Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Theologian documents global scale of gender-based violence against women

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Students of a midwifery school in El Fasher, North Darfur, participate in a march in December 2013 as part of a campaign against Gender Violence.
Photo Credit: UN Photo / Albert González Farran

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A new book by the Anglican theologian Dr Elaine Storkey, Scars Across Humanity, documents her extensive research on gender-based violence against women and the role that the church plays – for good or ill – in the struggle against the global problem. It is being launched today in the Speaker’s rooms at the House of Commons in London.

Dr Elaine Storkey, a former member of the General Synod, served as president for the Christian relief agency Tearfund for 16 years and in that role travelled the world to see for herself how rape and other forms of sexual violence is often used as a weapon in war and conflict.

“War embodies a gender paradox,” she writes. “It is traditionally fought by male military combatants, yet from every international or non-international war zone we hear reports of brutal violence against women. In our contemporary world, according to Amnesty International, 90 per cent of casualties in modern warfare are civilian and of these 75 per cent are women and children.

“The number of women involved in coercive violence is staggering. In the 100 days of genocide that ravaged the small African nation of Rwanda, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped. In Sierra Leone, between 1991 and 2000, about 64,000 internally displaced women endured sexual assault.

“In the Balkans tensions of the 1990s, thousands of women in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Kosovo experienced terrible violations involving mass rape: 20,000 to 50,000 women were violated in the Bosnian conflict over three years. During the Liberian civil war, from 1999 to 2003, about 49 per cent of women aged 15 to 70 experienced sexual violence from soldiers or armed militia. . .

“As recently as 2014, chronic instability and lawlessness in the Central African Republic opened up another wave of violence against women, and the brutal barbarity of Islamic State fighters continues the vicious process. Yet none of this awful scenario is new. Sexual violence was prevalent in Europe as far back as the 1914–18 War; it was in Asia during the Asia–Pacific Wars, and across more than one continent in the Second World War.

“One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the National Catholic Reporter called for us to properly recognize gender-based violence in war for what it surely is: ‘Beheadings and bombings are seen as terrorist acts, but the systematic rape, abduction, and trafficking of women as a war tactic is still viewed only as a women’s or humanitarian issue. Until we recognize these acts of sexual violence as acts of terrorism and not simply as a humanitarian concern it will be difficult to combat these ongoing, catastrophic attacks on women.’”

Dr Storey’s research doesn’t focus exclusively on the use of rape as a weapon of war. Her research addresses a full spectrum of gender-based-violence including rape, trafficking and prostitution, intimate-partner violence, so-called honour killings, child marriage, child abuse, and female genital mutilation.

Bookcover _scars _against _humanityIt also addresses what Dr Storey refers to as violence before birth – selective abortion and infanticide based on the sex of the foetus. She points out that in India, where female infanticide has existed for centuries, female foeticide has now joined the fray.

“Dr Sabu George, a Delhi-based researcher, has spent the past quarter-century exposing what he calls ‘the worst kind of violence’ in Indian history – the elimination of millions of unborn girls,” she writes. “He regards it as nothing less than ‘genocide’, and describes the first few months in the womb as ‘the riskiest part of a woman’s life cycle in India’.

On child marriage, which she refers to as “child abuse by another name,” Dr Storkey says that “Every three seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere across the world – usually without her consent and sometimes to a much older man.

“The United Nations Population Fund suggests that, every day, 39,000 girls marry too young. It is predicted that more than 140 million child brides will have entered marriage in the decade up to 2020, 18.5 million of them under the age of 15; if nothing changes, the annual figure will grow from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million in 2030. As the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association observes, the number of children married under age is now higher than the total population of Zimbabwe!

“Figures like these do indicate the massive numerical scale of the problem and the difficulties in eliminating it. But they do not unpack the human misery enfolded inside them. A moving exhibition mounted in 2014 by the United Nations in Geneva opened that up. Through very sober photographs and short, poignant narratives we came face to face with the wrecked hopes and tragic lives of survivors of child marriage.

“Ghulam had wanted to be a teacher, but was pulled out of school at 11 to marry a 40-year-old man; 14-year-old Afisha, in Ghana, was unable to be educated because of her father’s poverty, and instead was sold as a bride for cola nuts and 60 Cedis [about £10 GBP]; Asia was ill and bleeding from childbirth at 14, as she cared for her two-year-old child and new- born baby.”

