Seventeen years ago I was a first time Mom that had gone from working full-time down to part-time. Not that I couldn’t keep myself busy with just that, but I craved being around other adults outside of work. I can’t remember exactly how we began, but a small group at church started a Book Club and being that a nice, hot meal seemed rare for me with a new baby at home and I enjoyed a good book, I joined it. We took turns meeting at each other’s homes and in the beginning, our Associate Pastor informally led our discussions about books we selected from Oprah’s Book Club list.
While I love discussing a good book (or even a bad one) and our meals are phenomenal, what I get most out of Book Club is the wonderful friendships that have been forged. Even though most of the people I’ve gone to church with since I was a little girl, I didn’t really know them except by name. In the beginning, my friend, Kristin and I looked forward to a night where we could leave our babies, just months apart in age, at home with our husbands. Believe it or not, although we are distant cousins (I think our dads were second cousins), before Book Club I only knew Kristin casually—as in we’d wave if we saw each other. Through the years, both of us had two more daughters just months apart who have grown up together and are very close. Had I not joined Book Club it’s possible that I may have gotten to know her eventually because of our kids, but being in Book Club together was what really connected us initially.
If you saw a picture of our little group, you may be inclined to think we’re some nice little church ladies sipping tea and exchanging casserole recipes. (We do exchange recipes, but generally we sip wine.) In fact, one time long ago, a few of us went to the wrong apartment when our Associate Pastor who lived in the City was hosting Book Club. We went up to his neighbor’s apartment thinking it was Pastor Kirk’s address and knocked on the door. The guy who opened the door was probably early 20s and I think his jaw dropped to see the four of us standing there with our cozy little casserole dishes all wrapped up with books tucked under our arms. I think he was a little disappointed we weren’t coming to serve him some dinner!
Needless to say, we weren’t a very intimidating bunch standing on that front stoop, but you’d be surprised to find that, though we might fit the image of a stereotypical ladies’ church group, we are actually very diverse. We have a great mix of political views, types of favorite book genres and opinions. We have been full-time career women, stay-at-home Moms, world travelers and have grown up in different generations in different parts of the area. Our discussions are fantastic—about church, books and life in general.
As you can imagine in seventeen years, several of the people in our Book Club have come and gone. A few have retired or moved away, and sadly, some have lost spouses or passed away themselves. While we do occasionally still read an Oprah pick (we just discussed Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings), we now read all sorts of books. One of my favorites, ironically about a Book Club, was Lorna Landvik’s Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons. But what hasn’t changed in Book Club is the safe forum we’ve created for discussions with respect for our differences. Oh, and the food is still wonderful.
Whether they realize it or not, these women have given me so much through the years. We’ve shared a lot of laughter—a time when one of my dogs was licking Pastor’s toes through his sandals while he was saying grace before dinner comes to mind—and we’ve shared in riding out the storm during times of transition at our church. We’ve celebrated births and grieved together over the loss of loved ones. I’ve collected many recipes and found new authors I’ve come to love. I expected Book Club to deepen my love of reading; but never would have thought that something as simple as a little Book Club could strengthen my love for my faith community. And that’s almost as good as having three desserts.