Every Friday, we’ll have an author that highlights five things to read, watch or check out online. This week’s post comes from David and Leann Augsburger, two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care, and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.
1. A soul-searching article: From The Mennonite’s July 11 TMail e-newsletter, an indispensable and necessary read for all Mennonites and beyond: “I cannot speak of love to you today,” by Regina Shands Stolzfus After Ferguson, Baltimore, San Bernardino, Atlanta, Orlando, and Dallas, we need to hear something that points a blazingly right way. The professor of peace, justice and conflict studies at Goshen College has given us such a word. Read it again and you understand why she was awarded the 2016 Spirit of Justice Award by the State of Indiana Civil Rights Commission (the state’s highest civil rights honor.) A member of the Roots of Justice anti-oppression training organization, she touches the soul.
2. Movie, “Rams”: In summers, we have a film series on Sunday evenings at Peace Mennonite before we share the Lord’s table and worship together. Last week we saw Rams, in Icelandic with subtitles. It is director Grimar Hakonarson’s amazing story of alienation between two brothers and the long struggle to achieve reconciliation. Brothers Gummi and Kiddi occupy neighboring hillside farms but haven’t spoken to each other for 40 years. This is a model of lean, parabolic, profoundly illuminating storytelling that is spiced with moments of absurdist humor, filled with existential tragedy, but plumbs depths of human alienation with a caring sensitivity that leaves one ruminating for days about how we find each other in shock and crisis.
3. Book, Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber (Jericho Books): Leann, along with her book club, is reading this 2013 “Cranky, beautiful account of faith of a sinner and saint” that is like, as one reviewer quips, “mixing the DNA of comedian Louis CK and epistle writer St Paul.” The founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, an ELCA congregation in Denver, Nadia uses straight theology with twists of humor, and head-on crashes with truth by telling her story of stumbling into radical faith and ministry among recovering and discovering new believers. avid had to pry it from Leann’s fingers to read and appreciate why she was laughing uncontrollably as she turned the pages, then marking lines that explode with love and grace.
4. Peaches: Georgia claims them, Virginia blushes with them, Michigan pours them south into the less peachy states, and everyone thinks theirs are the best—Pennsylvania, New York, the Carolinas. But in California, we know those grown in the central valley are so sweet they make you want to cry. Sliced on pancakes, baked in pies, fresh on vanilla ice cream, floating in sangria: they are one of the indisputable evidences of the Creator’s grace. When our granddaughter chose a peach pie over a birthday cake, we adults had no thought of protesting. We are using this recipe from the New York Times.
5. Poetry: A few weeks ago we attended the dedication of the memorial garden at College Community Mennonite Brethren Church in Clovis, California. Poet Jean Janzen wrote and read a poem that named the experience of standing at the wall of loved names, feeling the wind and echoing the song of a bird and reentering the grief for those loved and lost. It sends us back to her 2015 collection, What the Body Knows, to listen to the other and to the self at depths beneath and beyond our understanding. Then we sang her hymn, “Mothering God” (Hymnal: A Worship Book, #482) to the tune, “Oh Master, Let me walk with Thee,” that Jean hummed as she wrote the stanzas.