What with Easter and Confirmation Sunday, we’ve had a couple weeks when worship has been eventful, impassioned, and personally engaging. Anyone care to make it three? On Sunday I preach sharing some ideas of my new book, Sex and the Spirit: the Romance of Heaven and Earth, co-written with Rev. Verlee Copeland. Do I have your attention now?
Let me explain. Some of you are aware that I’ve authored a couple books. Fewer still are aware that I’m about to publish my third. I’m not very good at self-promotion, and frankly, don’t care to be. But if I didn’t share something about this new book, it would be peculiar.
The concept for my third book emerged on an island 30 miles off the coast of Venezuela during a 2009 Lilly Endowment-sponsored sabbatical. I rented a charming villa owned by a Norwegian family, and flew in several other pastor-authors planning our next books, all on Lilly’s dime. We met and talked in this gorgeous two-story library within that villa home.
We went around the circle, sharing ideas for future work. Sometimes we kid each other that writing practical theology, we author rare books. Except that our rare books are new. We work very hard on these books, but they don’t sell more than a few thousand in a day when the Christian audience shrinks in America, and fewer and fewer people read books.
Anyway, when it was my turn to share with the group, I proposed a sequel to my first work on spiritual authority. Silence descended. Finally, a pastor piped up, saying, “That sounds nice, Dale, but also pretty boring.” (Oh no, not another rare book!) “Why don’t you and Verlee write a Christian book on sex instead? It needs to be written. Folks would buy it.”
Verlee (of installation and wedding fame) and I looked at each other. When we staffed a Colorado church, she once offered a class on sexuality. But unlike our other well-attended classes, nobody actually showed up. Actually, one elder lady did arrive. When Verlee asked her where everybody was, she said, “Nobody wants to talk about sex with their pastor, Verlee.” So how can we get a practical theology of Christian sexuality out there?
Then the light bulb lit. Should we write a book from both male and female perspectives, and put it out there where people can read it without having any church static interfere, much as responsible parents leave out books on the birds and bees for youths to find?
Fifteen years later our pastor-author friends were challenging us to write this very book.
Sex and the Spirit features 24 chapters on subjects like is it possible to be spiritual and sexual? What do women fantasize about? What makes men tick? Can sex be holy? How can I put passion back in to my long term-relationship? Am I getting too old for intimacy?
That last chapter has been made available, (at this link) along with our introduction, as a preview by our publisher, Pilgrim Press. As I write a chapter, Verlee writes a counterpoint, and vice versa. Pilgrim Press, reinventing itself having almost gone out of business after becoming America’s first publisher in 1620, has hired a publicist for the first time. That’s how eager and motivated they are. Pilgrim Press now moves toward the spirituality of everyday life, leading with our new book. Have a look and see what you think. If this piques your curiosity, more will unfold on Sunday morning.