Julia Spencer-Fleming

The other novel digitally delivered on April 7 was the new book from Julia Spencer-Fleming. For years I’ve kept a list of novels about pastors. The novel always provides new perspectives about all of life, and I’ve found it entertaining and interesting to read about clergy of all varieties. Being one myself adds its own dimension to my reading enjoyment.

Spencer-Fleming’s novels are about a fairly new Episcopal priest named Clare Fergusson and her relationship not only with her parishioners in Upstate New York but also with the local chief of police, Russ Van Alstyne. The town has the ominous name of Millers Kill, and the two of them find plenty of murder to explore. Being a priest is a second career for Clare, her first being an army helicopter pilot.

I like these books a lot, and Spencer-Fleming’s own participation in the Episcopal church gives her a good view on the work of the priest. I think of all clergy everywhere in these days of COVID-19 and the new dimensions and patterns they’ve had to devise to work through this sad and uncertain time. But, like Clare, I trust them to be wise in their judgments, articulate in their speech, and grounded in their faith. I know I see that in my own pastors and colleagues. Reading these novels can help us all get a better handle on the work of the priest.

Most of her titles are lines from hymn. The latest, Hid from Our Eyes comes from the first line of Walter Chalmers Smith’s great hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise: “Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes.”

Here are the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne novels in order:

  1. In the Bleak Midwinter 2002
  2. A Fountain Filled with Blood 2003
  3. Out of the Deep I Cry 2004
  4. To Darkness and to Death 2005
  5. All Mortal Flesh 2006
  6. I Shall Not Want 2008
  7. Letters to a Soldier 2011 (short novella)
  8. One Was a Soldier 2011
  9. Through the Evil Days 2013
  10. Hid From Our Eyes 2020

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