Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Return of the blog

As promised to my new best friends at Great Plains UMC licensing school this morning, here's the start of a group of posts related to my assigned topic (I've abbreviated the topic for your convenience): mission and justice in the UMC.

What follows are book reviews I wrote while at United Methodist Ministries; I've cut and pasted them from the resource tab on their website, the home page for which can be found at  From this home page one can also move to the website for the Big Garden - where basic resources, contact information and photos are posted related to community gardening.

Here goes with the book reviews:

Exodus from Hunger, by David Beckmann

Westminster John Knox Press
reviewed by Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede

This 2010 book, written by the President of Bread for the World, address global hunger from a faith perspective. Chapters include such topics as a review of the current hunger realities, scriptural references to hunger, reflections on how congregations can combat hunger, and suggestions for advocacy on both a personal and public level.
While the material included can be very intense, the chapters themselves are quite readable, and would be suitable for a group book study either as whole or one chapter at a time. This is one of the more clearly written books we have found that addresses hunger from a faith-based perspective, with the added bonus of information about advocacy and public policy. Beckmann is a Lutheran pastor and an economist, a native Nebraskan and winner of the 2010 World Food Prize for his work.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Perennial
reviewed by Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede

Who knew a memoir about eating locally and seasonally could read so much like a novel? This book has been on the required reading list for United Methodist Ministries staff since it came out in 2007 because of its accessibility to people with a broad range of interests, the author’s clarity that her family’s choice to eat locally for a year might not be an option or preference for other families, and because we find that people who read this book seem better able to articulate the advantages and challenges of eating locally while having a better sense of what questions they would like to ask about their own food systems. A reader’s guide is available at the HarperCollins website.

Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating (2004, Fortress)
Sharing Food: Christian Practices for Enjoyment (2006, Fortress)
Hunger & Happiness: Feeding the Hungry, Nourishing Our Souls (2009, Augsburg)
by Shannon Jung
reviewed by Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede

Jung serves as Professor of Town and Country Ministry at St Paul School of Theology, which means not only that he has taught a number of pastors in the Nebraska Annual Conference, but that there’s a good chance that his books are on a shelf in a pastor’s office near you with other seminary textbooks, ready to be borrowed. In addition to being regional talent, Jung’s writing is significant for its emphasis on scripture and theology as a context for thinking about hunger and food. Both books have excellent indexes, endnotes and resource lists. Sharing Food includes discussion questions at the end of each Chapter and is a 2009 UMW Reading Program book in the Spiritual Growth category. Hunger and Happiness includes discussion questions and includes a rich discussion throughout the book on justice issues related to both hunger and poverty.

Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty by Mark Winne
Beacon Press
reviewed by Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede

This book provides a framing of our national food system that may be surprising to some and challenging for others. A 2010 UMW Reading Program selection, Winne’s book is also well-regarded in the food justice community for its analysis of the intersections of food systems, poverty, and justice as well as information regarding advocacy, current programs, and possibilities for the future.

Chapter Four, entitled “Community Gardens: Growing our Own” is a particular favorite of Big Garden, while Chapter Six’s discussion of food deserts might be particularly eye-opening for Midwesterners.

Hunger for the Word: Lectionary Reflections on Food and Justice
Years A, B and C (three volumes) Larry Hollar, ed.
Liturgical Press
reviewed by Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede

Written with support from Bread for the World and edited by a senior BTW staff member, these books offer hunger-related exegesis, vignettes, children’s sermon prompts, and hymns for each Sunday of the liturgical year. Some selections will be weighted more towards the particulars of a text, while others will focus more on a hunger-related connection to the day’s scripture, but thanks to careful editing, the flow from week to week works well both for developing sermon series and for individual use.

I'll conclude with a photo from my front yard in Omaha.  There's tomatoes, peppers, basil, and some crabgrass in with there with all the flowers.