I am pleased to announce the appearance of Making My Way in Ethics, Worship, and Wood: An Expository Memoir. In this book I lay out the main way of thinking that has emerged out of my personal experience and cultural environment over the course of my life. I call it an “expository memoir” because it focuses on a succinct description of my patterns of thinking as they have developed over time. It’s “Bill’s thought in a nutshell,” but not simply as an abstract mental world. Rather, I tried to become more self-conscious about the way my upbringing in Washington, at my family’s farm, through educational institutions, and in marriage, children, and divorce has shaped my concerns and thought. Every thought has a body generating it, so I have tried to hew to that belief in this narrative account. I have “made my way” in an often idiosyncratic way, or as my old friend Jon Gunnemann has said, “taking my own tack.” It has often meant hacking through a jungle where others haven’t wandered, sometimes a little lost, often hidden from the main road. So I invite the reader to join this little journey even as I have tried to share what I saw along the way.
Geography has also shaped this work of the mind. I grew up along the Potomac River, with its division of North and South, Blue and Gray, Pentagon and Capitol. The Appalachians lay on my horizon, God’s slumbering backbone with its caves and coves, its forests and trails. Three years at St. Albans School of Boys, nestled under the National Cathedral’s growing spire, shaped my diplomatic sensibilities. The New England of my forebears tutored me in matters of theology and social science, laying the groundwork for my professional career. My years teaching in a Catholic seminary profoundly reshaped my sense of worship, symbol, and ethics. Divorce and remarriage jolted me out of a shallow moralism into a deeper awareness of God’s grace. Travels into Germany and its Lutheran heritage expanded the horizons of my eyes and ears. India’s ancient cacophony and South Africa’s struggle for greater democracy profoundly affected my sense of life’s plurality and longing. And all along the way were friends who entered my life to open doors as well as eyes and ears.
Woven all through this way were concepts of covenant and federalism, public and reconciliation, and the ensemble of “oikos” connections of work, family, faith, and land. Themes of ecology steadily shaped my thought in the last thirty years, while a turn to working with wood and constructing worship furniture spoke to the connection of worship and ethics that has flowed through my work.
And, of course, there is more. I hope this memoir not only offers a kind of summary overview of my thought but stimulates readers to reflect on their lives and they ways they have thought about the world around them. I am pleased that the publishers (Wipf and Stock/Resource Publications) chose to use Sylvia’s stunning tapestry “Terrifying Joy” for the cover. It offers an opening into the light so brilliant we cannot see what it holds. Our journeys always contain elements of both feelings, even as our sometimes frantic hopes urge us on our way. As you read about mine, may your own gain a little more illumination.
The book is available right now through Wipf and Stock, Amazon and your local independent book store. A Kindle version will appear shortly.