Ian _Britton _Elaine _Storkey

Elaine Storkey pictured here as she addressed the 2008 Baptist Assembly in Blackpool, England. Photo: Ian Britton.


The accounts within Scars Across Humanity are blunt and harrowing. But they need to be. The issue of gender based violence is not a soft, fluffy, comfortable issue. The book brings this home without hiding the brutality involved.

Jackie Harris, the editor of Woman Alive magazine, described the book as “Powerful and absorbing” and says it “painstakingly documents the gross injustices facing women around the world.

“Some of the stories made headlines, many passed unnoticed and too many occurred much closer to home than we might realize,” she says. “This is not an easy book to read, but it is a necessary book. I hope the stories she shares and facts she brings before us will encourage us all to pray – and to join in the work of bringing healing and an end to gender-based violence.”

The founder of the Santa María Education Fund in Sante Fe, Paraguay, writer and theologian Margaret Hebblethwaite, said that “We all know that acts of violence against women are a problem, but never have we realized the scale of the problem is so huge.

“Where others would be cautious to speak out for fear of offending the sensibilities of other cultures, Elaine Storkey is clear and fearless, inspired by true compassion. Scrupulously researched and documented, illustrated with both statistics and personal stories, this is a book that changes perceptions and could play a substantive role in achieving change.”

And the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK, said that Dr Storkey “captures most vividly for her readers the way in which patriarchy, religious and cultural traditions, complications in the law, lack of education (not always) and isolation can combine and lead to women being abused, being permanently disfigured or their untimely death.

“This violation of the human rights of girls and women is indeed a ‘deep scar’ across humanity. The collusion that perpetuates the deepening of this scar will only cease when there is true respect given to girls and women in societies throughout our world.”

Scars Across Humanity is being launched at a private reception in the Speaker’s rooms in the House of Commons today. It will receive its public launch at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Eastbourne and the Church House Bookshop in Westminster next Wednesday, 25 November, to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is published by SPCK.


Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s news, November 19, 2015


Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Reading The Bible Amid the

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,
by Walter Brueggemann

Westminster John Knox Press
Louisville, KY. Aug. 2015.
Paper. 88 pages. $18.00 CAD
ISBN #13-978-0-664-26154-2.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

It is foolish to continue applying biblical precepts
to modern situations when historical, social and
cultural circumstances have changed.

The Bible’s understanding of the role of women, for
example, is now considered needing re-interpretation
by almost all Christians today except the most
fundamentalist. That holds for Judaism as well, where
many enlightened Hebrew thinkers have been voicing
considerable disagreement with those Jews who hold
to traditional biblical gender role understandings.

The same holds true for people of both faiths who seek
to engage the seemingly insurmountable problems
facing modern Israel and its internal and external

When our travel group from Western Canada visited
the Holy Land recently, we wanted to go with “an
open mind” and sought to hear representatives of
Jewish, Christian and Muslims there – seeking truth
and justice for all. This was no small desire, and a
guarenteed road to frustration I might add.

Still, as Brueggemann says above, the challenge
remains to continue our deep concern for the Holy
Land and all its people, simply because the meaning
of the place and the situation demand it.

The book consists of four main chapters that deal
succinctly with the Bible and the conflict; the issue
of what it means to be “God’s chosen people” –
both claim and problem; what the term “Holy Land”
means today; and concerning matters that relate
to Zionism and Israel.

This is followed by a “Q and A” with Breuggemann;
a helpful glossary of terms and a guide to studying
this book with local groups.

If study groups are done locally in your case, I
would suggest that members might include
liberal and conservative Christians, as well as
constructive members of the Jewish and Muslim
communities known to you.

I have discovered, as a result of our travels in
the Holy Land, that it is not realistic to deal only
with people or groups with whom you agree.
What is needed, is mutual respect and a willingness
to listen to what members differing from you are
saying authentically from their hearts.

We owe visionaries like Jimmy Carter, Bill
Clinton and other political figures much gratitude
for their tangible investment in Holy Land
affairs. We owe religious visionaries who have
worked with people of all backgrounds to apply
peace and justice to inter-faith as well as
political matters.

There are too many intransigent people on
all sides of these complex issues, but honest
dialogue and progress remain possible, it
seems to me.

