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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - Thanksgiving 2008

A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to all our United States residents, and a blessed day to all of you. As I reviewed the questions in the queue, it seemed that the following question is one to which all of us could offer counsel.

I'm in my second year of my (3 yr) MDiv, and God Willing a year away
from ordination to the diaconate. I am realizing that most pastors have
a library of resources which are helpful to them when they don't have
access to university libraries or when they live in rural areas without
either institutions or colleagues nearby. Obviously I will have my texts
from my classes, but I was wondering if the more experienced matriarchs
had suggestions for books that they turn to often. I would particularly
appreciate a heads-up on the more expensive "classics" that it might be
good to look out for in good used book stores.
Dreaming of well-lined bookshelves

What tomes are you grateful to have among your collection? Let's all offer a list of our well-worn favorites, noting Dreaming's specific request for guidance on the more expensive classics...

May you live today and every day in God's amazing grace+


  1. I would highly recommend the New Interpreters' Bible Commentary series (12 volumes). If you have only one commentary, this is the one to have. Written by highly regarded scholars and combining the best of analytical criticism and interpretive wisdom, I find it enormously useful. It's expensive by the time you've collected all twelve volumes. However, folks will be looking for presents to give you when you are ordained, or for birthdays, and Christmas, etc. Put this one at the top of your lists.

  2. The commentary is also available to download on your computer or on disk -- searchable. Very handy and easy to pack when you move!

  3. I find lots of resources online - TextWeek is great for weekly study towards sermons. Links to the latest thinking on Biblical study and thoughtful commentary. Many old texts are at Christian Classics Etherial Library. For a one volume commentary - Jerome's is excellent. Also essential for me is The Oxford Companion to the BIble by Metzger and Coogan. And for those days needing inspiration - most anything by John Shea - storytelling theologian. I could go on and on and on and on. LOL

  4. Like Ann I tend of make use of on-line resources, text week is excellent and contains lots of helpful links,my most reached for resources are books of creative liturgy, especially those that have a social justice slant such as those available for Iona.

  5. Though not a matriarch, I would second the New Interpreter's Bible series! My senior pastor left recently, taking his set with him and leaving me a little stranded! I am gearing up to buy it for myself next year (when my professional expense account rolls over...).

    Having said that, I tend to use textweek most of the time, and the other things I turn to most are definitely Shirley Guthrie's Christian Doctrine and Justo Gonzales' set of three books on Church History. None of those are expensive, but they have saved me in the middle of an adult ed class more than once.

  6. As Sally remarked, the Iona liturgy resources are wonderful. I speak as a former church admin who worked for a Lutheran pastor who was great at putting together innovative liturgies. Another source you might consider are the Sourcebook Anthologies put out by Liturgy Training Publications: (sorry, cut and paste as I don't think I can use blueclickything here). They are Roman Catholic in origin but largely usable by the more liturgical non-Catholics, too. There are ones for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Triduum and Easter, as well as Baptism, Marriage and Eucharist. I got the seasonal ones for myself to use as devotional reading, and there are excellent resources there for a meditation sentence in the bulletin, etc. The Bible Commentary idea is great too. You may (or may not! you never know) find yourself the Bible expert in your first call, and I imagine that can be somewhat disconcerting after years of study and learning. Blessings on you and your ministry=to=be!

  7. Ask your professors for recommendations if you are going to buy commentaries that are not in a set. I did this in div. school, and my Old Testament prof was more that willing to let me know if a tome was worth the price.

    I do not buy sets because the quality varies. I generally stick with the authors that I know to be the expert in that book or area.

  8. My best purchase was the Anchor Bible Dictionary; I was able to get it over a few years with Christmas gift money, because it is quite expensive. My first call was quite a ways from any decent theological library, and it was great to have. Definitely worth the investment. I second the "New Interpreter's BIble" suggestion and would add a recommendation for a new preaching resource through Cokesbury, "Feasting on the Word."

    One very good online resource for purchasing books is through Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon. I've also found that retired pastors in the congregation are often glad to give away some of their libraries. I'm a big fan of the website Working Preacher, done by Luther Seminary (free!). And some seminaries will give their alumni access to the ATLA database for free, which is a fantastic resource for articles.

    Luther Seminary (my alma mater) also lets its alumni use the library online and then will ship you any book you want to check out for a small fee ($2 or $3). Maybe other seminaries do that as well.

    And my favorite piece of clergy tax trivia: did you know that you can write off the entire cost of your personal library during your first year of ministry? That includes any theological books you purchased in seminary and/or college. FYI.

  9. This isn't a book, but it'll save room on your bookshelf for other good stuff: Bibleworks. This software is amazing, with massive amounts of information including translations in multiple languages (including the originals), synopsis tools, multiple grammars and lexicons, maps, concordances/search engines, and I'm sure other fabulous stuff I have yet to discover. If you are a bible nerd like me, save up a little and get this.

    I also really like Everett Fox and Robert Alter's Torah translations, anything Brueggeman, and Neil Elliot's work on Paul.

  10. Yes -- Alter on the Torah and Psalms.

  11. and I use the Sojourners' sermon helps from time to time also...the Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (awfully Anglican, but a lot in a small volume)...and I have a 100 year old copy of Young's Analytical Concordance, gift of a clergy widow...DO NOT NEGLECT clergy widows, they often have much to dispose of that will save you time and money!

  12. If you can't afford the entire Interpreters' series, there's a pretty wonderful one-volume tome that's great for Bible study and sermonizing. I also have a number of the Westminster dioctionaries: Christian ethics, theology, etc. I agree about buying pieces of various commentary series --- check out who the scholars are before spending money. Of the variety of preaching aids, I've used Homiletics (hard copy and on-line)for the most part. An easy read, lots of ideas that get me thinking outside the box. Different versions of the Bible; a Hebrew study Bible; and a study Quran. And then, of course, subscriptions to Christian Century and Sojourners.

  13. Interpreters BC is great to have.
    Also, the Intrepretation series is quite good.
    Texts for Preaching is good if you are a lectionary preacher.
    And Anna Carter Florences' new book is great for preachign too.

    If you don't have Creating A Healthy Congrgation, I recommend it hihgly and if you will be writign liturgy, then get some good books for that (most are lectioanry based.).
    Oh and be sure to check ebay and amazon for possible good sales on used books.
    Good luck to you and happy thanksgiving!

  14. Generation to Generation by Edwin Friedman has changed my life and my ministry.

  15. For concise books, I like the ISBE (The Interational Standard Bible Encyclopedia) which is in 4 volumes. For standard reference, I like to use the New Bible Commentary, the IVP Background Commentary and The "Life Application Commentary" (OT and NT). I started compiling my list by asking professors, and then putting a "wishlist" out there on so I did not pay list price and I most definitely bought used!

    hope this helps...

  16. I don't preach and my tradition doesn't ordain women, but I do write regularly on the scriptures for the diocese and have been working to build a library so this list is a gift!

    The series "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture" is one of my favorites - it's new, with up to date translations of the early Christian classics. I can find most of the full texts online, but like this collection which is keyed to the scripture texts. The Gospel volumes are worth it (look for used ones ...I got some for less than $5!).

  17. The new series Feasting on the Word, Barbara Brown Taylor is an editor promises to be good. I often use the one-volume People's Net Testament Commentary by Eugene Boring and Fred Craddock. My other commentaries follow a list my OT and NT professors put together when I was in seminary. They suggested 2 commentaries/book, but one could be a one-volume, especially if a less preached-on book. good luck remember


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