Out of the many wonderful experiences I have had back home in California, one of the most touching was my home church’s presentation of a check to me to buy textbooks for next year.
Seminarians, like other students in professional programs, need to buy a lot of textbooks, and as anyone funding a college education knows, the cost of textbooks has skyrocketed the past ten years. It can cost well over $1,000 per year for texts, especially during the first year when people may buy Bibles, prayer books, concordances, commentaries, and so on. These are pricey books.
To my delight, my Church Commission on Ministry decided to ask our church to help me buy books. So one member of the group, who has shared many happy evenings of Bible study group meetings with me, asked me for a list (or at least the best guess at a list) of the books I need for the coming year and their prices. Then she put up a poster with all of the book titles and prices and asked people to sign up to buy one or more books.
I asked her how this effort went. Did people sign up for the first free slot, or did they want to buy very particular books? She said that my fellow parishioners were very interested in buying particular titles. The titles for “Mass Class,” for example, such as The Priest’s Handbook, were hot books during this fundraising drive. Nearly all the titles have been covered at this point, and that is a great, great relief to me. I am deeply grateful to the people of St. Francis Episcopal Church in Fair Oaks, California for their generous help.
But this whole experience also got me thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could appeal to all the seminarians’ churches to buy a book for a seminarian?” It will pay the church back tenfold in priests educated in Bible, church history, doctrine, ethics and theology and trained in preaching, pastoral care, and liturgical practices.
Buy a book for a seminarian. It’s a good thing.