I received a copy of To Love And To Cherish, written by Barbara Edema, from eLectio Publishing for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are from the book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
I remember... Juanita. She played piano largely by ear. A very sweet lady who would play our hymns based on her own rhythm. Sometimes they’d be upbeat and fast. Other times, the pace would slow. Often, it would change during the song! I remember... Hazel. A beautiful old soul who was so kind. We left the church when I was a teenager but had come back one Sunday for some special event. She gave my family the tightest hugs and said, “Oh, I thought you too had gone.” I remember… Evelyn. My first Sunday School teacher who had the sweetest smile.
These women and so many more formed my earliest memories of church. A small congregation of about 75 people each week. We all knew one another and many of us were related.
Book one of the "Pastor Maggie Series" tells of a church much like the one where I had my beginnings. Set in the quaint town of Cherish, Michigan. A fictitious town not too far from the small town where I live now. Reading it felt all too familiar.
To Love And To Cherish tells of Pastor Maggie’s first year at Loving the Lord Community Church. In her words:
I thought I was coming here to take care of people, preach remarkable and uplifting sermons, visit the sick and the shut-ins, and be a good shepherdess for these people over all. Why it it I want to strangle so many of the people I profess to love?
And that’s the story in a nutshell. Really, of any church family. We’re called to love one another and sometimes that’s so easy and rewarding. Other times, it’s hard and we have to pray for some serious Divine assistance.
One of the first tasks Pastor Maggie carries out is a funeral. For a man who many found difficult and hard to love. Even his children struggled with nice things to say. There was a fight over where to put the flowers. The pianist, well, she continued to be a unique challenge in every way throughout the book. To top it off, Pastor Maggie wore two different shoes and everyone seemed to notice.
I took such delight in these characters. Things about them reminded me of people I knew. But what I loved most of all is the rhythm of the book. We follow Pastor Maggie for a year (what a year!) and we see new relationships develop, meet many of her own friends and family and have the honor of being flies on the wall during Sunday School sessions, church services and council meetings.
If Pastor Maggie were my preacher, I’d be so proud. She did her job well. The church in return did such a good job of caring for her. The church we read about in this book isn’t perfect. Kind of like my church. And yours. A delightful read.