Reviews

The value of a pastor’s pen

The Pastor’s Page and Other Small Essays. Russell E. Saltzman. Delhi, New York: The American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, 2010. $6.50. Softbound. 100 pages. www.alpb.org.

Many pastors — Lutheran and otherwise — would be very pleased if their parishioners related to and resonated with the columns they write for their parish newsletters enough to pass them on to persons outside of their congregation. Readers of The Pastor’s Page and Other Small Essays are, indeed, blessed that the author’s parishioners saw the universality and value of his writing and urged him to publish this collection of his best writing.

Author Russell Saltzman has carefully chosen and compiled more than 25 of his columns into six categories — Incarnation, Resurrection, and Death; Faith and Parish Life; Lutherans in Public Life; Salvation and Judgment; Sacraments, Gospel and Cross; and Sexuality and Parish Practice — then added six essays of a more personal nature.

Saltzman says that church newsletters are one of the best ways to “find out what is on the mind of an average Christian pastor” via the column which appears below her/his byline. He believes its goals are “to teach, to admonish, and to provide some [thought-provoking] theological meditation” on a variety of topics. Some are of a serious nature; others may be metaphorical, whimsical, or even humorous.

After reading the introduction, the reader is tempted to devour the book, cover to cover, in one sitting. However, it is best enjoyed and appreciated in smaller “bites,” allowing time for personal reflection and, possibly, discussion with family, friends, and members of one’s faith community.

Many of the chapter titles are intriguing and encourage browsers to “read me first!” This reviewer particularly enjoyed “Christmas Frogs,” “I Can’t Remember Stuff,” “Sleepy Sermons,” “Donkeys and Palm Sunday,” “Angst 101,” and “Things I Remember Best.” While I did not always agree with the author’s perspective on some church-related issues, he made a solid case, without exception, for his stance.

Coralyn (Cory) Bryan is a freelance writer and editor who lives in south Minneapolis, where she is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (ELCA).

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