In spite of weariness and disappointment, we,
along with teachers like Breuggemann, must not
disengage from so great a cause.

And we owe it to ourselves to “not grow weary
in well-doing” as we seek to be open and involved.

I find this book most helpful and am grateful to 
the author for writing it from the wisdom of his

Buy the book from


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 13,  November  15th, 2015


Not in God’s Name

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Confronting Religious Violence

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Random House Canada, 2015.
Hardcover. 305 pp. $23.79 CAD
ISBN # 978-0-8052-4334-5.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

Many have recently read Karen Armstrong’s
scholarly volume “Fields of Blood – Religion
and Violence” an extensive, enlightened study
of the association between two powerful forces
in our world. The connection between the two
has existed from time immemorial.

Still, Armstrong believes that true religion is
compassionate and seeks peace in spite of
what many have done in its name.

Armstrong writes from a British Christian
background, with a strong global and interfaith

The Sacks book under consideration here
is by a British author who is Jewish. Like
Armstrong, he has strong academic credentials
but addresses the issue of religion and violence
from a Hebrew Bible perspective.

That is the first important point that stands
out for me. Christians take the Hebrew Bible
as authoritative, but they also view things
from the perspective of Christ and the missionary
impetus of the early church. Christianity was
based in Judaism but evolved into a faith that
has appealed primarily to Gentiles.

The similarities and differences between
Judaism and Christianity are important to
keep in mind as we move from a Christian
to an interfaith discussion on a pivotal theme. 

“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought
to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”
That idea, ignored for many of the intervening
centuries, remains the simplest definition of
Abrahamic faith. “To be a blessing to others
regardless of their faith” is not classically the way
we might describe the missionizing and conversion-
seeking focus of Christianity (or Islam for that matter.)

There is much we can learn from a faith tradition
that is, at its heart, not a missionary one but a

The second important point that stands out for
me is that the three religions of Jerusalem are
being addressed by a representative of Judaism,
the founding tradition of the three. In addition,
the author is concerned about religion and violence
in all the great religious traditions – both east and
west. Thus, he is concerned about global missionary
as well as non-missionary faiths.

We are fortunate to read from a scholar firmly
grounded in the Abrahamic tradition but open to
all traditions.

Finally, I would suggest that what we learn from
Armstrong and Sacks opens the door to a similar
contribution from the Islamic perspective. The
commitment to justice, peace  and reconciliation 
is also very real in Islam. We need to hear that.

Sacks brings to the attention of Christians
and others a view of faith and reality that we
should respect “from an older brother.”

As you, like me, continue to seek guidance and
pursue truth from an ever-expanding array of
religious insights, I highly recommend this book
to you.

The author shares many of my own perspectives
on the subject and helps to refine and enhance

Buy the book from


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 12,  November  8th, 2015

An inside look at Canada’s first Anglican sisterhood

Posted on: November 13th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews



The Story of an Anglican Sisterhood
by The Sisterhood of St. John the Divine

Edited by Jane Christmas and Sr. Constance Joanna, SSJD
Dundurn Press, 2015
272 pages, 130 colour illustrations, paperback
ISBN 978-1-45972-369-6

These sisters are doin’ it for themselves—and helping everyone else along the way.

A Journey Just Begun: The Story of an Anglican Sisterhood, published by Toronto-based publisher Dundurn Press Ltd., is a milestone of the 130th anniversary of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine (SSJD).

The sisterhood was the first of its kind to be set up in Canada, and while there were countless personalities that dominated the order over the years, it is still very much a collective of souls working for the greater good.

This humble, collaborative spirit becomes apparent from the title page onward—there is no author listed. It is only when one delves into the acknowledgments on the back page that it becomes clear that Toronto writer Jane Christmas is listed as having helped Canon Sr. Constance Joanna Gefvert, vocations co-ordinator, in writing and editing the text.

While more popularly known as a travel memoir writer, Christmas got to know the SSJD nuns after spending some time there as she contemplated taking vows, before publishing the book And Then There Were Nuns (2013). As such, Christmas brings both the outsider’s perspective to the book married with the respectful tone of someone who has, albeit briefly, lived the life of the sisters.

It would have been so easy to turn this book into an insular scrapbook, filling it with unexplained theological phrases, terminology and insider anecdotes, of little interest to the outside world and akin to attending your spouse’s company awards dinner. One could easily see such a thing happening in the cloistered world of nuns.

