Jun 16, 2010

Book People

Ray Bradbury wrote a book titled Fahrenheit 451, presumably because it is at that temperature that paper burns and Bradbury’s book is about books and burning. It is a futuristic story and I stumbled upon it because the name of my favorite bookstore in Austin is “Book People.” Bradbury’s book describes a colony of itinerant book lovers in his fictional account of near-the-end-of-the-world proportions. In the book a self-indulgent and anti-intellectual America has entirely forsaken self-control. Thus the book people are the last vestige of both decency and sanity—measures of civilization. A recent film starring Denzel Washington called “The Book of Eli” reminded me of Fahrenheit 451 in certain respects.

All of this is to say that this summer our own merry band of “Book People” (Adult Library Committee: Verna Brown, Mitzi Busick, Ann Watley, and Rita Martin) launched a “Go the Second Mile” mission project that was a venture of just the sort I hoped would come about when we first launched the “One Mile Mission” last year. They called their project: The Book Carnival.

It all started when these four women [named above]accepted the “Going the Second Mile” challenge. In the January Adult Library Committee summit, the group decided it would be a good idea to put books into the hands of neighborhood children. Having books available for summer reading would enhance literacy and also delight many children who rarely receive gifts of things as exotic as books. John Wesley taught the coal miners’ children at Kingswood, England to read using the Bible as a text—thus the FUMC book people simply recycled a two century old Wesleyan strategy.

As the "Library People" put their plan together several questions emerged: How many books? Where to find the funds? Is this too big a challenge? Is this an impossible task? Yet, as the committee moved nearer a line of attack, these questions did not seem to matter. The Book Carnival idea was born. Once the design was proposed problem solving took over. Alphonso Rincón said, “The definition of the impossible is that for which there is not idea or thought” (Rincón founded Fathers Active in Communities and Education in 2003—a mission to transform education). Well, the thoughts were in the committee’s mind and that was all that mattered!

They began with $1000 and thought: “What a lot of money” and “How many books will that money purchase?” The “FUMC Book People” figured with help from our resident librarian that the cost would be about $5.00 a book and they could purchase 200 books for the neighborhood. They divided the money—each member of the committee could spend $200 dollars with $200 left over for incidentals.

Over the next weeks I will share in two other installments what happened, but mostly I share this story to illustrate that if a committee of four persons can pull off a mission project like this, then what more can our church creatively do to interface with our community. It was a beautiful thing! Not only that but our Adult Library Committee was like the book people because Fahrenheit 451 ends with the Book People moving off toward the city to search for survivors and to help rebuild civilization—or in this case help build the Kingdom of God in a downtown Arlington neighborhood.

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