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Pastor’s Message – October 2020

Dear Members and Friends,

Most religions rely on sacred texts, but the written word is more central to some faiths than to others. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity love their holy words. Presbyterians have been accused of overemphasizing words to the point of neglecting all else. We have traditionally valued the sermon above the sacraments. 500 years ago, early reformers thought it a Christian duty to eliminate illiteracy so that people could read the Bible for themselves. This love of the written word led to the creation of some of the world’s great universities. A love of words is deep in the bones of all Christians. That’s why it’s no surprise that we have so many gifted writers affiliated with Bower Hill Church. In this month’s newsletter, I wanted to highlight some of them:

Rev. Bill Barker: The founding pastor of our congregation has written many books about the Bible, and most of them can be found in our church library—just opposite the offices. His most popular by far is Everyone in the Bible, published in 1966 while he was pastoring our congregation. It remains in print to this day. This is the only book I know that takes every single individual name in the Bible and tells you who that person is. If you stumble across the name Jehoiada in your reading, turn to Barker’s book, and he’ll tell you all about the Bible’s five separate individuals named Jehoiada! Even my wife’s Pentecostal father has had a copy of this book for decades.

Rev. Bill Philippe: Bill-the-2nd was only with us from 1978 to 1982. He wrote an overview of the Scriptures called A Romp through the Bible. More recently, in 2015, he published The Pastor’s Diary, a pastoral memoir which includes a chapter entitled “Bower Hill Church.” I purchased this book for the church library. Be warned; the Bower Hill chapter is none-too-flattering, but what can a pastor really know about a church in four short years? He does mention Carol Knox by name…

Rev. Cal Wilson: Cal was our interim pastor on two occasions. He had a brilliant career in Pittsburgh, and it all started when he relocated here from Albany to serve our congregation. Cal and his wife Beth remained beloved participants in the life of our church until just last year, when they retired to Maine. Cal has written two creative works of fiction: The Little Toy Soldier on the Covered Bridge, published in 2001, and A Box of Crosses in 2018. The latter is about the life of a Presbyterian minister in Albany. If you miss Cal’s unique style and way with words, these books are for you.

Elder Michelle Snyder: Michelle co-authored a book called Life, Death, and Reinvention: The Gift of the Impossibly Messed-up Life, published in 2016. Like Cal’s books, you’ll hear the author’s voice as you read these pages! The title and subtitle say it all. Positing that even Jesus had to reinvent himself, this is a book about personal transformation, and it leans heavily on Michelle’s expertise as a mental health therapist.

Elder Sam Kidder: Sam is currently on Session, repatriated to Pittsburgh after many years in the US diplomatic corps in East Asia. Sam’s 2020 book is a meticulously-researched and very readable biography that has been featured on the website of the Presbyterian Historical Society. Of One Blood All Nations draws its title from Acts 17:26, and it tells the story of John Bingham, who is a local boy, a Presbyterian, the author of the 14th Amendment, and the longtime senior American diplomat in Japan. Bingham is re-emerging today as the immigration debate sparks new interest in the 14th Amendment.

Have I overlooked anyone? Beat the COVID blues by reading a Bower Hill author. All of these books are available on Amazon and in the church library. Michelle and Sam’s books can be purchased in my office for $15 cash (exact change). Sam will donate $5 back to the church for the sale of his book.

In Christ’s Peace,


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