Between Two Bookends – A Covid journey
by Krys Clark, Verger
What have you done during the COVID-19 pandemic? As we are all emerging and re-connecting, I have heard a lot of stories. Some have started new hobbies; some have discovered old ones. We have all had to adjust to life apart from each other and that has shaped a lot of us in a lot of different ways.
For me, the pandemic became a time of deep spiritual introspection. I am a deep thinker, and love to dive into details. I think logically and love making sense of things. Religion and religious beliefs can sometimes be at odds with logic and that has always been a struggle with me. Historically I am not a poetry loving, artsy, touchy feely person. Give me facts and supporting details.
So, at the end of 2019, I somewhat reluctantly agreed to assist a class of new spiritual director trainees. I was assigned to one of the students as a directee. We met once a month most of COVID. Between these monthly visits, working from home and not having a lot of in-person contact, I started a journey. A very non-logical, touchy feely, artsy journey. I thought I would share just one piece of that journey with you here. Consider this my COVID book report.
Like many people, when the stores closed everywhere, I started shopping online more. I started to browse Amazon, Macy’s, Target and more online. It was my new way of window shopping as it were. One day I was on EBAY and I saw a listing for one of my old children’s books: The Golden Children’s Bible. The moment I saw the cover, I remembered precisely what each paged looked like. I was excited. It was like hearing about an old friend that I had lost touch with over the years. I debated for several days before purchasing a copy (after all, what do I need with a children’s Bible!) Finally, I broke down and purchased a copy.
When it arrived in the mail, I took it out of its box. Growing up, this bible had sat on my childhood bookcase in my bedroom. I remember spending what seemed like hours poring over this book’s illustrations. As a child and even as a teenager, this Bible was one of my favorite books to go to. To me, this Bible was my childhood version of Christianity.
So, I start looking through each page, each picture I recognized, but each page was no longer a familiar comfort that it had been to me in childhood. As I looked at each story and the images associated with them, I noticed how white the faces were. There are no conflicting accounts in this book and only one version of each of the oh so familiar stories. All is figured out, makes sense, and has that warm comfortable feeling to it. I must confess, that after that initial page through on the day it arrived, it has sat on the bottom shelf of my bookcase.
A month or two after I had purchased the children’s bible, I was having a phone conversation with my parents. My father has had his struggles over the years with religion and the Episcopal church. I was sharing with both of them some of my journey. Dad suggested a book that I should read. The title being: Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today by John Shelby Sprong. He stated that he had read it through a church book study and that it was: “Very thought provoking and will make you examine your faith.” At the time of our conversation I was going through some difficult moments, a co-worker of mine was losing family members to COVID and I was dealing with a large number of COVID cases professionally as well. But something to nagged me to pick up the book. A few weeks later I downloaded it to my Kindle from Amazon.
I started reading and quickly discovered that this was not a book that I could read through quickly. Indeed, I found myself re-reading parts and going through it very slowly. Sprong is a retired Episcopal Bishop that is nearing the end of his life. He has written several books and states in the beginning of this one that this will probably be his last. What Sprong says in his book is basically this: Christianity has wrapped itself up in so many myths that it can no longer be a believable religion. And that if it wants to survive, it needs to change. That is a tall order to say the least.
I am not sure I believe all that Sprong says. As I went through the book, I found myself stopping after a chapter or two, and spending several days examining his arguments. Some I believe, some I do not.
But in the end, I am finding myself living between these two books. The feel good and the questioning. Life is often not neat, logical, or even one version of the truth. Where are you in your journey with Christ?