Sacred windows: Recent beliefs additions to the collection

Our selections this month offer a fresh take and plenty of food for thought as they tackle topics as varied as Chinese heroes and myths, teachings by ancient Indian women, the role of the Hindu temple in communities, and Tuvalu climate change implications for God-thoughts. It’s easy to reserve your title and have it delivered to your preferred branch for free.

Christianity in Oceania
As the title suggests, this is a survey of Christianity as applied in Oceania. Each chapter addresses individual countries with demographic information and essays by local writers. It charts patterns of growth and decline, explores major traditions, denominations and movements, and looks at current trends as well as themes such as migration, indigenous spirituality, worship or mission. Most treatments either deal with an individual country or take Oceania as a whole but this book’s strength is in its comprehensive collation of Oceanian countries.

Near-death experience in indigenous religions, by Gregory Shushan.
“In this book, Gregory Shushan explores the relationship between [near death experiences], shamanism, and beliefs about the afterlife in traditional indigenous societies in Africa, North America, and Oceania. Drawing on historical accounts of the earliest encounters with explorers, missionaries, and ethnologists, this study addresses questions such as: Do ideas about the afterlife commonly originate in NDEs? What role does culture play in how people experience and interpret NDEs? How can we account for cross-cultural similarities and differences between afterlife beliefs?”–cover.” (Catalogue)

Faithful disobedience : writings on church and state from a Chinese house church movement, by Wang Yi.
Underground movements of any kind develop unique local perspectives, both resilient and fragile. Key writings from the house church have been compiled, and translated for English speakers. Pastor Wang Yi and his church, Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, share their theological stance on the house church and its complicated relationship to the Chinese government. “This unique resource will be valuable to practical and political theologians as well as readers interested in international relations, political philosophy, history, and intercultural studies.”(publisher)

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Sacred natures : Recent beliefs picks

There’s something for everyone in this edition of recent arrivals. Delve into an unorthodox look into the life of Leonard Cohen from a faith perspective, read about Big Panda and Tiny Dragon’s journey (based on Buddhist principles), consider reconnecting with the sacredness of nature to take our climate change response up another notch, explore Japanese myths underpinning manga or anime, and enjoy the richly researched history of the Jesuits and their influence.

Leonard Cohen : the mystical roots of genius, by Harry Freedman.
Freedman takes a new approach to Cohen’s contribution to our generation by focusing on Biblical and Torah references in his lyrics, which feature multiple allusions to Jewish and Christian traditions and texts, as well as Kabbalah and Zen. “He was as familiar with Christian traditions as he was Jewish. He is not concerned with confessional barriers, they simply impede access to the deep well of spiritual lore from which he draws. This is not a biography but a biographical narrative into the treatment of each song or theme…” (drawn from the publisher’s description)

Hope : a user’s manual, by Pastor MaryAnn McKibben Dana.
“How do we cultivate hope to face each day, even when our efforts don’t bear fruit?” She uses personal anecdotes, bible references and allusions to the plots of the films Superman and The Avengers to lay out a faith-centric vision of hope and offers practices to cultivate it. Filled with a diverse set of conversation partners, this book seeks to be honest about the world’s challenges (climate change, racism, etc.) without giving into despair. “Anger is the appropriate response to injustice, but anger needs the orientation of hope — which says the world could be better — in order to strive for justice. The book’s chapters are satisfyingly short, able to be read in any order, and include practical exercises.” (drawn from Library Journal).

Sacred nature : how we can recover our bond with the natural world, by Karen Armstrong.
“Karen Armstrong argues that if we want to avert environmental catastrophe, it is not enough to change our behaviour: we need to think and feel differently about the natural world — to rekindle our spiritual bond with nature. For most of human history, and in almost all the world’s cultures, nature was believed to be sacred, and our God or gods to be present everywhere in the natural world. When people in the West began to separate God and nature in modern times, it was not just a profound breach with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom: it also set in train the destruction of the natural world. Taking themes that have been central to the world’s religious traditions — from gratitude and compassion to sacrifice and non-violence — Armstrong offers practical steps to help us develop a new mindset to reconnect with nature and rekindle our sense of the sacred.”–Publisher’s description.” (Catalogue)

The Norse, by Morgan Daimler.
Provides an overview of the gods, history, and beliefs of Norse heathen mythology. The author notes that, “heathenry is a diverse spiritual movement” and religious rituals can be flexible. Although designed as an introduction, some of the background descriptions are encyclopedic, such as the Valkyries that transport dead warriors to Valhalla. This book is suitable for both beginners wanting a basic understanding and those wanting to delve deeper.

The God of the Way: a journey into the stories, people, and faith that changed the world forever, by Kathie Lee Gifford.
Rabbi Jason shares wisdom from his Jewish heritage and helps us read Scripture in the cultural context of biblical times. Pulling from the Torah and the New Testament, the authors analyse stories in the Bible and unpack what these passages reveal about how God works and what they can teach us for today.

The journey: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon, by James Norbury.
“..continues the adventures of two unlikely traveling companions as they embark on a path that brings them farther from home, and closer to each other and themselves. When Tiny Dragon feels unhappy, he confides in Big Panda, who leads his friend on a journey to heal his heart. They explore new lands, encounter extraordinary experiences, face demanding challenges, and, ultimately, find contentment. As Big Panda and Tiny Dragon trek further on their trail of acceptance, they learn that changes and challenges are a natural part of life and essential for growth”– Provided by the publisher.” Book One (Catalogue)

The Japanese myths: a guide to gods, heroes and spirits : with 90 illustrations, by Joshua Frydman.
“Modern fans of Japanese film, anime, manga, literature and popular music connect to the images of gods and monsters in the craggy peaks of the islands.” Yet few will understand the long history of Japanese mythology that underpins them. Frydman brings us a great illustrated guide which not only retells the stories, but explores how Japanese mythology has changed over time, with new gods, heroes, and spirits.

