The congregation I serve has a book club of sorts. It began a few years ago when several fans of A Prayer for Owen Meany asked about getting together to discuss the book. We met at a Mexican restaurant for margaritas, chips, and book gushing. We then mentioned another book, maybe for the next month, and we never looked back. We call the event the “Holy and Heretical Happy Hour”, which has been shortened to “The Other 4H”.

The group always meets in a restaurant. We’ve shopped around a bit to find one that allows for enough quiet to discuss and enough menu options for everyone. We’ve read a wide variety of books. In the past year alone, we’ve read:

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Anchor & Flares by Kate Braestrup
Christ the Center by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets by Sudhir Venkatesh
However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph by Aimee Molloy

Next month we’ll read The Firecracker Boys: H-Bombs, Inupiat Eskimos, and the Roots of the Environmental Movement by Dan O’Neill. I often pick the books. Sometimes it’s based on something I read and think would be interesting to discuss. Sometimes there is a topic request and I look for something that would be related. The gathering is open to anyone, regardless of whether they’ve read the book or not. It’s also a venue where I see people who don’t participate in Adult Education in other ways and where we see some of our neighbors, who aren’t interested in other church activities. 

In looking for books, I try to consider:

  1. What type or genre of book did we last read?
  2. Are we reading equal numbers of male and female authors?
  3. Have we read something by an author of color or a non-American recently?
  4. What themes have we done, including what themes might be pertinent to the church year or the social/political climate?


Do you have this kind of group in your congregation or community? If so, how do you approach what’s read? What’s next up on the docket?

If you are interested in this, what are your questions about developing or hosting this kind of church activity?

Let’s have a conversation in the comments.


The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit. 


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