But that is not the case here.

The book begins with the sisterhood’s history, even before their 1884 founding, but the rest is an eclectic mix of poetry, art work, music and even recipes that is not overly familiar, but does allow the reader to enjoy some of the personality and the inner spiritual workings of the sisters. A good portion of the book includes a section devoted to their convent and guest house in Toronto. Each room gets its own chapter, preceded by a relevant Bible verse.

While the book highlights the steady stream of outside interests asking for the nuns’ help in running everything from orphanages to homes for unwed mothers to schools to, most famously, the hospital now known as St. John’s Rehab at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, it does not shy away from also chronicling that not all of their endeavours were successful, or, had simply run their course.

Over the years, the sisters have adapted their prayer schedules, but insist that prayer remain first and foremost in their daily lives—though the book does acknowledge the creeping demands of, say, tending to the ill.

Like the subject matter, the book is spiritually sensitive, but up for the intellectual rigour and ardour of the world we live in.

Desmond Devoy is a newspaper reporter and broadcaster based in Smiths Falls, Ont.


Anglican Journal News, November 13, 2015

Henri Nouwen’s unpublished works to release 20 years after death

Posted on: November 12th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

The Catholic writer’s books have sold more than 7 million copies worldwide. Here's what fans can expect when his unpublished letters and partial manuscripts are released starting next year? (Image of Henri Nouwen at his New Haven apartment circa 1981 courtesy of Jim Forest -

(New York) Henri Nouwen, the late Catholic priest who published nearly 40 books during his lifetime, left behind thousands of pieces of unpublished material when he died in 1996. Beginning next year—the 20th anniversary of Nouwen’s death—new collections of this material will be released to the world.Convergent Books, a division of Penguin Random House, has signed a multi-book contract with the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust. The first book is scheduled to hit bookstores in September of 2016 and will be a collection of unpublished letters under the working title “Love, Henri.” The specific content of the projects is being kept secret, but those involved with the project hinted that the books might offer fresh revelations about Nouwen’s life and thinking, including details about the priest’s personal struggles.

Karen Pascal, executive director of the Henri Nouwen Society and Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, says she was aware that her organization had “a treasure of wonderful unpublished materials” for years. This includes partially completed manuscripts and more than 5,000 letters, which have been sitting in an archive at the Kelly Library at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Canada.

Gabrielle Earnshaw, curator of the Henri J.M. Nouwen Archives, is responsible for selecting which letters will appear in the book. She has chosen correspondences written between 1973 and 1996 that are primarily pastoral in nature.

“I’ve chosen letters where Henri is responding to people who are in some form of crisis and are looking for direction,” Earnshaw says. “I’ve also chosen letters in which he is struggling with similar issues to the ones that he is responding too.”

Nouwen’s struggles included attraction to other men, which has been a source of much curiosity among his admirers. He never publicly acknowledged his identity as a gay man during his life, and by all accounts, he remained true to his priestly vow of celibacy until his death.

“[Nouwen] had a very intense emotional life, a need to be held, and a desire for love. And, in his letters, he addressed questions of how he lives his sexuality and how he lives his celibacy,” Earnshaw says. “But I’m hoping that the issue of his sexuality doesn’t overshadow his genuine search for love, intimacy, and friendship.”

“Love, Henri” will include nearly 200 letters from the archives. According to Gary Jansen, senior editor at Convergent who is overseeing the Nouwen projects, added the “letters will probe all the topics that Nouwen is known for—brokenness, solitude, what its like to be a bit of an outsider and outcast, and how we can find hope in all of that.”

In addition publishing the letters, Convergent intends to release a gift edition of Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” around Christmas 2016 and a devotional of previously unpublished content sometime the following year.

The third book’s focus and subject is yet to be determined, but Earnshaw says it may focus on a unique idea Nouwen was developing since 1992. That year, he observed that trapeze artists in the circus are able to fly, take risks and be courageous because they know they have a catcher. Nouwen had an insight that humans can do the same, spiritually speaking, because they have God as a catcher.

“Henri intended to write a book based on this metaphor but he did not complete it by the time he died,” Earnshaw says. “We’re trying to find someone who can take that idea and share it in some way.”

