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Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery Paperback – June 11, 2002
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“This is a beautiful book--beautifully conceived, beautifully executed, and rare in the beauty of its pastoral and theological sensibilities.” --Richard John Newhaus, First Things
From the Inside Flap
Fresh out of divinity school and bursting with enthusiasm, Richard Lischer found himself assigned to a small conservative church in an economically depressed town in southern Illinois. It's an awkward marriage at best--a young man with a Ph.D. in theology, full of ideas and ambitions, determined to improve his parish and bring it into the twenty-first century, and a community that is "as tightly sealed as a jar of home-canned pickles." In "Open Secrets, Lischer tells not only his own story but also the story of New Cana and its inhabitants. With charm, openness, and humor, Lischer brings to life the clash of cultures and personalities that marks his pastoral tenure, including his own doubts, as well as those of his parishioners, that a twenty-eight-year-old suburban-raised liberal can deal with the troubled marriages, alcoholism, teen sex, inadequate farm subsidies, and other concerns of the conservative, tightly knit community. But the inhabitants of New Cana--lovable, deeply flawed, imperfect people who stick together--open their arms to him in their own way, and the result is a colorful, poignant comedy of small-town life and all it has to offer.
Top Customer Reviews
OPEN SECRETS is the story of Richard Lischer's first three years of ministry. The time period is the late 60's/early 70's. Like many of his generation, he is filled with new ideas and is ready for a great assignment so he can change the world. Just as teachers quickly learn that if they are to be successful they have to be learners as well, people in ministry have to learn a similar lesson that the priest/minister may be the leader but training and education do not always mean expertise. Lischer learns this lesson when he is assigned to a small parish in New Cana, Illinois. The parish is neither ready nor reluctant to his ideas. The congregation simply "is" and in some ways this is infuriating for the young minister. He has to adapt to their ways while still being true to his calling. He does some bold things in the parish which are at times exactly what the congregation needs and at other times is more an example of his being headstrong. We see that the assignment was challenging for him, but we do not see it in a nostalgic way or in a way that belittles the congregation he served.Read more ›
Lischer begins this autobiographical tale with a brief overview of his life prior to his arrival at New Cana -- only child, good but standard education, 'typical' rebellions in school and seminary -- a fairly conventional upbringing, with only a few points of deviation from the norm. He did have visions of something better, however, and was shocked at his appointment to the church in New Cana, a town so remote that it was difficult to find on a map, and even once he was there, it was still difficult to find.
There was a symbol of foreboding from the first day, in that the cross atop the church was broken. This was a broken community, and had been for generations, in many ways. It was stable, secure in its structure and in its dysfunction, and Lischer's arrival was greeted with what was probably the traditional lack of fanfare. There was one 'ruling family' of the congregation, and insiders were clearly differentiated from the outsiders. Lischer and family were definitely outsiders.
The conflicts in the town were fairly typical of the human condition -- there were family troubles ranging from abuse and neglect to simple emotional wear-and-tear.Read more ›
This may sound like grounds for some modestly Lutheran hilarity along the lines of Garrison Keillor, but Lischer has other things in mind. In chapter after chapter, he reveals how he discovers the bonds of community that have held his church families together for generations, and in his three years there, while he never really finds himself at home with them, they help him learn a great deal about what the parish ministry really means - a kind of mutual support that he had not been prepared for in his years at the seminary.
Lischer has a wonderful gift as a writer. He takes his time to find the right words, the right metaphor to bring his subject to life, and like a well-crafted sermon, they illuminate the everyday world, if only briefly, with an other-worldly light. When he and his family leave at the end of his tenure, there is a sadness of parting - and nostalgia for a time gone by - that accompanies the reader long after the last page has been turned.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found Open Secrets at a second hand book store a few months ago. What intrigued me was the cover and title, an idyllic country church scene and something about secrets. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Michael G. Chaffee
If you are entering pastoral ministry in any context, this is a must read.Published 13 months ago by Justin Sembler
Lischer tells his tale of ministry in his first parish with wit and candor and a love for the people whose stories he shares. I literally laughed and cried through the whole book. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is an easy to read book about Richard's time as a pastor in a small church in Illinois. It was a good bible study book.Published on August 19, 2014 by Amazon Customer
Every bit as entertaining and enjoyable, touching and heartwarming, humorous and engaging, rich and real as Garrison Keillor's beloved Midwestern tales — and all the more... Read morePublished on June 24, 2014 by Jason C
I had to read this book for a class and I found myself smiling throughout much of it as it reminded me of the church I grew up attending. Read morePublished on April 21, 2014 by Sara K
This story of one minister's experiences in congregational ministry probably parallels other ministers' beginnings as it does mine. Read morePublished on November 22, 2013 by Pilgrim