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Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery [Paperback]

By Richard Lischer (Author)
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Item description for Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery by Richard Lischer...

The author describes the joys and challenges of taking on his first parish as a young Lutheran pastor in the early 1970s, describing the clash of cultures that occurred when a young, liberal, educated suburbanite came to a rural, farming community in Illinois, a conservative, tightly knit community plagued by poverty and other problems. Reprint.

Publishers Description
In the tradition of Garrison Keillor, "Open Secrets "captures the friendships, rivalries, and rumors of small-town life by chronicling the lives of the citizens of a small Midwestern community through the eyes of a young minister.
Fresh out of divinity school and bursting with enthusiasm, Richard Lischer found himself assigned to a small conservative church in an economically depressed town in southern Illinois. It's an awkward marriage at best--a young man with a Ph.D. in theology, full of ideas and ambitions, determined to improve his parish and bring it into the twenty-first century, and a community that is "as tightly sealed as a jar of home-canned pickles." In "Open Secrets," Lischer tells not only his own story but also the story of New Cana and its inhabitants. With charm, openness, and humor, Lischer brings to life the clash of cultures and personalities that marks his pastoral tenure, including his own doubts, as well as those of his parishioners, that a twenty-eight-year-old suburban-raised liberal can deal with the troubled marriages, alcoholism, teen sex, inadequate farm subsidies, and other concerns of the conservative, tightly knit community. But the inhabitants of New Cana--lovable, deeply flawed, imperfect people who stick together--open their arms to him in their own way, and the result is a colorful, poignant comedy of small-town life and all it has to offer.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery by Richard Lischer has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christian Century - 05/04/2010 page 29

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Broadway
Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 7.8" Width: 5.35" Height: 0.57"
Weight:   0.61 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 11, 2002
Publisher   Three Rivers Press
ISBN  0767907442  
ISBN13  9780767907446  

Availability  129 units.
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More About Richard Lischer

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RICHARD LISCHER has taught for more than thirty years at Duke Divinity School. His many books include the prize-winning "The Preacher King: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Word that Moved America "and an earlier memoir, "Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery." He and his wife live in Orange County, North Carolina.

Richard Lischer currently resides in the state of North Carolina. Richard Lischer has an academic affiliation as follows - Duke University.

Richard Lischer has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Ch
  2. Please Use This Code.

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1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Regional U.S. > Midwest
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy
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Reviews - What do customers think about Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery?

Touching to the soul  Jul 25, 2007
There was little doubt that this book would be enjoyable. The book accounts the ministry of Richard to a small community of New Cana. It was a small town on the Mississippi River. He recounts his experiences there in this small community. It was a cultural crossover for him. He finished his PH.D program and accepted the call to this congregation. During his time with the congregation, the people loved him, rebelled against him, and in their own way made him feel welcome. Personally, I loved his stories, because in his stories, I was the main character.

These are great lines "The Poet-Preacher John Donne said `I date my life from my ministry.' There is more to life than ministry, but I knew as soon as we pulled out of the driveway that I had needed Cana more than Cana ever needed me. I do make sense of my life from that ministry."
Fish out of water . . .  Oct 16, 2006
This book may be one of a kind. It's a memoir of a young parish minister accepting his first call to a Lutheran church in rural Illinois, and although there's a reference to the classic "Diary of a Country Priest" at the outset, any comparison with Bernanos' dying, saint-like character ends there on page one. Lischer, schooled in what seems to have been the excessively conservative Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, finds his 1960s liberal sensibilities set on a collision course with the deeply rooted religious and cultural traditions of his farming congregants. If there's anything classic about this, it's his role as a fish out of water.

This may sound like grounds for some modestly Lutheran hilarity along the lines of Garrison Keillor, but Lischer has other things in mind. In chapter after chapter, he reveals how he discovers the bonds of community that have held his church families together for generations, and in his three years there, while he never really finds himself at home with them, they help him learn a great deal about what the parish ministry really means - a kind of mutual support that he had not been prepared for in his years at the seminary.

Lischer has a wonderful gift as a writer. He takes his time to find the right words, the right metaphor to bring his subject to life, and like a well-crafted sermon, they illuminate the everyday world, if only briefly, with an other-worldly light. When he and his family leave at the end of his tenure, there is a sadness of parting - and nostalgia for a time gone by - that accompanies the reader long after the last page has been turned.
An Honest Inside Look at Ministry and a Congregation  Nov 26, 2005
With one glance of the cover, a reader could easily misjudge OPEN SECRETS. The cover shows a painting of a quaint Midwestern town complete with churches and the homes of good folk. We can imagine that it will be a story of a minister and congregation and contain all kinds of heartwarming tales, and the author, Richard Lischer could easily have taken the reader on such a journey. Instead he does something different and in the end far more meaningful. He shares not only his experiences, but looks at the experiences in a critical manner that engages the reader.