Regardless of their subject matter, these books are significant because of their author. Nouwen was one of the first Christian writers to combine clinical psychology with spirituality. Almost all of his 40 books, including “The Life of the Beloved” and “The Wounded Healer,” are still in print today and have sold an estimated 7 million copies in 30 different languages. He pioneered an ‘intimate journal’ style of spiritual writing, and modern writers like Anne Lamott, Ronald Rolheiser, and Richard Rohr say claim their writing was inspired by Henri.

“Henri Nouwen is one of the most important spiritual writers of the 20th century, and there is still a tremendous appetite to hear from him,” Pascal says. “People will be glad to know that his compassionate heart and authenticity comes through in his previously unpublished material.”


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, November 06, 2015

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: Confronting the roots of violence

Posted on: November 2nd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews


 By Lauren Markoe

Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks. Photo courtesy of Blake-Ezra Photography

(RNS) Religious zealots fill newspapers and screens with bloody images of bombings and beheadings. They kidnap children and make them into soldiers. They pray before they rape women.

But “not in God’s name,” says Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Great Britain, who just published a book by that title.

“The greatest threat to freedom in the post-modern world is radical, politicized religion,” Sacks writes. Religion News Service asked Sacks how people can kill in the name of God, and how religion can counter religious extremists. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You write that the world is moving into a more religious age, and that this is not necessarily a good thing. Why?

A: Ours is an age of unprecedented radical change, and people search for something that doesn’t change, that is eternal. And of all such things, God is the ultimate. And there is a specific factor in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and that is the perceived failure of Western regimes. That is leading to a whole series of religious counterrevolutions. That’s what’s happening in Iraq and Syria. It’s what happened in Iran. To some extent it is happening in India with Hindu nationalism.

And throughout the world, the more religious you are, the more children you have. Simply on an actuarial basis you can predict that the world will be more religious a generation from now. I am not giving thanks here for a more religious age. The truth is that not all the great religions and not all the great leaders of religions are fully adapted to living in a world of complexity and diversity. And the face religion is showing the world today is not a smiling one.

"Not In God's Name" by Jonathan Sacks. Photo courtesy of Schocken Books

Q: “Not in God’s Name” examines Torah stories to show how even violent biblical episodes teach love toward the stranger. You want this exercise repeated with other sacred texts, but not by you. Why?

A: Because a Jew cannot do it for a Christian. Only a Christian can do it for a Christian. Only a Muslim can do it for a Muslim. I just thought it helpful for people in other religions to be able to see how we do it in Judaism.

Q: You note in your book that those committing the worst atrocities in the name of religion often know little about their own faith and care less about the faith of others. They’re not reading your book, so who did you write it for?

A: This book is meant to encourage a recruitment and inspiration of a new generation of religious leaders — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, you name it — who will lead the great faiths a generation from now in such a way that they make space for one another, in coexistence and mutual respect. This book is a long-term call to all the faiths, to make space for the religious “other.” It’s not a quick fix. There is no quick fix.

Q: Speaking of the “religious other,” you tackle the concept within the book in terms of sibling rivalry, in particular with the story of Jacob and Esau. Why focus so much onsibling rivalry and how it playsout on the world stage?

A: I was looking at the very roots of human violence. The two people who have had the most profound insight in the 20th century were Sigmund Freud and Rene Girard. Girard’s book “Violence and the Sacred” was a very prophetic work. It appeared in the 1970s, and he predicted that religion and violence would both continue into the future. Both Freud and Girard point to sibling rivalry as a real driver of human violence. Freud thought that the No. 1 driver was the hostility of sons toward their fathers. But if you look through world literature, you’ll see that sibling rivalry is much more significant — in Egyptian myth, Greek myth, the Roman story of Romulus and Remus, or the Hebrew Bible itself. If you were to rid the world overnight of religion, there would still be violence.

Q: This week marked the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican document that decried anti-Semitism and promulgated a more brotherly relationship between Catholics and Jews. How has Pope Francis modeled engagement with other faiths?

A: Francis has acknowledged the spiritual contribution of Judaism to the world more affirmatively than any previous pope. And Nostra Aetate has shown how centuries of estrangement and hostility can be reversed, by one single, generous gesture within a faith. That for me is a great signal of hope. If it can happen between Catholics and Jews, then it can happen between Christians and Muslims, and between Jews and Muslims. But it will take really open leadership that understands that what God is calling us to in the 21st century is something very challenging and very new.

Q: Does Judaism need its own Pope Francis, somebody who can model this faith? Does Islam?

A: We need that in every faith and we need it very seriously. In 1942, one of the darkest periods of human history, in Britain Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple and Chief Rabbi of Great Britain Joseph Hertz formed the Council of Christians and Jews. That was a signature gesture at a very crucial period. I  think the Dalai Lama today has shown likewise. It is a matter of personal humility and the generosity of your embrace.


Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe covered government and features as a daily newspaper reporter for 15 years before joining the Religion News Service staff as a national correspondent in 2011. She previously was Washington correspondent for The State (Columbia, S.C.)
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, October 30, 2015

Kerry A. Robinson: It can be done. It can be fun.

Posted on: October 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews



Two people celebrating a victory


In this excerpt from her new book, “Imagining Abundance,” the philanthropist, fundraiser and organizational leader says that confidence and joyful passion are an irresistible combination that can overcome even the greatest obstacles.

Editor’s note: In her new book, “Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy, and a Spiritual Call to Service,” (link is external) Kerry A. Robinson offers a guide to effective fundraising, situated in the context of ministry and mission. In this excerpt, she writes about the importance of enthusiasm and delight, drawing upon her earlier work as development director for the Saint Thomas More Catholic Chapel and Center at Yale.

I was neither qualified nor eager for the role of director of development. The timing was terrible, and my ill-informed impressions of fundraising were shameful. In fact, I viscerally blanched at the thought of the responsibility. The task was presented as low-stress, part-time, entailing very little travel with a modest goal of “only” $5 million. None of which, of course, ended up being the case. Fr. Bob was persuasive, kind, and inexplicably certain that I was the right person for the role. When I did agree to work with him after five meaningful days of prayer, he was elated.

At which point the goal doubled to $10 million.

 Fundraising, Philanthropy, and a Spiritual Call to ServiceThree months into our work together, fueled by a passionate commitment to bring a Catholic intellectual and spiritual center of consequence to fruition, overwhelmed by the magnitude of work our aspirations would entail, sleep-deprived with a newborn at my constant ready, Fr. Bob — my prime collaborator — gave me a present.

It was an elegant plaque that said, simply, IT CAN BE DONE.

It sat on my desk, a daily reminder of a truth to which we were both committed. Failure was not an option, for the beneficiaries of our effort were not us, but generations of students not yet even born. We were going to do this, and do this right the first time. We shared a sense of urgency. And as long as we were dedicating all of our energies to this pursuit, we were determined to aim for the highest levels of quality, creativity, and excellence in every aspect of our vision. Terrifying. But it can be done.

Unwavering conviction that it can be done is essential to success in any endeavor but is especially true for those aspirations deemed impossible.

I have cherished this first of many gifts from my extraordinary colleague and now lifelong friend. IT CAN BE DONE became our touchstone when all the odds seemed stacked against us, when the work became increasingly demanding, when obstacles appeared out of nowhere, erratic, unpredictable, and sometimes shocking. Knowing it can be done militates against the temptation to surrender or downgrade one’s vision, to acquiesce to what others will insist are more realistic expectations.

Of course, knowing it can be done is not, in and of itself, enough. There is also the necessity of hard work, the willingness to live by the maxim that much can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit, an indefatigable tenacity, and a genuine fidelity to purpose.

But there is one other essential quality, often overlooked or disregarded.

This time it was my turn to offer him a gift. For Christmas I wrapped and presented an equally elegant, equally instructive plaque that said, IT CAN BE FUN. Anything worth accomplishing is worth accomplishing well. The bigger the vision, the more demanding the task. Bringing potential to fruition is not for the faint of heart. But right in the midst of the arduous demands of the task is the chance, indeed the requirement, to bring joy to the endeavor. We learned to celebrate often. We celebrated small steps, triumphant accomplishments, mistakes along the way, and the sheer privilege of lending our lives to something larger than ourselves. We looked for reasons to be glad. We focused on the present and what we could do now that would bring future beneficence to others. We sought to find the humor in many situations. We lived out of conscious gratitude. We took delight in people we met, adventures we had, and ideas that surfaced, regarding all as essential pieces of the mosaic being wrought through diligent labor.

Confidence and joyful passion are an irresistible combination. It can be done, and it can be fun.

