I still have the Bible -- a King James Version -- that I received when I was confirmed as a member of my hometown church in Illinois in 1958.
Well, I have lots of Bibles, but not many of them are in my collection because they are rare, valuable or ancient. Rather, I collect different translations mostly because I like to compare the word choices translators make. And I have scripture from traditions outside of Christianity for reference purposes.
Still, there is something to be said for ancient family Bibles that can offer bits of history that may not be available elsewhere.
For instance, this story from Minneapolis describes a rare 1767 Bible that a book conservator has just rescued from becoming dust.
The story tells of an old Bible that a man named "Phil Handy had found. . .in his aunt’s Florida attic, wrapped in thin brown paper. The book was unassuming, the size of a fat brick. But for years, Mr. Handy had heard rumors of a family Bible dating back to the Revolutionary War and containing handwritten genealogy information, including dates of birth. . .Mr. Handy, 76, brought the Bible home to Minnesota and began searching for a book conservator. A call led to an email led to a studio in a garage loft in Stillwater, Minn., home to Valkyrie Conservation" and a conservator named Bailey Kinsky.
There is, of course, a difference between valuing any copy of sacred writ for what it says and valuing it for what it's worth in the marketplace.
But between those two ways of thinking about Bibles, Qur'ans and other scriptural texts, there's the idea that individual books may have family stories to tell.
For a long time I kept a Bible that my mother used to use (one of my daughters has it now), and I can see various notes she stuck in the pages and various scribblings in the margins plus some underlined words and phrases. And it told me a little more about what the woman who birthed me thought was important or interesting.
In a weekly group of men I'm part of from my church, we spend part of our time reading the Bible. More and more, guys don't bring a printed copy but reach for their phones and read along on them.
I'm not complaining about that. I do it myself sometimes. But there is something to be said for ink on paper, for heavy Bibles you haul around. One is that what's called the word of God can be heavy in meaning as well as in weight. It's hard to experience that on my smartphone.
Still, I'm glad there are young people, as the Minneapolis story notes, who seem interested in saving old books. Maybe some day 100 or 300 years from now one of the books I've written will show up in some basement bin and be in need of repair. In that case, even if the pages and binding can be saved, it'll be too late to fix some of the writing. By then, of course, I won't care. Much.
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WILL VATICAN FINANCIAL REFORM WORK?
Catholics and people of faith everywhere should be glad that, under the leadership of Pope Frances, reform is coming in the way the church handles its finances, as this RNS story reports. It's clear the overhaul of the Vatican’s financial and judicial system won't be quick or easy. But if religious institutions can't be trusted to handle money fairly and honestly, it undermines faith in the religion itself.
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P.S.: If you missed my latest Flatland column when it posted on Sunday -- it's about Native American spirituality and the work of the Kansas City Indian Center -- you can find it here.