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Current Offerings

Redeemer Readers 2016-2017

Redeemer Readers is Church of the Redeemer's Book Club.  The group meets at noon for one hour on five Thursdays from October to May.  New members are always welcome, even those who can't make all five meetings.  Some suggestions for availability and pricing of this year's books are included.  Prices indicated here are correct at time of writing.  Readers can, of course, pursue other options.  If new members are interested in attending any or all of the discussions, or want more information, please contact Pauline Thompson at pauline.thompson@utoronto.ca

The Costs and Complexities of Compassion: Themes of Justice, Mercy and Grace

What role does compassion have in our lives and in the institutions of justice in our country?  How central should it be in our everyday lives?  What do religions have to say?  What, specifically, does Christianity have to say?

The need to see justice done, on the one hand, and to seek revenge and punishment, on the other, seem to be basic human instincts.  What is the difference between justice and revenge?  Should all crimes and misdemeanors be punished?  Where do compassion, pardon and mercy come in?

The legacy of the “Tough on Crime” agenda of recent governments in several western countries, including Canada, has given one answer to these questions:  promote minimum sentences, expand prisons, double and triple bunk inmates, eliminate recreational and job-training programs, etc.  The emphasis here is on punishment.  Should this be the chief aim of a country’s justice system?  How is the idea of rehabilitation linked to mercy?  How can we truly achieve a “just society”?  Is “compassionate conservatism” an oxymoron?

At the individual level, we need to think about what we can do to transform our own psyches.  How do we apply the principle of loving our neighbours as ourselves in such a way as to have an impact on ourselves, our families, friends, neighbourhoods, cities, provinces and country?

Deliverance to the Captives Book Jacket
October 20, 2016

Karl Barth.  Deliverance to the Captives

(Wipf and Stock, repr. 2010), 160 pp.  Available from Amazon.ca, $26.25; from Crux Books, $34.99 special order.

These sermons were preached by Barth between August 1954 and June 1959 to prisoners in the Basel prison in Switzerland.  It was Barth’s view that, although the people he was preaching to were imprisoned for crimes they had committed, we all live in prisons of one sort or another, and are all in need of the deliverance that Jesus said he had come to bring.  They are simple, straightforward, and yet profoundly compassionate.

Just Mercy Book Jacket
December 8, 2016

Bryan Stevenson.  Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

(Spiegl and Bray, 2014), 352 pp.  Available from Indigo Books on line ($18.69), Amazon.ca ($18.32), on Kindle, Kobo and in stores.

Bryan Stevenson is the grandson of slaves, a Harvard-educated lawyer with a strong Christian heritage, who has written a remarkable book about his work in the American south.  Last year a number of American colleges and universities required their incoming freshmen to read this book before they began their studies.  It deals not only with the problems associated with the death penalty, but with the legacies of racism and poverty that afflict American society to this day.  It is about the potential for mercy to redeem us.  This book was the winner of the Carnegie Medal for non-fiction, and many other awards.

We will also take a look at two short pieces.  Copies of these will be provided.

  • Yanan Wang: “Judge goes to jail with convict” (Washington Post)
  • Seamus Heaney: “Punishment” (a poem, in North, 1975, in Selected Poems 1966-1996)
Truth and Reconciliation Report
February 9, 2017

Selections from the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
Volume One - Summary: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future

Ca. 500 pp.  Available from Indigo on line ($16.84) and in stores.

This report is a result of a six-year investigation into the residential school system for aboriginal youth.  It tells of the history of the schools and their legacy and gives 94 recommendations for action.  This history is not well known in Canada outside the aboriginal community.  All of us need to understand what happened and gain some understanding of what true reconciliation might entail.

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life Book Jacket
March 30, 2017

Karen Armstrong.  Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (2011).

Available from Amazon.ca ($14.47) and Indigo Books ($14.62 pb., and Kobo $14.00).

This book is a call to restore compassion to the centre of religion and morality, and to develop empathy with the sufferings of all human beings – even to love our enemies.  There is an exploration of all the great religions, including Christianity, and what they have to say about the centrality of compassion.  The book also has a lot of practical suggestions about how we might become more adept at living together in harmony.

Good to a Fault Book Jacket
May 18, 2017

Marina Endicott.  Good to a Fault.

Repr. 2013 by Anchor Books.  388 pp.  Available from Indigo Books ($15.56 pb., $14 Kobo),  Amazon ($15.40).

This is a story of how a single moment of distracted driving led Clara Purdy into the mess of another family’s life, about how she tried to help and what that helping cost her.  This novel won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was short-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.  (Endicott is the sister of a former Redeemer parishioner, Timothy Endicott, Professor of Legal Philosophy in the University of Oxford.)

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