Kathy and me at Daffodil Days in Nantucket a few years ago.
Neither of us had ever heard of this author, but the topic of her book sounded intriguing so I went along.
The author's name is Suzanne Strempek-Shea. She is a fabulous speaker and I totally enjoyed listening to her talk. The book she spoke about is Sundays In America.
She was born and brought up in Three Rivers, MA in a Polish Catholic family. Educated in parochial schools and living in a town whose numbers were less than 2,000 she had an interesting perspective on the world, in general, and religions in particular. She had never set foot in another church and always felt sorry for those Non-Catholics who went to those other churches because the nuns pretty much told her they were going to hell, and so would she if she ever set foot in one of them.
So, as she watched the devout mourners at the funeral of her beloved Polish Pope John Paul II in 2005 she felt that she was missing something and decided to explore those other Christian churches about which she knew nothing.
Her mission was to attend a different Christian denomination service every Sunday for the next year, starting with Easter and ending with Easter.
Her first Sunday she went to the New Mount Zion Baptist Church in Harlem, where the question "What you need, baby?" posed to her by a member of the congregation became a question she would be able to answer by the end of her journey.
In her talk she spoke of some very weird churches, like The First Spiritual Temple in Brookline where the dead are invited to come sit in the pews with you while you worship. She actually said that turned out to be a very moving service as she conjured up images of her departed loved ones filling the pews.
Her trip to the south included Jimmy and Rosalind Carter's church, where he taught a Sunday School class before worship service. If you stayed for worship, you could have your picture taken with them afterwards. Probably a reward for putting up with the frisking by the Secret Service that preceded your entering into the building.
And she went to a church in San Francisco called Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane African Orthodox Church where they handed you a tambourine to play if you hadn't brought your own instrument.
She went to Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago because she thought this fellow Baraq Obama might be going somewhere in politics. That was 2005, but Reverend Wright wasn't there that Sunday. She went to a Shaker Church, where there were but 4 congregants left and to Joel Osteen's mega church where 16,000 worship at two services each Sunday at the church and 7 million throughout the world on TV and where there is a bookstore the size of Borders, financial advisors, couples counseling and various activities that make Sundays like a trip to Disneyworld.
She went to a Quaker service where nobody spoke and to a Baptist Church in Mashpee where the Wampanoag's worshipped. She went to King's Chapel and to the Christian Science Church, both in Boston and many more.
I will tell you that she gave away the ending, but I don't think it really matters with this book. She had planned to spend that final climactic Sunday, Easter Sunday, at a sunrise service at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater in Denver. Instead, due to weather, she found herself in an Interfaith chapel in the Denver Airport with one other person and some luggage. She ties it all up very nicely, and in the last paragraph answers that question posed on the first Sunday, "What you need, baby?"
She was a wonderfully engaging speaker and, of course we both bought her book. I have started to read it and it is very good, indeed.
Hope you find something interesting to do this week. Kathy and I are off to the Boston Pops Concert on the Village Green in Hyannis this afternoon. It should be good. Henry Winkler, The Fonz, is the guest conductor. Aaay.
Have a great day.