Thursday, March 26, 2020

"For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World" - Emily M.D. Scott

I was only a few pages into Emily M.D. Scott's "For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World" when I realized that I'd already become quite fond of the somewhat nerdy, incredibly intelligent, and richly human Lutheran pastor who started a dinner church in New York City called St. Lydia's Dinner Church and served as its founding pastor for several years. 

"For All Who Hunger" is about that journey, but it's also about more than that journey. It's about Scott's own journey through the loneliness of feeling different, starting a church, desiring companionship, and ultimately searching for the same communion that she so passionately wished to provide for her congregants. I loved every moment of "For All Who Hunger" and can honestly confess I grieved its ending because it felt like the end of a relational journey with an imaginary friend who'd become very real to me. I don't know Scott, but I felt like I did by the end of the book and "For All Who Hunger" immersed me in her occasionally inspiring and occasionally awkward yet nearly always awesome spiritual journey. 

The book starts with warmth, such incredible warmth, as we become engaged with Scott's love for the congregants who gather with her and trust her with their spiritual lives. You can feel it, really feel it, that Scott feels so incredibly privileged by that trust that I sit here with a tear running down my face even recalling her words. In every book that I truly love, and I truly love "For All Who Hunger," I find some person or place or thing with which I connect on a soulful level. I must confess that in this book it was a delightful older woman named Ula, who found herself always embraced by the community of St. Lydia's despite being, at times, persnickety and difficult and all those other labels we like to use for people who've been unloved for so long that they don't know how to respond when love knocks on their door and refuses to go away until they answer. 

I'm a paraplegic/double-amputee with spina bifida with a chaotic faith journey that includes having been raised Jehovah's Witness and having been kicked out of two different churches including the aforementioned JW's. Just three months ago, I lost the remainder of my left leg following hospitalization for dehydration and infections and am inching back ever so closely to going back to work. I identified greatly with Ula's spirit and I resonated deeply with Scott's passion for her and the difficulty in leaving as I sit here facing the loss of my own pastor, the delightful Rev. Anastassia, who sat with me for two hours prior to my most recent amputation simply holding the hand of someone with a fear of touch and gently refusing to let go. 

I admired Scott's weaving together of both her intellect and her tremendous sensitivity throughout "For All Who Hunger," most admiring the vulnerability with which she wrote about her desires for relationship and her experiences in exploring the worlds of dating and sexuality while also living as a Lutheran pastor who, as it just so happens, also happens to be a human being. 

There is simply so much to love about "For All Who Hunger," a book that beautifully shares the St. Lydia's journey from beginning up until Scott's departure. She currently serves in Baltimore as the pastor of Dreams and Visions, a church she also founded. Scott beautifully and honestly shares the successes and not so successful moments of her church planting journey, while also eloquently bringing to life its personal, emotional, and spiritual impact for her. She is transparently self-aware and yet equally adept at sharing knowledge, theological insights, biblical exegesis, and inspirations from other philosophical and theological figures. 

While "For All Who Hunger" has lessons for all interested in church life and church planting, it will likely most resonate with those who have a more open and affirming theology as St. Lydia's was and remains an LGBTQIA open and affirming congregation and, at least it would appear, Scott remains committed to ministry to the nerds, misfits, outcasts, and others who are so often left behind by organized religious bodies. With remarkable honesty, insight, strength, and vulnerability, Scott has crafted a warm and wonderful book that serves as a spiritual memoir but also a reminder of the ability of a pastor and of a church to serve and be communion in a shattered world that so desperately craves it.

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