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A New Song to Sing: Breast Cancer as Journey of Spirit

by Linda C. Loving
Reviewed by Judith Watt

One in eight women will receive the diagnosis of breast cancer in her lifetime. Our congregations are filled with such women who often make this journey in isolation and in a culture that encourages them to return to “normal” as quickly as possible. Survivors know that it is a “new normal” that awaits them. There is now an important, unique new resource available to women in faith-based communities that can help them articulate their breast cancer experiences in a supportive group context.

Written by Linda C. Loving – a breast cancer survivor and pastor who served several Presbyterian churches around the country – this workbook provides a consistent and holy scaffolding for women to gather for seven sessions of encouragement, storytelling, devotions and sharing of resources. The structure allows women (whether newly diagnosed or long-term survivors) to lead themselves through the exercises without need of outside authority or pastoral staff. Those who have already gone through the program have stressed their appreciation of that empowerment and the depth of relationships built.

“A New Song to Sing” has received high praise from physicians, pastors, parish nurses and therapists. Loving brings her personal story to life with thoughtfulness, expertise and vulnerability. The workbook reflects her compassionate commitment to invite women to use the breast cancer journey as a way to deepen faith, ask difficult questions and cultivate the courage to “sing a new song.” While the book is written from her Protestant perspective, she uses resources from many faiths and invites each group to adapt the exercises to their own traditions. The title is based on verses from Psalm 40:

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth.”

This book is inspiring and innovative and profoundly practical – a call to wholeness and holiness. Consider again: one in eight women. Here is a grassroots way to reach out and give these women a new song to sing.

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Judith Watt is associate pastor for pastoral care at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago.