When I was a kid, reading was my hobby. Other kids played soccer or did gymnastics or participated in Scouts. While I dabbled in a few of these activities, what I loved most was to read. Historical fiction was a particular favorite, whether it was American Girl doll books or The Magic Treehouse series. Filling out a summer reading list was a thrill — even if my sister always had more books listed than I did. (Though that school year reading log? Not nearly as fun.)
Then, I became an adult. Books for classes replaced novels during college. The Washington Post Express replaced those college texts during my commute home when I worked in Washington, D.C., after graduating. Books on theology and leadership and the Bible replaced that newspaper when I transitioned to seminary (well, at least until the 2016 election, when I resumed reading the Post). Reading always served a particular function, and it was rarely for “fun.”
As I was actively interviewing for my first call, I came up with a list of recent reads in case a pastor nominating committee asked me what books I was reading. The list featured “Almost Christian” by Kenda Creasy Dean and “Sustainable Youth Ministry” by Mark DeVries, both of which I read while interning at a church while we re-envisioned its youth program. It included “Going Public” by Michael Gecan, which I read through the course of my community organizing training with NEXT Church and Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary. Also on that list was “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo, which I read alongside the NEXT Church strategy team as we began to name the ways we operated out of whiteness and racism together.
They were all important and formative reads. I plan to pick up each of those books again when I’ve begun work at a church, where a different context will lead me to understand each text in new ways as I continue to learn. But after a dozen or more interviews where no PNC asked me about what I was reading, I deleted the list.
When I graduated from seminary in May, I thought I could use this period of “funemployment” before starting my first call to read for fun. “I’ll have all kinds of free time,” I said to myself. “I’ll even be bored!” It’s safe to say the last time I was bored I was in elementary school. Instead, this post-seminary period has been full of travels to see friends, youth conferences and projects I had no time for while in school. Once again, reading for fun has been kicked to the bottom of my to do list.
Why is this? I maintain that reading is still a priority for me, but is this only true when it comes to books on church leadership, biblical interpretation and the like? Why do I refuse to read for pure pleasure, rather than for learning?
There’s a lot I hope to accomplish in my first year as pastor and so much I still need to learn about doing ministry. Really, there will always be so much I still need to learn. I will need all of those books on that list and many others to help me navigate the waters of my first call and beyond. I’m loathe to add too much to my plate as I try to figure things out. But maybe, just maybe, one of my goals for the first year of ministry will be to read a novel that has nothing to do with church or leadership or ministry. I’ll read a book just for fun.
Do you have a suggestion for a pleasure book? I’m all ears!
LINDA KURTZ is the communications specialist for NEXT Church and a recent seminary graduate. She is also a ruling elder and candidate for ordination from National Capital Presbytery. Now that she’s finished seminary, Linda enjoys being outside and taking photos of anything but people.