Excerpt from “Imagining Abundance: Fundraising, Philanthropy, and a Spiritual Call to Service,” © 2014 Kerry A. Robinson. Permission granted by Liturgical Press.


Executive director, National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management
Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, October 14, 2015

My Year of Buying Nothing

Posted on: October 13th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

by Lee Simpson

Wood Lake Books
Kelowna BC. October, 2015
213 pp. $22.95 CAD
ISBN # 978-1-77064-801-2


Dedication by the Author

This book is dedicated to the spirit of
radical gratitude and the inspiration of
Mary Jo Leddy; Canadian activist, theologian,
and woman of faith, without whom much of
what is good in my life and those of so many
others simply would never have happened.



(Simpson) reminds us that it is not having it all
that makes us happy, it’s appreciating what we
do have. It’s a very timely message and Lee
Simpson actually makes it fun to hear.

– Rick Wolfe


Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I have lived through periods in my life when I literally
did not know where my next meal was coming from.

The challenge in my life now is to live mindfully that
difficult times might ever return. My concern today,
during a period of relative plenty, is that I may try
to accumulate things I don’t need as a kind of
psychological defense against a return of those
very stressful times in my past.

That is not the challenge author Lee Simpson (former
popular magazine editor and United Church minister
living in Lunenburg) faced when she decided to engage
in YBN – her “year of buying nothing.” Her experience
was a choice and done voluntarily. Mine was not.

The learning from both our experiences seems to be
quite similar, however. We do not need nearly as
much to live fulfilling lives as we think we do. As
much as we may believe that we are free people
and can think for ourselves, we are very much the
targets of an advertising barrage that attacks us
constantly. We come to believe we need and deserve
things that we really don’t. We continue to suffer
from peer pressure  and a herd mentality long after
our teenage years have passed.

I admire the author’s courage in “going public”
through her blog, and interviews about what she
was doing when she was living the YBN. If we
are not convinced we can “live with less” before
we undertake a journey like that, we can certainly
grow from it during and following the experience.

Simpson’s five chapters deal with things that
appeal to our animal nature; the food we need to
eat and can avoid; the mineral requirements like
getting there, staying warm and keeping it light.

For me, an important reminder was the amount
I spend on entertainment – cultural events,
books, magazines, newspapers (ouch!) I would
describe that as needed “personal growth and
enrichment.” Have I really thought that through?

Her last chapter is a personal attempt to create
an environmental catechism and she uses the
poignant story from Mary Jo Leddy’s book “Radical
Gratitude.”  The African refugee woman living with
Mary Jo in Romero House, Toronto, stands looking
out the back window of her home and wonders why
we need “houses for our cars.”

I discovered affirmation for some of my current
life disciplines, and challenges to my present
lifestyle that I need to heed. I do want to continue
in my personal quest for quality of life (QOL) as
well as significant behavioural change when
I realize that is possible.

This is a most unusual, but ‘natural’ book to digest.
I highly recommend that you read it during this
season of Thanksgiving – and any time of year, for
that matter.

Buy the book from the publisher:

Buy the Book from


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 10,  October  11th, 2015

Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths

Posted on: October 5th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews


JERUSALEM: One City, Three Faiths
by Karen Armstrong (1997)


By Wayne A. Holst


My Thoughts:


“The Holy Land in general and Jerusalem in particular have become essential to the spiritual geography of Jews, Christians and Muslims,” writes Karen Armstrong in her book – Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths.


Begins at approximately 2000 BCE (Before the Common Era) or 4,000 years ago when Abraham left Mesopotamia in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley to the east and sojourned westward to Canaan “the Promised Land.” Here he fathered Isaac and Ishmael, the patriarchal founders of both the Jewish and Muslim faiths. The Hebrew Temple in Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE and most Jews were forced to leave their land until November, 1947 when the United Nations partitioned Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. This marked the beginning of the modern state of Israel.


Jesus arrived on the scene in the ancient regions of Judah and Israel in 33 CE (The Common Era). He became a well-known preacher and healer, observing the Jewish festivals like Passover in Jerusalem. He is arrested and crucified by the Romans, but his disciples were convinced he rose from the dead. They persuaded others to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and in the Resurrection (the central Christian tenets separating it from the Jewish faith, and giving birth to a new religion). Over the centuries, some Palestinian Arabs became Christians, but their numbers have been in decline due to Jewish and Islamic persecution. There are a dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land.


