These days most everybody gets forwarded e-mails. You know, the cute story, the funny joke, the political rant, the stunning photograph ... things your friends think you'll enjoy. Sometimes you read them; sometimes you hit the delete button and send them into cyberspace.
When a forwarded e-mail comes from a parishioner, I usually take time to look at it. I find it keeps me in touch with what's important to the men and women I serve - or at least what they think is funny! I take even more seriously, though, the clipped out magazine and newspaper articles folks hand me after church services or leave on my desk. And most significant of all are the books people give me. Sometimes such things reflect my known interests, but often they speak of something that is a part of the donor's life as well.
It's a Monday morning as I write this, and I've been looking over my desk and the items I've accumulated recently. It's an eclectic mix!
Rev. Dr. John H. Danner
There is a very thick volume called Redefining Health Care. It's written by Michael Porter and Elizabeth Olmstead Teisberg, and was given to me by a parishioner who is a retired physician. He and I share a deep concern that the needs of all people be met when it comes to medical care.
There's an article clipped out of Friday's Wall Street Journal. It's all about the role of mental illness in the lives of America's children.The parishioner who passed it along frequently gives me articles and the like.She is well read, and vitally concerned about a variety of social issues. Which makes sense - she's a retired social worker!
Anther parishioner has been doing some downsizing, and found in her collection of books a volume from 1939 titled The Growth of Lincoln's Faith by Harlan Hoyt Horner. I'm teaching a course at the moment on the religious life of our presidents over the centuries and she thought I might find it helpful! I have!
Our church organist knows I love the music of J S. Bach (as does he.) He shared a piece from the journal of the American Guild of Organists called "The Spiritual Power of Bach's Organ Music in Japan." It turns out the old German Baroque master is a hit in Japan! Imagine!
A seasonal couple who used to live in the same town I came from up north, and who are now parishioners here in Florida for a good part of the year, took a course I taught last year on various views of creation - ranging from creationism to evolution. A friend of theirs who is an Episcopalian priest wrote a volume called Bridges: Reconnecting Science and Faith. They gave me a copy, with a lovely inscription. I'm sure I'll learn something as I read it.
Finally, a returning snowbird from Massachusetts shares my longstanding love of the Boston Red Sox. Which means she also shares my frustration this year as the boys from Beantown really blew it! She clipped a couple of articles from the Cape Cod Times, one about Fenway Park and the other titled "Wait 'til next year" that she thought might my soothe my soul. They did.
Health care and mental illness, history and music, science and baseball, religion and faith .. so what do my parishioners really care about? They care about the world on so many fronts and in so many ways! And it is my privilege to share life with each of them.
And those forwarded e-mails, those articles and books, they aren't just bits of information, they are important reminders of the many ways we are connected to one another.