Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review – Love is the Way

Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by Bishop Michael Curry

Author Michael B. Curry was elected the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2015 and is best known to many for officiating at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. In this book Bishop Curry makes the case for “love as a way to a liberating and life-giving relationship with God, with others, with all God’s creation on this planet.”

He started by telling how he learned to meet the needs of two very distinct congregations that he was called to pastor.  When he was elected as bishop, he overcame the hurdles of being the first African-American bishop in the Episcopal Church. Just after that, the denomination was threatening to split over the issue of how fully to welcome LBGTQ members into the life of the church. Under his leadership, the denomination came to an agreement that held them together. Finally, he gave pointers for navigating the political divides that we face today without alienating those with views very different from ours.

The warmth and care of Michael Curry could be felt through all of the stories that he told and the advice was practical and written to be understood by laity.  After reading this book, I wanted to go find someone that I disagreed with so I could try out the skills that I learned for defusing the ideas that divide us.

This book is in the Spiritual Growth category of the 2022 UMW Reading Program list and is very applicable for these times.

— Carolyn Bircher

“Finding Jesus at the Border: Opening Our Hearts to the Stories of Our Immigrant Neighbors”

Book review by Carolyn Bircher, Reading Program Coordinator

As Californians, we grapple with the complex issues of immigration.  It is heart wrenching to consider life challenges so severe that they motivate people to leave everything they know in order to take a long, dangerous journey to a land that likely won’t welcome them.

Julia Fogg is a pastor and New Testament scholar who has been serving immigrant families in Southern California for a number of years.  In her book, “Finding Jesus at the Border,” she devotes a chapter to each of these topics:

  • Fleeing without Papers 
  • Border-wall mentalities
  • Seeking Asylum at the US Border
  • Various vantage points regarding borders
  • Behind prison walls
  • Standing before ICE

Fogg tells stories of people she’s met who have faced these issues.  Each story is juxtaposed with a Bible story.  Seeing a Guatemalan mother next to Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, or a father being held in an ICE facility next to Paul writing letters from prison, helped deepen my empathy for my new neighbors.

Fogg encourages us to step out of our comfort zones and cross social, ethnic and religious borders, just as Jesus did.  The last chapter gives practical ideas for how we can help our new neighbors feel welcomed and secure.  Some libraries offer this book through Hoopla to be downloaded to a mobile device for reading.   It counts for the “Education for Mission” category of the UMW Reading Program.

Book Review: “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” by Gregory Boyle

by Carolyn Bircher, Secretary of Program Resources

No matter where people live or what their circumstances may be, everyone needs boundless, restorative love.  Tattoos on the Heart amply demonstrates the impact unconditional love can have on a life.  As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle created an organization to provide jobs, job training, and encouragement so that young people could work together and learn the mutual respect that comes from collaboration.

Tattoos on the Heart includes stories distilled from Boyle’s 20 years of ministry.  In each chapter, we benefit from Boyle’s wonderful, hard-earned wisdom. Inspired by faith, these personal, unflinching stories are full of surprising revelations and observations of the community in which Boyle works and of the many lives he has helped save.  With Gregory Boyle’s guidance, we can recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables and learn to find joy in all of the people around us.

This book is included in the “Nurturing for Community” category in the recently-expanded 2021-22 UMW Reading Program list.  It is available from most public libraries.