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Posts tagged "Theophilus North"


PZ’s Ten Ways to Grow Your Church

Mockingbird’s roving correspondent has been taking in a lot of church services this Summer, mostly in the Northeast. Some have been excruciating, two have been glorious. Here are ten short reflections on my trip, on how to grow a church in light of what I’ve seen. The most important is the last.

  1. Begin by watching and studying every minute of Red Beard (1965) by Akira Kurosawa. The main character, a physician, played by Toshiro Mifune, is the ideal parish minister. Everything he does is perceptive, right, and plenum gratiae.
  2. Only ever preach one sermon, which is the forgiveness of sins, the absolution of every human “as is”, through the suffering and Passion of the Christ.
  3. Make sure every sermon has at least one arresting emotional illustration.
  4. green+rayRead, mark, learn, and inwardly digest each incident in Theophilus North (1973), the final novel of Thornton Wilder. Theophilus North is the all time handbook for intrepid, effective pastoral evangelism.
  5. Abolish all rules concerning weddings, and also baptisms, and say yes to every request you get. But don’t schedule baptisms, unless they are “in house” cases such as your child’s, for the main Sunday service. Do them privately Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon – the Jane Austen way.
  6. Focus monomaniacally on the casual visitor and seeker, but don’t let them know that. Just visit them or call them (personally) the Sunday afternoon of their visit. But call them after your nap.
  7. Only choose old and familiar hymns for Sunday mornings and make sure you do the choosing, not whoever is the organist.
  8. Never miss a chance to write a thank-you note. It should be an apt postcard from the Morgan Library or some place like that.
  9. Try to visit everyone in their home, even if they seem to resist it at first. Also visit everyone who gets sick when they are in the hospital. This has become one of the hardest tasks of parish ministry, partly because hospital parking lots have become more complicated and partly because hospital security no longer favors members of the clergy. It can still be done, however.
  10. Watch and study every minute, especially the last 15, of The Green Ray (1986) by Eric Rohmer. That movie is a testament to the reality that anyone can be saved, and there’s how it happens.

Don’t Miss: PZ’s Eight Easy Ways to Shrink Your Church!

"Because You're a Good Priest": Calvary and the Ministry of an Open Heart

“Because You’re a Good Priest”: Calvary and the Ministry of an Open Heart

In an interview about this most recent project with writer/director John Michael McDonagh (for whom he also starred in The Guard), Brendan Gleeson explains that there was one peculiar element of putting on the cassock of a priest. He says that McDonagh directed him to view the garb as a kind of armor, a self-contained defense of faith in a faithless world. But what he found surprising, given the story of Calvary, and the fact that his corpulent character filled that cassock, was that the “armor” of God spilled over. Instead of self-containment, the priest’s black cassock was “an opening…

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The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

The First Three Lessons for the Virtuous Raleigh W. Hayes

As you’ll see in our summer issue of The Mockingbird, Michael Malone’s Handling Sin is belatedly perched upon the book shelf here at HQ. It’s a shame the 1983 novel (even taking place in the Piedmont, for crying out loud!), took this long to find us, because not since Wilder’s Theophilus North, or Cobb’s Old Judge Priest, have I had a copy so dogeared and underlined I’ve stopped doing so halfway through. And, much like the other two, it’s incredibly summer-friendly–my pages now smell like some mixture of coastal seaweed and SPF 30–and the 700-page journey ends faster than your…

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PZ's Desert Island Discs (But This Time It's Books!)

PZ’s Desert Island Discs (But This Time It’s Books!)

I’m just now beginning to emerge from two years of living in the desert, the howling waste of inwardness that is caused by the box canyon of life.

I’m coming out of it.

In addition to the New Testament, ten books, in particular, have proven sustaining to me in the wilderness. If you read Mockingbird, many of them will be familiar to you. But I wanted to list them here, in one place, for the readers and supporters of Mockingbird, in hopes of their being useful to you. “For you the living, this Mash was meant, too.”

Each work, and three of them…

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Despair, Hope, and Imagination: Theophilus North and Edweena

Despair, Hope, and Imagination: Theophilus North and Edweena

From Thornton Wilder’s vigorously perceptive student of faces, Theophilus North, a 20-something with his hands in every corner of the “Nine Cities” of 1920s Newport, Rhode Island–from the house of “Nine Gables” to Navy watering holes to immigrant shop owners–without intending to do so! He finds ways into the homes and hearts of the people of Newport, not through an omniscient understanding of people, but with an imaginative knack for seeing a situation and playing with it. He talks about hope and despair in a way that connects directly to the imagination:

I have said before that both despair and hope…

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Freezing Repetitions and the Spirit of Play in Thornton Wilder's Theophilus North

Freezing Repetitions and the Spirit of Play in Thornton Wilder’s Theophilus North

A number of people have asked about the quotes from Thornton Wilder’s novel Theophilus North that I used in my talk at the 2009 Mockingbird Conference in New York [embedded at the bottom of the post]. The first comes at the end of the chapter ‘Diana Bell’, in which a woman who is trying to elope slowly realizes she is not really in love with the man whom she is trying to marry. She discovers instead that she is playing out once again an old story in her life, without realizing it; one which has repeated itself before and has…

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What Does Man Do With His Despair? Thornton Wilder on Theophilus North

What Does Man Do With His Despair? Thornton Wilder on Theophilus North

If, for some reason, Simeon Zahl’s talk at the 2010 Mockingbird Conference in NYC wasn’t enough to convince you to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest Thornton Wilder’s Theophilus North, then maybe this will entice you. The following comes from Wilder’s unfinished preface to the book and gives an insight into the overriding themes which dominate this intuitive account of life in “old” New England. (Spaces are left blank where words are missing). Wilder mutually affirms both a pessimistic realism and an idealistic optimism, taking into account a low anthropology and the intermittent spark of creativity. He writes:

“All men aspire…

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Theophilus North on the Fears of Servants and Masters

Theophilus North on the Fears of Servants and Masters

Servants live in terror of being unjustly dismissed from a situation without a letter of recommendation. This usually takes the form of being charged with having stolen objects of value. As the reader knows I shrink from making a generalization, but when I do it’s a bold one: persons endowed with enormous inherited wealth tend to be more than a little unbalanced. So would you or I. They know they are marginal citizens- a very small portion of the inhabitants of this industrious or idle, mostly starving, often much enduring, often rebellious world. They are haunted by the dread that…

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