A young priest, a struggling parish, a search for wisdom and love.
When the newly ordained Episcopal priest Rev. Calvin Harper arrives in Victory, West Virginia, to be the pastor at an ailing parish, he has no idea how much he still has to learn about being a priest. Thankfully, Ruby Redding takes the young man under her wing and teaches him everything she has learned throughout her long, storied life. Seminary never taught Calvin that the only true way to be a witness to God’s presence in this world is to remain in relationships with people no matter what life throws at them. His studies never taught him that detachment is the bane of ministry. He never learned that deep grief comes only from deep love. But in his first year in Victory, Calvin learns all this and more from Ruby, a woman so full of God’s light that it can’t help but spill onto the people around her.
Do we ever think about what it might have been like for our pastors and priests when they were called to their first parish? Letters from Ruby is the debut novel from Reverend Adam Thomas, and was inspired by his first assignment after ordination. It’s set in a West Virginia town that has definitely seen better days. There’s an aging population; most of their children have moved away. Calvin’s trouble starts when there’s no one to meet him when he arrives. As a result, he’s almost arrested for breaking and entering into his new church. After spending the night in a motel, he arrives back at the building for Morning Prayer and meets four retired ladies who take him under their wing. These are the ladies who appear to do everything at the church. I think every church has a similar group. They are the ones who assist with communion and can be found behind the serving counter at every church dinner. It is one of these ladies, Ruby, who takes a special interest in Calvin.
Letters from Ruby provides much food for thought. Calvin isn’t perfect, and neither are his parishioners. But, as he learns in a beautiful passage, each has their place in God’s kingdom. The Morning Prayer ladies have a few rough edges, but they reflect God’s love in individual ways. There are moments of humor as well as drama. We see what happens not only when a church comes together, but also when there’s discord. Calvin can bring together the parishioners for a good cause, but it’s a different story when he dares to suggest some changes. I do, however, suggest you have the Kleenex nearby. I don’t want to give away any aspects of the plot, but there is enough of a lead in that you develop a sense of what’s coming. Still, a few tears are a small price to pay for such a delightful read.
Thank you to Abingdon Press for my free Advance Reader Copy of Letters from Ruby, which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication Date: 20 August 2013
Page Count: 320