OPEN SECRETS is the story of Richard Lischer's first three years of ministry. The time period is the late 60's/early 70's. Like many of his generation, he is filled with new ideas and is ready for a great assignment so he can change the world. Just as teachers quickly learn that if they are to be successful they have to be learners as well, people in ministry have to learn a similar lesson that the priest/minister may be the leader but training and education do not always mean expertise. Lischer learns this lesson when he is assigned to a small parish in New Cana, Illinois. The parish is neither ready nor reluctant to his ideas. The congregation simply "is" and in some ways this is infuriating for the young minister. He has to adapt to their ways while still being true to his calling. He does some bold things in the parish which are at times exactly what the congregation needs and at other times is more an example of his being headstrong. We see that the assignment was challenging for him, but we do not see it in a nostalgic way or in a way that belittles the congregation he served.

For me, the most important contribution OPEN SECRETS makes is the way that Lischer is able to see his experiences for what they were, and how he grew not only in his ministry but in an appreciation for the people he served. It is a story that will be appreciated by anyone who takes an active role in a faith community but it will probably speak to people who are in ministry in a powerful way and anyone who strives to serve God in a heartfelt and honest way.
the life of the average pastor  Apr 27, 2005
Rev. Richard Lischer gives us a delightful inside look into the life of an ordinary country pastor like so many in all the American Protestant denominations. The reader travels through the joys and pains, successes and failures of a young fresh-from-seminary man's first pastorate. This book is an entertaining, very humorous, and informative journey. I highly recommend it, especially to those who may be curious as to what your pastor's life is REALLY like.
No more secrets  Oct 18, 2003
Richard Lischer had a plan -- graduate from seminary, have a few significant pastorates, teach at a seminary, end up as president and 'big wheel' of the denomination. As the lyric says, life is what happens when you are making other plans. In the book 'Open Secrets', Lischer recounts many of the awakenings he experienced as pastor of a small-town, isolated community church, far from the seminary where he'd studied, and far from the city and 'powers' he'd dreamt of.

Lischer begins this autobiographical tale with a brief overview of his life prior to his arrival at New Cana -- only child, good but standard education, 'typical' rebellions in school and seminary -- a fairly conventional upbringing, with only a few points of deviation from the norm. He did have visions of something better, however, and was shocked at his appointment to the church in New Cana, a town so remote that it was difficult to find on a map, and even once he was there, it was still difficult to find.

There was a symbol of foreboding from the first day, in that the cross atop the church was broken. This was a broken community, and had been for generations, in many ways. It was stable, secure in its structure and in its dysfunction, and Lischer's arrival was greeted with what was probably the traditional lack of fanfare. There was one 'ruling family' of the congregation, and insiders were clearly differentiated from the outsiders. Lischer and family were definitely outsiders.

The conflicts in the town were fairly typical of the human condition -- there were family troubles ranging from abuse and neglect to simple emotional wear-and-tear. Overshadowing the town was the almost constant depression that accompanies an agricultural-based community; working the land is hard in the best of times, so people grew accustomed to a hard life.

Lischer ultimately finds value in the community, but one wonders upon reading this memoir if that value was realised largely (or only) in hindsight. The struggle through the conflicts, both internal and external, are very apparent at each turn. Nothing came easily in Lischer's ministry. Ultimately, however, the community was accepting, and Lischer was similarly accepting. One man, Leonard, who loudly proclaimed, 'I didn't vote for you' at the first meeting of congregation and pastor, was in fact the last one to give thanks and blessing as the Lischers departed for new ministries three years later.

The people recounted in Lischer's tale are genuine. We only get the interior reflections of Lischer, but one can sense, among this uncomplicated community, the motivations and simple ways of true living among the parishioners. When Lischer tried for an innovation in the liturgy by permitting guitar music, one member of congregation reacted badly. Worried, Lischer wondered how the trouble might be resolved, others in the congregation assured Lischer not to worry, saying that the trouble-maker had always been trouble anyway.

As a portrait of small-town life, this is a unique and interesting perspective. While the world of the 60s is no longer with us, in many ways the community of New Cana (as many small agricultural towns were) was largely passed over by many of the cultural developments of the 60s (and 70s, and 80s); thus there is a timeless character to this narrative.

Fascinating to read, practical and spiritual at the same time, the reader will be enriched by Lischer's experiences.


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