The Jesuits : a history, by Markus Friedrich.
Since Ignatius of Loyola in 1540, the Society of Jesus (“The Jesuits”) has been intimately involved in the development of the modern world. Jesuit order played a crucial role in the Counter Reformation, the establishment and spread of European empires, via missionary activity in east and south Asia, and South America, and are leaders in Catholic education and theology. In 2013 Jorge Bergoglio became the first Jesuit Pope, taking the name Pope Francis I. Drawing on his expertise as a (non-Catholic) historian, Friedrich situates the Jesuit order within the wider perspective of European history.

Women of influence: recent beliefs arrivals

One of the strengths of the modern era is the celebration of diverse voices. These voices have always been present, but may have been lost in the crowd, or over-looked for a variety of reasons. This list contains several additions to our collection which begin to explore these different perspectives – from the first biography of the woman who raised Buddha, to the Muslim Princess who became a British spy during World War Two.

Te Hāhi Mihinare = the Māori Anglican Church, by Hirini Kaa.
Anglicanism arrived in New Zealand with the first English missionaries in 1814 but was spread widely by Māori evangelists. They profoundly influenced some key iwi, who adapted and made it their own. The ways in which Mihinare (Māori Anglicans) engaged with the settler Church in New Zealand and created their own unique church is an important narrative in NZ church history. This ground-breaking addition explores the birth, development and challenges in the ongoing life of Te Hāhi Mihinare.

The woman who raised the Buddha : the extraordinary life of Mahāprajāpatī, by Wendy Garling
“In this first full biography of Mahaprajapati, The Woman Who Raised the Buddha presents her life story, with attention to her early years as sister, queen, matriarch, and mother, as well as her later years as a nun. Drawing from story fragments and canonical records, Wendy Garling reveals just how exceptional Mahaprajapati’s role was as leader of the first generation of Buddhist women, helping the Buddha establish an equal community of lay and monastic women and men.” (Catalogue)

Warriors, witches, women : mythology’s fiercest females, by Kate Hodges.
Explore 50 of mythology’s fiercest females in this modern retelling of great legends – from feminist fairies to bloodsucking temptresses, half-human harpies and protective Vodou goddesses. Meet Circe, The righteous Furies, fun-loving Ame-no-Uzume, the fateful Morai sisters. Fire your imagination and be empowered by this great anthology of notorious, demonised and overlooked women.(drawn from the Catalogue)

Women of the Vatican : female power in a male world, by Lynda Telford.
Telford explores the lives of women who have had personal and unofficial influence at the Vatican over the centuries. The women discussed in this book include mistresses as well leaders such as Catherine de Medici, Empresses Maria Teresa of Austria and Catherine of Russia. This makes some controversial claims, but it explores the Catholic Church’s sometimes overlooked different power bases.

Affirming : a memoir of faith, sexuality, and staying in the church, by Sally Gary.
“In this deeply personal memoir, Sally traces the experiences, conversations, and scriptural reading that culminated in her seeing her sexuality as something that made sense within the context of her faith–not outside of it or in opposition to it. … Sally’s story–one of heritage, learning, courage, and love–is written especially for the generations of LGBTQ Christians after her who are questioning whether they can stay part of the church they call home.” (Catalogue)

Amazing Muslims who changed the world, by Burhana.
Meet just some of the amazing Muslim men and women who have changed our world – from pirate queens, nurses, warriors, scientists, actors, and mathematicians, to courageous ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things. Who was the first scientist to prove theories about how light travels, hundreds of years before Isaac Newton? Who was the Indian Princess who became a British spy during WWII? (drawn from the Catalogue)

Faith after doubt : why your beliefs stopped working and what to do about it, by Brian D. McLaren.
McLaren, a former pastor and now an author, speaker, and activist shows how old assumptions are being challenged in nearly every area of human life, not just theology and spirituality. He proposes a four-stage model of faith development – Simplicity, Complexity, Perplexity, and Harmony – and offers a path forward that can help sincere and thoughtful people leave behind unnecessary baggage and intensify their commitment to what matters most.” (drawn from the Catalogue)

The book of queer prophets : 24 writers on sexuality and religion
As the title suggests, this is a thoughtful exploration of faith in the modern era: How does it feel to be excluded from a religious community because of your sexuality? Why do some people still believe being LGBT is a sin? Jeanette Winterson tackles religious dogma, Amrou Al-Kadhi writes about trying to make it as a Muslim drag queen in London, John Bell writes about his decision to come out later in life, and Kate Bottley explains her journey to becoming an LGBT ally.

Hope in times of fear : the resurrection and the meaning of Easter, by Timothy Keller
The different Resurrection accounts of Jesus in the Gospels agree that Jesus’ female followers were the first to visit the empty tomb. Yet none of his most loyal and steadfast followers recognised him at first. Nothing had prepared even his disciples for that moment when they met the resurrected Jesus. All physically saw him and yet did not truly see him. It was only when Jesus invited them to see who he truly was that their eyes were open. Read about the meaning of Easter as the central message of the Christian faith.