A splendidly written summons for us to remember and honor the past
We often dismiss history as dull or irrelevant, but our modern disengagement from the past puts us fundamentally out of step with the long witness of the Christian tradition. Yet, says Margaret Bendroth, the past tense is essential to our language of faith, and without it our conversation is limited and thin.
This accessible, beautifully written book presents a new argument for honoring the past. The Christian tradition gives us the powerful image of a vast communion of saints, all of God's people, both living and dead, in vital conversation with each other. This kind of connection with our ancestors in the faith, Bendroth maintains, will not happen by wishing or by accident. She argues that remembering must become a regular spiritual practice, part of the rhythm of our daily lives as we recognize our world to be, in many ways, a gift from others who have gone before.
-- Duke Divinity School
"Margaret Bendroth shows once again that she is an artist who happens to work with words rather than paint or clay; she is also a Christian and a historian. Bendroth makes a powerful case that the past is never totally past but remains a rich resource for the practice of our faith. The point is less the mastery of this or that 'dry' detail than to see that our spiritual parents often faced questions similar to ours yet gave answers different from ours -- answers more practical, more creative, and more faithful. It pays to pay attention. The book is at once learned, thought-filled, and wonderfully engaging."
Nancy S. Taylor
-- Old South Church in Boston
"Abounding in colorful anecdotes -- and laced with wry and sympathetic humor -- this memory book reads like a good diary, a page-turning adventure through sacred history. Bendroth argues that meaningful remembering requires imagination and determination but is well worth the effort, for it cannot but form us into better Christians and finer human beings."
"Bendroth's book is perfect in size and scope for adult education classes. Participants might reflect on their religious heritage and how it has shaped their place in today's church. As she notes, remembering involves more than organizing anniversary celebrations, publishing yearbooks, and hanging pictures of the church choirs on the walls. Churches need congregants who will tell stories about the life of the church, music directors who will provide the context for the composition of beloved hymns, and ministers who will incorporate the congregation's messy and complex history into sermons. . . . For Bendroth, remembering means reorienting one's perspective so that the life of the congregation revolves as much around the past and the future as the present."
"Margaret Bendroth has written a deeply thoughtful, but easily accessible, reflection on the various ways that different cultures relate to the past and those who inhabited it. . . . This is not a polemical book, but one that could start a thousand conversations, and it is about time we had them."
Spirituality & Practice
"Bendroth challenges Christians to begin a new conversation with the communion of saints who are spread across time and space. Here memory becomes not just an isolated act of an individual but a cooperative adventure uniting believers as they try to make sense of the past, present, and future."
Methodist Recorder (UK)
"Margaret Bendroth's book is thought-provoking and inspiring. I warmly recommend it to all who have concerns for the past and a desire to explore their relationship with it."