One of the gifts of my TV-free childhood was that I spent a lot of time reading. This was less true of my siblings, but for me, I filled with books the spaces my peers filled with television.
Too many children grow up without enough to eat. I grew up feeling like there wasn’t enough to read. I read and re-read all the books we owned, and made good use of our public library.
The more I read, the faster I read. My mother was sure I wasn’t reading every word (and she was right–I think that I somehow take a snapshot of whole paragraphs, whole pages), but every time she quizzed me about the content of a book I was reading, I was able to answer her questions correctly.
As I move into my fifth decade (wow, writing that made me stop in my tracks), there is finally enough to read. Books, yes. But also innumerable blogs and other online content.
There was a time when clergy were among a town’s few well-read residents. A minister often had a personal library, and shared ideas gleaned from that library and other reading with members of his congregation. The minister was a conduit of learning and information.
Times have changed. Literacy levels have risen dramatically since then. Many people have personal libraries, access to public libraries, and to a torrent of online content, much of it free.
These changed times call for a new ministry of reading. Not one limited to the clergy, but a shared ministry performed by all those called to it.
One of my heroes in this ministry of reading is Doug Muder, who writes The Weekly Sift. Doug’s blog gathers the news of the week, explores it from a liberal perspective, and provides a bounty of links to the sources that informed his writing.
My own ministry of reading is wider, and less deep. I’ve subscribed to 269 blogs in Google Reader. I’ve “liked” a wide variety of pages on Facebook, and they send more information my way. I have an app called Pulse on my iPod Touch, and I read more there. I read the New York Times online, though my patterns may shift with the new pay-to-read policy. I share the most interesting of all this reading on Facebook and Twitter (more the first, less the latter).
We live in a time of information overload. Some of us have that time and inclination to sift through that information, gathering up the parts that interest us, the pieces that seem valuable, important. And that is a ministry, a ministry of reading.