The Seattle Times book person, Moira MacDonald, sent a request out a couple weeks ago for information on local book groups that had been meeting for over 30 years. She got 175 responses! The Faith Lutheran Church Book Group (35 years old this year) sent their information, but didn’t make the cut. So I wrote a piece about the Faith group.
Thirty-five years ago several women who were part of Faith Lutheran Church in Seattle started a book group. Initially the pastor (that would be me) tried to steer the reading to books about the Bible and faith, so the first book group meeting (then called The Women’s Theological Book Study) in May, 1986, was Braided Streams: Esther and a Women’s Way of Growing by Marjorie Bankson. The group soon moved on to novels and other books and became simply known as the Faith Book Group. (It should be noted that the pastor often referenced novels in her sermons!) I can still remember sitting in Eileen Powelson’s living room talking about how to proceed with it all.
What began as a periodic gathering soon became a monthly event with more and more participants. We met in each other’s homes. The discussion was – and still is – somewhat casual. There’s no requirement to have read the book ahead of time, and there is no specific leader who has prepared questions and so on. The group just meets and talks about that month’s book and about their lives. The books to read are selected through conversation and ongoing lists. Everyone agrees on which book should be next, and books are often assigned a couple months ahead.
Early on, a December Christmas book exchange became an annual event. It started as “White Elephant” giving, and there were a fair amount of old nursing books and English 101 texts that made the rounds. But soon the Christmas gifts became a treasured exchange of favorite and popular books. Good-natured trading from the familiar number drawing method of selecting the gifts makes the whole evening lively and fun. One requirement is that, after a book is opened, the receiver has to read part of the blurb on the book’s jacket or back cover. That is always a pretty hilarious way to learn about these books! Over the years the Christmas books have become the resource to select the books to be read in the coming year. A few years ago the group started an annual Spring retreat, an excellent way to be together and, you guessed it, read! (There’s a lot of walking, laughing, talking, cooking, and wine drinking that happens as well.)
Of the books read, some like them, some don’t. Some read them all, some only a few. There might be the occasional disappointment when an offered favorite doesn’t resonate – that happened to me a few times! But whatever the appreciation of the books offered and discussed, the binding together of lives through these words and plots only deepens with each passing year. Sometimes in church we sang a hymn that went like this: Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together, Lord, bind us together, Lord; bind us together in love. This group is bound in their love of the written word, their community, and their shared life experiences.
One of my most powerful memories of this group is from my last year as pastor at Faith. The gathering was in Lynn Krog’s home and I can picture it still. I looked around the room at the women gathered and realized how much each of them had experienced in their life, both joyous and sad, and how, when joined together in their mutual love of reading the narratives of their lives overflowed into the shared narrative of the books. This group is still so dear to me (they let me come at Christmas and at the summer gathering in August) and I am so grateful that it is such an alive and enduring thing thirty-five years later.
And here is Moira MacDonald’s article: https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/take-a-peek-inside-the-world-of-longtime-seattle-area-book-clubs/