I remember asking a seasoned minister if they had read any interesting books recently.
They looked at me with a condescending glint in their eye & told me that full time ministry was far too busy to allow for reading. They didn’t have the chance to read theological stuff, let alone reading for pleasure. That, surely was the domain of people who just weren’t busy enough.
On the flip side, I remember reading Eugene Peterson writing about how we diarised an hour a week to read Dostoyevsky. If anyone asked him what he was doing on such-and-such an afternoon, he’d say that he had an appointment booked!
This year I’ve been aiming for a little balance when it comes to things bibliographic. On one side, my job is very much about caring for people. That means I should be out and about, I should be interacting with people & I should be involved. However, I read an article the other day that articulated the need for ministers to be readers. How, it asked, can a minister seek to be a visionary leader who is able to make a meaningful critique of the world & its many facets, if we are not making sure that we are interacting with contemporary thought.
I think this means we need to make sure we continue to feed ourselves theologically. I don’t think it excuses me sitting in my room for a whole day reading, I certainly think some of that job should be done in my own time, but I also think it does mean that I ought not feel guilty about setting a little time aside to read a good book on Christian Joy, or an article on ministering to young families (an aside being, it is amazing how many spare 5-minute blocks we have in our lives, if only we embrace those little bits of waiting time. As much as it breaks Bainy’s heart, I am thankful for my Kindle for helping me recover lots of little spaces, and allowing me the ability to have a number of books on the go).
We also need to make sure we’re reading fiction.
On one side, reading the stuff that others are reading helps us understand how people think. If “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” has become so popular that it has almost become part of the universal consciousness, then it probably pays to be able to understand (and critique as needs be) its message.
Of equal importance in my eyes, is the transformative nature of fiction reading. I feel that I am more imaginative, and more likely to engage my own imagination when I am using tools to fuel it. It’s one of the big reasons I blog, and it is a great reason for people who have to prepare sermons, week in, week out, to read fiction. Learn new words, fall in love with a deftly worded phrase, and feel the power of being drawn into a world that lies beyond your own experience!
So I make a little time for all of my reading. I’m trying to choke out the TV from my life (excepting “Escape to the Country”, the Superbowl, and my favourite, “Grand Designs,” whose host Kevin McCloud commentates so beautifully that it’s almost as good as a book!) and spend more time reading more stuff.
Maybe I’ll share some of the stuff I’m reading soon.