Spiritual journeys can be marked by periods of growth and stagnation and even regression. I have had experiences with congregations that were life changing , where people and ministers entered my life at a time when there was challenge and struggle and were the ministry that they provided brought welcome spice and seasoning to my life. These church experiences changed my life and the lives of others.
James Asparro has written a wonderfully moving novel entitled " Salt Of The Earth-A Portland Story " ( Author House 2016 ). The author is a Chaplain who has served with the United States Navy and with the Department Of Veterans Affairs. He has created the fictional congregation, the Lake Oswego Progressive Church Of America ( PCA ) pastored by the Rev. Dr. Ben Dawson. When we meet Rev. Dawson he has recently experienced the loss of his wife Julia and his parents within the same year. Through a freak accident where he rides his bicycle into a metal pole, Ben meets Dr. Alexandria Savich, who is math professor, violinist and author.
This meeting proves to be life-transforming for both of them. James Asparro weaves artfully a series of other plots including a marriage dissolving between a Naval Officer and his spouse who is a VA Hospice Nurse, an entrepreneur CEO for a major technology company who is evolving in his professional and spiritual life, a right-wing dairy company owner and mayor of a small town who bullies his spouse and others. The spouse is able to break free and eventually she becomes a successful business woman in her own right.
"Salt Of The Earth-A Portland Story" is rich in its observations about its characters and their human vicissitudes as well as its impeccable descriptions of Portland ,Lake Oswego and the Oregon coast, even describing local area eateries and cuisine. People who are from Portland and who are familiar with the Pacific Northwest will really enjoy this book, and others will equally enjoy.
Perhaps, one of the major transformations in the book happens to Charlie, a Korean veteran. He goes from being alone in a dingy room over a bar to where he becomes adopted into a greater family through the Lake Oswego PCA Church. Charlie becomes befriended by Val, a dog trainer and her canine Lizzie.
"Salt Of The Earth-A Portland Story" really reveals how meaningful ministry can transform the lives of people. Ministry that is inclusive of all without distinctions to economic status, sexual orientation or religious background. As I read this book, I thought about how many people would probably want to be a part of a congregation like this, one that is dedicated to caring for people and practices hospitality and commitment to stay connected with its members.
Matthew's Gospel noted:
"You are the salt of the earth ( Matthew 5:13 )
This novel presents a seasoned ministry that will be satisfying to the reader and with reflection will promote new growth and wisdom.
May this be so for all of us.
May it be so.