In 705 CE a small Muslim prayer house was built close to the site of the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem. Eventually, Muslims built The Dome of the Rock (not a mosque, but a holy site, displacing most of the ancient remains on Temple Mount.) Christian sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where Jesus body was to have been laid after he died on the cross) were built over the centuries.

Crusaders from Europe made a number attempts to reclaim sacred places that had been taken over by Muslims, but this era ended after 1,300 CE. The region continued as a locus of religious controversy.


Most of modern Palestinian Territory and Sinai were taken over by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. In March of 1979 at Camp David, Maryland Jimmy Carter worked out a treaty between Israel and Egypt to establish diplomatic relations and the withdrawal of Israel from Sinai. In July, 2000 the Palestinian and Israeli leaders met with US President Bill Clinton to create an agreement for Palestinian self-government in Gaza and parts of the West Bank. This was confirmed in 1993 with the so-called Oslo Accords. These hopeful efforts failed to accomplish the mutual goal of freedom for the Palestinians and recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security among its Arab neighbors. Just recently, the Palestinians have declared that they are no longer bound by the Oslo agreements.

So today, in spite of much effort and good will on all sides, a continuing state of unrest – even terrorism – exists with regular flare-ups.

At the same time, the Holy Land remains an important spiritual centre for people of all three faith traditions.


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 09,  October  4th, 2015

Phyllis Tickle: Essential Spiritual Writings

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Essential Spiritual Writings

Introduction, Jon M. Sweeney

Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY
2015. 162 pages. $28.50 CAD
ISBN #978-1-62698-137-9.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I am pleased that a book reflecting the
sweep of colleague Phyllis Tickle’s lifelong
writing is now just published by Orbis.

This is very timely, given the RNS report
which appears at the end of this notice.

Quite apparently, I am one of those readers
who have connected mainly with her during the
last stages of her life, and do not yet appreciate
the larger scope of her work.

In November of 2010 I heard Phyllis speak
at Christ Church, Elbow Park in Calgary.
Her presentation focused on “emergence” –
the theme that dominated the final part
of her career.

As usual, I interviewed her, and made copious
notes of her dramatic presentations. It was
quite apparent that she was both “Anglican”
and “Southern American” and I found the
combination winsome.

This comes through in her writing as well,
and the book brings that out effectively.

For those interested in reading my summary
notice for Tickle’s “Emergence Christianity”
and “The Great Emergence” please click:

For those who want a thumb-nail statement,

here is her summary for how her two major
books on the theme describe what she means
when she writes about – Emergence:

“… Of the general characteristics that the
Great Emergence and Emergence Christianity
hold in common, these of deinstitutionalisation;
non-hierarchical organization; a comfortable
and informed interface with physical science;
dialogical and contextual habits of thought;
almost universal technological savvy; triple
citizenship with its triple loyalties and
obligations; a deeply embedded commitment
to social justice with an accompanying, though
largely unpremeditated, assumption of all
forms of human diversity as the norm; and
a vocation toward greenness – these are
undoubtedly among the most characterizing.”
(page 137.)

Probably unbeknownst to those who first
decided to include Tickle in the now 50 plus
series of the Orbis “Modern Spiritual Masters
Series” edited by colleague Robert Ellsberg –
Phyllis had contracted cancer. Here is an
official notice:

Religion News Service, May 22nd, 2015

“Author Phyllis Tickle Faces Death Just as
She Enjoyed Life – My Dying is my Next Career”

Even at this stage of her life, Phyllis remains as
vital and connected to what is going on as she is

Here is what her automated response to each
issue of Colleagues List informs me:

From: “Phyllis Tickle” <[email protected]>
To: [email protected]
Sent: Friday, 28 August, 2015
Subject: out of office
Re: Colleagues List, August 30th, 2015


“Because of declining health, I am not able to

interface with my mail as fully as I would like.
Please understand, though, that each message
is being read and appreciated. Gratefully,”

Phyllis Tickle

My response:


Many of your friends in Canada are keeping you

in our thoughts and prayers.

I’ve read you for years. I met you personally at
Christ Church, Calgary a few years ago and you
agreed to receive my Colleagues List mailings.

May God be with you at this time.

Wayne Holst, Calgary, Canada


Buy the book from

Orbis Books Website:


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 07,  September 20th, 2015