|by Jack L. Kennedy
People, not preaching, promises or pessimism, form the rapidly beating, reassuring heart of Gospel Memories -- The Future Can Rewrite Our Past, a book deceptively larger than its page count or rather pedantic title (Morehouse Publishing).
The author is Jake Owensby, pictured, bishop since 2012 of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. The book's vigor and appeal spring directly from his life story. Born with a cleft palate, no self-esteem or charted future ahead, Owensby was a child of divorced parents at an early age. Not only did he have to learn to cope with a physical disability but spiritual hurdles also confronted him. His mother emigrated from Austria following the Second World War. She survived a Nazi concentration camp. As a child growing up in the 1950s, young Jake carried his mother’s fortitude and his own adolescent fears of rejection by teachers and students alike who could not understand -or who chose not to hear - the lad with a speech impediment.
“Many of us assume that our past shapes our future,” Owensby said in a note accompanying the manuscript. His book proves repeatedly that the "Gospel Memories," the growth, the future, are formed by who we are, who we become and what we hope and build for, not who our parents were, what language they speak, or what initial, superficial expectations might be. To Owensby and the human examples in his book, the well-worn religious phrase, “walking with God” is not fluff. Walking takes time and attention to a guide, Jesus, who expects to walk alongside, not far ahead or on a platform elevated out of sight.
Owensby, who seeks to develop perception, and not expect perfection, once served in the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. While as a child he lived with his mother in a car for a time, much of his current clerical life is spent in large, ornate structures. But walking and sharing and observing with others opens eyes and minds, he says. The once neglected, undervalued and uncommunicative youngster learned that religion, faith and change are not fancy buildings, he says. They are built by real people.
“God is not just a bookkeeper or bean counter” endlessly cataloging sins, the bishop and the dozens of real people in the book emphasize. One beauty of the volume’s construction is that it can be read as a collection of real people tales or as a group of Gospel readings together with related questions at the end of each brief chapter. Either approach is relaxed, rewarding and energizing. Owensby believes that the Gospel lives through stories from today which for the faithful will keep it alive for tomorrow.
Title: Gospel Memories -- The Future Can Rewrite Our Past
Author: Jake Owensby
Publisher: Morehouse Publishing (Feb. 10, 2016)
Editions: Paperback/ 144 pp./$10.04 on Amazon; Kindle/221 KB/$9.54 (free with Kindle app)