faith, duties and passions enough to keep them from crashing to the ground. Yet among all these moving parts we often lose touch with the meaning of our life and vocation altogether. In this book Steven Garber, professor of marketplace theology at Regent College in Vancouver, helps us find the divinely woven threads that make our fragmented lives whole.
Through a tapestry of short essays and photos, Garber explores some of our deepest human questions about the intersection of work, worship, vocation, justice and love. With wisdom, scholarship and story, he paints a vision of coherence in which all aspects of our lives participate in the glory and mission of God.
The seamless life is one in which heaven meets earth in the most ordinary, daily aspects of existence. Garber takes us from boardrooms on Madison Avenue to conversations with artists to backyard meals with friends to show us every single piece is sacred.
This is a book to savour slowly. Colourful stories and photos infused with questions and insight guide the reader through the light and shadow of a faithful life in a complex world. The format lends itself nicely to a daily reflection and would also make this a great book to take on retreat.
A rich and transformative read. – JULIA BOWERING
This Is Not the End
Independent, 2019. $15 (download $8.99). ManafestShop.com
TORONTO ROCK RAPPER Chris Greenwood, otherwise known as Manafest, is back with a new album. Instead of turning to a record label to help him create this project, he once again drew on his fans via a Kickstarter campaign. With their enthusiastic support he was able to record and release it independently, first as a four-song EP and now as a ten-song album under the same title.
Anthems like "This Is Not the End," "I Made It" and "Kamikaze" are catchy, fun and sure to become fan favourites.
While this album doesn’t stray far from his signature rap-rock sound, there are new depths of emotion found in the lyrics. In "Come Back Home," a duet with Trevor McNevan of Thousand Foot Krutch, Manafest captures a conversation between a prodigal and our Heavenly Father who waits with arms wide open: "Come back home, I’ve been right where you left me / I left the light on and I’ve got everything you need."
In "Plan for Me" Manafest approaches the issue of abortion by telling the story of an aborted child and her parents: "If born, I would of changed the world / If born, I’d been your baby girl / If born, you would of seen me twirl / Brown eyes and golden curls / And guess what? I still love you." The song tackles a sensitive topic with grace and reminds the listener of the depth of forgiveness God offers us all.
After releasing ten full-length albums over nearly two decades, Manafest shows once again that he has the ability to create music that will last. He has earned his spot as an industry veteran. – KRISTEN MCNULTY
"This work is based on memories of a trip to Italy several years ago, and reflects the bright burst of creativity I felt when painting in a place where people have lived and worked creatively for centuries. As humans we are made in the Creator’s image, and the ability we have to make something new – whether a painting, song, photograph or idea – is an amazing gift from Him."
Pink Venice, 2018 (oil on canvas, 40″ × 40″) by Christy Hayhoe, www.ChristyHayhoe.com.
Reading the Bestsellers
Five Wives: A Novel
By Joan Thomas
HarperCollins, 2019. 400 pages. $19.99 (e-book $11.99). Preview content at Amazon.ca and Books.Google.ca
IN 1956 MEMBERS of the isolated Waorani tribe speared five missionaries to death in Ecuador. The discovery of their bodies captured international headlines. Their widows’ testimonies – notably Elisabeth Elliot’s books – spurred efforts to take the gospel to remote ends of the earth.
Winnipeg writer Joan Thomas recently won the Governor General’s award for her compelling novel inspired by the saga. Thomas was raised in a home that honoured the five men as martyrs, and her novel evokes – with stunning authenticity – the missionaries’ call to reach the Waorani, known to kill all outsiders.
The missionaries’ doubts, loves and rivalries are convincingly and compassionately told. Readers will find more nuance here than in the caricature of Nathan Price in The Poisonwood Bible, a bestselling African missionary novel by Barbara Kingsolver.
Readers familiar with the history may question Thomas’ use of real geography and real names for the missionaries (all deceased except one) while completely reimagining the characters, but the plot and settings are masterful and engaging in their own right.
The stories of the widows, a rival Catholic priest and the devoted but sidelined missionary colleague Rachel alternate with a contemporary narrative of pastor David, a fictional son-in-law of Elisabeth Elliot, and his agnostic daughter Abby as they seek to come to terms with the missionaries’ legacy.
Along the way Thomas spotlights the ethnocentrism that often blights mission work. The fly-in missionaries use megaphones, Kool-Aid and balloons to draw the Waorani out of the forest for a friendly encounter. After the deaths Elisabeth and Rachel persist in befriending the Waorani, eventually leading converts to tour American churches. Meanwhile, government and oil companies wreak their own havoc on Ecuador’s Indigenous peoples.
Thomas’ novel candidly reflects the challenges of cross-cultural mission. But even more, it is a gripping tale about the complexities of relating to a vastly different people. – BYRON REMPEL-BURKHOLDER