Today we’re featuring an interview with Derek Olsen, one of our regular authors. His new book, Inwardly Digest: The Prayerbook as Guide to a Spiritual Life, was recently released. We’re giving away a copy! Details after the interview. [Update: this giveaway is now closed.]
Derek, your “Secrets of a Pew Whisperer” series includes some of the most-read posts on Grow Christians. It seems like Inwardly Digest builds on some of the same themes. What do the book and the series have in common, and how are they different?
What they have in common is that I’m interested in real life and how faith works practically in a crazy family situation.
I’m not a priest and I’m not an academic; I’ve had the training for both fields, but I’m a dad who works a full-time corporate job and does a lot of driving to and from ballet! Teaching about the faith has to work at that level, whether it’s how one wrangles kids in the pew and the deep theologies underlying that or whether it’s where our worshiping words and practices come from and why that matters.
The difference is really one of topic and focus. Inwardly Digest focuses on the Book of Common Prayer specifically and what we do with it spiritually. But, thematically, it’s doing the same thing as “Secrets of a Pew Whisperer.”
What type of reader is the best fit for Inwardly Digest? Is it for everybody with a spiritual hunger, for someone new to the church, someone who has been a faithful Episcopalian for years?
It’s for anyone who wants to know more about what the Anglican/Episcopal way of spirituality looks like.
A lot of books on the prayer book treat it as a “book” and just focus on the history of the words. I’m coming from a different angle: I begin with the idea of liturgical spirituality—what that is, what it looks like, what it’s try to accomplish in individuals and groups, then I show how the prayer book helps us get there.
While I wrote the book to be accessible to someone who has just darkened a church door, I suspect some life-long Episcopalians will discover some things here they never knew before!
From reading you (although we’ve never met in person) I can tell that you invest quite a bit of yourself in your work. How do you hope to make a difference in the lives of others through your writing and other work for the church?
Look—I’m passionate about this stuff because it has made a difference in my life. I’m a better, more whole, more mature, happier person who asks better questions of life because my faith has shaped me to be that way.
One of my greatest frustrations with church people is the far too common idea that they don’t need to learn anything more about their faith—or themselves—after they leave Sunday School in their teen years. It’s hard to be a mature adult with a robust adult faith when all of the teaching you’ve received was decades ago and aimed at a child’s experiences and intellect.
I want to share what I’ve learned to help adult Christians claim a mature faith that can stand up to some of the really hard situations of the world that challenge us on a daily basis.
Many of our readers are godparents, parents, and grandparents. What do you hope they might gain from Inwardly Digest as they raise and influence children and youth in their families and churches?
One of the things that I stress is in my Secrets of a Pew Whisperer posts is that evangelism begins at home.
Kids have questions. As we all know, they’re willing to ask those big is-the-emperor-really-wearing-clothes questions. And we have to have something to say. Sometimes it’s fine to say, “Gee, I don’t know—what do you think the answer could be?” Sometimes we have to say, “Um—I’m not sure. I’ll have to find out.” However, there are only so many times that we can use these responses without the little inquisitors wondering how seriously we take this stuff if we never seem to know the answers to what they’re asking.
What I hope to accomplish with Inwardly Digest is to help fill some of those pieces in for parents, grandparents, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, and congregational mentors. The better we understand the spirituality and the logic that animates our worship practices, the better we’ll be able to communicate it to the kids and youth around us.
The better we understand how the practices of the prayer book are designed to draw us into life with God, the better we’ll be able to share that love and life with the little ones (and big ones!) that we care about.
Forward Movement is giving away a copy of Inwardly Digest to a Grow Christians reader. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment answering these two questions: 1) How has Grow Christians helped you so far; 2) What would you like from us in the future? (You don’t need to have read every post for this; we are interested in occasional & regular reader answers.)
If it’s your first comment on this blog, it won’t show up right away. But be patient and it will appear after it’s approved! We’ll pick a commenter at random next Monday to receive a free copy.
Update (9/19/16): William Sembello was randomly chosen to receive the copy of Inwardly Digest and he has been sent an email requesting his address to claim it.