Sunday, May 25, 2014

Books 8 & 9 of 2014 -- Volumes I & II of The Canadian Civil War

At the end of April, in preparation for my trip to Seattle, I was browsing through Kobo looking for something to read.  And as I looked through the free books section I came across this one.

As I have mentioned previously, history is a long-time interest of mine.  That has always included historical fiction.  This is an interesting book.  I started it on the bus and did not stop reading for most of the next 5 hours.  It is set in a world where the French did not lose their North American possessions in the Seven years War.  Nor did they sell the Louisiana Territory to the US (it also appears that the US had their independence from England at a much later date--logical since the English victory in 1763 was a big part of setting the stage for the American Revolution a decade later.  It appears that Canada remains as a French-speaking nation covering much of the North American continent.  The US is the original 13 colonies plus Florida (because apparently the US still eventually fought Spain and won).  I have yet to determine what happened West of the Rockies on either side of the 49th Parallel, though it seems I might get a bit of that picture in Volume 3.

The premise of the book is that an American historian (a fairly arrogant one I might say) is in Green Bay (the capital of Canada) doing research on the Joliet family.  The first volume alternates between what he is learning from the latest patriarch of the clan, a former President of Canada, about the discovery of the Mississippi in the 17th century and developments in Canada (and in the romantic life of the historian).  This Canada is split culturally between the Catholic North and the Huguenot South, with a focus for the latter on New Orleans.  I am thinking the 17th century history is fairly accurate, but have not enough background to be sure. 

Shortly after returning from Seattle, having read little to none of the book while there, I stayed up far too late and finished the book.  It seemed at the end of volume 1 we were headed directly into the Civil War named in the title.  The South is rising....

Having so enjoyed the first one I got home and went looking.....

Found Volume 2.  And promptly clicked to buy it (for little more than a $).

In this volume we continue to be looking at the history and at the present.  But the stakes are higher.  Is conflict between North and South inevitable?  Will the US be drawn in?  Will the US (who has warred with French Canada multiple times) use the Civil conflict as an opportunity to grab territory?

The historic focus this time is on the settlement of the South.  This history is not aimed at being accurate in the same way the first volume was, though it contains some very accurate pieces.

The twist is that this book builds and builds a sense of impending doom--but does not yet pull the trigger.  Will that happen in Volume 3?

This series is not what one would call great classic literature.  There are places that are inconsistent, where piecing together the alternate history, and how the alternate history links in with/changes actual history becomes really hard to figure out.  There are places where an editor might have needed a more careful eye.

The main character, the narrator, is at time and insufferable bigot.  I grow really tired of the potshots he makes at French/Canadian (though really French in this instance) culture, work ethic, expertise...  Mind you it sounds very much like a stereotypical USan attitude to French stereotypes in the actual present (emphasis on the stereotypes -- which is an interesting literary choice).  But for failrly mindless reading it is just up my alley.  I look forward to volume 3.

Worship Planning Pondering

For the last 25+ years my experience in worship has been centered on the Revised Common Lectionary.  First as a Sunday School teacher using the Whole People of God curriculum, then as a pew-sitter, through my seminary training and internships, and now 12 years in ordained ministry.

There are great reasons for using a lectionary.  It forces us to look at a variety of passages in Scripture -- including some we would rather not explore.  It gives a structure to worship planning, enabling more advanced planning by teams.  It gives a starting point each week.

But using the RCL has drawbacks.  More and more over the years I find myself ignoring it for blocks of time (espcially Lent and Advent when I have often created a thematic series) as well as for individual Sundays/special occassions.  ANd while the principle is that following the RCL has us hear all the "important" stories of Scripture that raises the key question "important according to whom????".  And even in that attempt I find it does not do a great job of actually allowing the stories, particularly the longer, multi-chapter stories of Scripture to fully be told and explored.  Then there is the whole matter of trying to make all the readings for a Sunday link to each other -- a task I gave up on long ago, and seldom do I have all the RCL passages read on a Sunday.

Lately I have been pondering a change.  More and more I read posts about the Narrative Lectionary.  THis is a four year cycle (so each Gospel gets its own year) that is intended to allow a better sense of the narrative flow of Scripture to develop.  I think it would be a good way to help develop more Biblical literacy/familiarity in people.  I think it would be a new challenge for preaching (having now been through the RCL cycle 4 times).

But I wonder.  Would I find the NL to be more of a straightjacket, not allowing easy variation for special occasions (after all to do justice to the concept one sort of needs to stick with the narrative).   Currently much of the worship resources available are for the RCL and that makes life easier for Licensed Lay Worship Leaders who are often providing coverage when I am away.  If we are following the NL do we ask those folk to do so as well?  (not likely, but does that then break the flow?)

The NL year starts in September.  And this September starts Year 1.  So this fall would be the logical time to start.  Which means i should likely make up my mind (and discuss it with the worship committee) soon...