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It's an awkward marriage at best, a young man with a Ph.D. in...
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It's an awkward marriage at best, a young man with a Ph.D. in theology, full of ideas and ambitions, determined to improve his parish and bring them into the twenty-first century, and a community that is "as tightly sealed as a jar of home-canned pickles." In their own way, they welcome him and his family, even though they think he's "got bigger fish to fry." Thus begins Richard Lischer's first year as a pastor: bringing communion to the sick (but forgetting to bring the wafers); marrying two unlikely couples—a pregnant teenager and her boyfriend, and two people who can't stop fighting.
Often he doesn't understand his congregation, and sometimes they don't understand him; for instance, why does his wife hire a baby-sitter and instead of leaving, put on her bathing suit, grab a stack of novels, and hide from the kids? Or why can't Pastor Lischer see how important it is for a woman with little money to buy an elaborate coffin to bury her husband in?
There are also the moments of grace, when pastor and parishioner unite for a common goal: when he asks for prayers for his infant son, and can feel everyone in the congregation ministering to him; when old hurts are put aside to help a desperate young woman finish college andraise her baby; or when he helps save a woman from dying of a drug overdose.
In Open Secrets Lischer tells not only his own story but also the story of New Cana and all of its inhabitants—lovable, deeply flawed, imperfect people that stick together. With his sharp eye and keen wit, Lischer perfectly captures the comedy of small town life with all of its feuds, rumors, scandals, and friendships. In the end he learns to appreciate not only the life New Cana has to offer, but also the people who have accepted him, at last, as part of themselves.
Posted May 16, 2001
If you were to ask me to describe the book in one word, I'd say candid. It is actually too candid at times. This is obviously not about salvation and evangelism and being born-again. In fact there is nothing in the book that indicates the author himself embodies any of these essentials for the life hereafter. Indeed the sporadic raw language and beer drinking incidences tell the opposite. But it is the story of a man who sincerely wanted to follow 'his calling' however spiritually incomplete this was, and who was willing to put eight years of academic training in preparation for it. That calling was one of ministry to shepherd flocks of lay people who mean well in their duty to follow Jesus' teaching. Open Secrets is the diary of his first three years as a Lutheran pastor in the rural surroundings of a small town in the U. S. state of Illinois. In line with the title of the book, the writer truly opens himself to vulnerable admission of his mistakes and genuine submission to learn from the church people. People who take their spiritual leader too much for granted by reminding him bluntly that he doesn't own the church, they do. The man obviously means well and is sincere in his pastoral pursuit as he puts up and gives in to the set ways of the close-knit cultivator clique. It is an interesting real-life, real-people account of one ordinary individual who's background and childhood precipitate him into a religious vocation of philosophers and movies quotations. In the end, both pastor and church people learn from one another about some of the important Christian characteristics of the New Testament. But sadly nobody gets saved.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.