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Readers on Reading: Brandon Wrencher

Brandon Wrencher is a Master of Divinity student at North Park Theological Seminary, editor of the CCDA Theological Journal, intern pastor of Blackburn’s Chapel United Methodist Church and a resident of The Blackburn House, a Christian intentional community which serves Blackburn’s Chapel and the town of Todd, North Carolina. You can read more from Brandon on the Blackburn House blog.

Brandon WrencherWhat books are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Making Peace with the Land by Norman Wirzba and Fred Bahnson, Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race by Willie Jennings, Surprised by Hope by N. T. Wright, The Meaning in the Waiting by Paula Gooder, and The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman.

Where is your favorite place to read?

I enjoy reading in the car as well as in a space with white noise in a comfy chair, with back support!

E-reader or codex?

Codex all day!!!

What book have you recommended the most in the past 12 months?

Life Together and The Christian Imagination are probably tied for the books I’ve recommended the most in the past year.

What is most enjoyable about your reading life?

The joy of reading is that I enter another world, a space where my material realities meet the life of how things can be or, better yet, how they ought to be.

It’s Never Only Bad News

I’m en route to the Mosaix Multi-Ethnic Church Conference in Long Beach. I’m expecting to learn some good stuff and hoping to catch up with some friends. I’m also anticipating to hear some bad news: about how segregated our churches remain; about how incredibly hard church planting is; about the many opportunities to offend and hurt those whose ethnicity and culture differ from mine. Those of us who pastor and lead diverse communities need to hear the bad news. We need to be reminded of the complexities and hardships associated with this movement. Without the bad news we are more prone to overlook, oversimplify, and overstep. 

But there is always more than bad news and this past Sunday at New Community provided so many  reminders of this.  Our talented (and diverse) worship team led us very well.  I baptized a beautiful baby girl whose extended family had traveled from Ohio & Hong Kong for the occasion. Pastor Michelle preached a great sermon from Acts 10:1-11:18 and she challenged us to consider how we might say yes to anyone God calls to our church. She and I then served communion to our church, a monthly practice for us and always a favorite moment for me. Before the benediction I invited a family to join me at the front. This family had been with us from the beginning and they have recently moved to a too-distant suburb. I watched members tear up as I thanked them for their faithfulness and then we prayed for them. And then, because it this is what we do on the first Sunday of the month, we moved chairs and tables around the gym and sat down for our potluck lunch. During the lunch I joked around with a table of young people from the neighborhood, spoke with three recent college grads who couldn’t speak highly enough about the welcome they have received by the church, and was taught the basics of candy crush by one of our youth. Around the gym, sitting at round tables full of good food, people talked and listened and laughed.

I point to each of these things – mostly for my own benefit – to remind that there is really good stuff happening in lots of churches like ours all over the country. We’ve got to be sober-minded about hurdles and pitfalls of multi-ethnic ministry. But we’ve got to be just as diligent about rejoicing in the many instances of God’s grace at work among us. It’s not always as spectacular as the bad news, but it’s always good and always worth noticing.

Readers on Reading: Tonya Westervelt

19306_4063033451601_42115390_nTonya Westervelt and her husband Tom are long-time friends and some of the funnest people we know.  Tonya is always reading something interesting and she occasionally blogs about these books on her blog.

What books are you currently reading?

Wild Things by Stephen James and David Thomas and Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp.

Where is your favorite place to read?


E-reader or codex?

Codex! Although I, um, had to google ‘codex’…

What book have you recommended the most in the past 12 months?

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, and The Marriage Builder by Larry Crabb.

What is most enjoyable about your reading life?

No one is asking anything of me. (I feel the need to affirm that I love the people who ask me for things and I love the things I do for them… I just also love the breaks…)

Readers on Reading: Brandon O’Brien

Years ago I asked a friend – a knowledgeable, interesting friend – what he was reading. “I don’t read,” was his answer and a confused stutter was my reply. I’ve asked lots of people this question since then and am no longer surprised by my friend’s response. It seems there are many people or whom most reading ceased at the end of their formal education.

In his fantastic book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, Alan Jacobs makes the point that most reading ought to be enjoyable. Questions about Important Books or what one should read miss the point according to Jacobs. Worse, such questions often keep people from actually picking up a book – any old, pleasurable book – and reading.

I recently emailed a handful of friends who read and asked them each a few questions about their reading habits. My goals were simple: to learn a bit about the reading practices of these friends and to (hopefully) encourage of few of you to pick up a book and remember an old pleasure you may have forgotten. I’ll share their responses in the coming days. Here’s the first…


Brandon O'BrienBrandon O’Brien is the author of The Strategically Small Church and Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes. He also blogs at his personal website.

What books are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading about writing. I have Helen Sword’s Stylish Academic Writing and Stephen Pyne’s Voice and Vision on the bedside table.

Where is your favorite place to read?

It’s got to be quiet where I read. I can’t concentrate with music playing or too much background noise, so that really limits my options. My absolute favorite place to read is outside—on a park bench, under a tree, wherever.

E-reader or codex?

For the most part, I’m a codex man. I travel with a NOOK, and I read some fiction and books of essays on it. But I like to underline things and scribble in the margins. And when I’m researching, I like to have several books open at a time on my desk. The e-reader just doesn’t allow for all that.

What book have you recommended the most in the past 12 months?

For the better part of the last 12 months, I’ve been working on a dissertation. So I haven’t done much pleasure reading. That said, I’ve found myself recommending Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor, quite a lot. Pastors are the book’s obvious audience, but I think it could be beneficial for anyone struggling to discern their vocation.

What is most enjoyable about your reading life?

I work with books, which means I’m always reading something. A lot of the writing is bad. So the most enjoyable part of my reading life is when I stumble across the rare gem of a book that makes me want to slow down, put my feet up, and soak it in. It’s the rare book or article or blog post that demands the readers attention. I’m always thankful to find one that does.

My Wife, The Blogger

Ok, she’ll definitely reject any notion of being a blogger, but Maggie has written a few posts for The Chopping Block’s blog, the recreational cooking school where she works a night or two each week.  We eat ridiculously well in our home and our son has barely a picky bone in his body- both of these things are almost completely due to Maggie’s influence. Those avoiding gluten will appreciate her first two posts and every home cook should take the advice in her latest post very seriously; your dinner guests will thank you.