Four books by the Rev. Dr. Roger Douglas, former Rector of St. Philip’s, were recently donated to the Renouf/Nelson Library. Look for the special display in the Library.
The Pilgrim Season: Finding Your Real Self in Retirement, 2000
The Rev. Dr. Roger Douglas served as Rector of St. Philip’s In The Hills Episcopal Church from 1976 to 2000. His ministry touched the lives of many people in Tucson and beyond. The parish grew to an influential Christian community nationally and within the Diocese of Arizona. In the early spring of 2000 he preached his last sermon and processed down the center aisle into retirement after 44 years as an ordained priest.
Now what? In The Pilgrim Season Dr. Douglas writes about his transition in language that is touching and inspiring. He cites many authors in his writing who influenced him and helped him on the journey of retirement — Carl Jung, Dag Hammarskjöld, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, C. S. Lewis, Anne Lamott, Elie Wiesel, and Rainer Maria Rilke, to name just a few. I cite two paragraphs from his writing to stir your curiosity and invite you into the book.
In the preface of the book, the Rev. Dr. Douglas writes: “As an Episcopal priest of 44 years, I gleaned many bits of wisdom from a vast range of parishioners and colleagues who had faced or were facing a transition from a vibrant, working stage of life to a stage sometimes categorized as ‘over the hill.’ Then … I too was faced with transition. In the process I lost some important parts of me. I lost a piece of my identity. A short while earlier I had been the Reverend Dr. Roger O. Douglas, rector. Suddenly I became just plain Roger Douglas. Sure, ‘the Reverend’ is still there, but I no longer have a community that looked to me as one of its leaders. Now my community … is my wife, my family, and my friends.” (p. 13)
He ends his book with this statement: “The last word is to see yourself as a pilgrim on a sacred journey as you face retirement. Always remember, as Lao-tse said 2,500 years ago, the longest journey begins with a single step. I invite you to take that first step as you walk together with God.” (p. 151)
Letters to Mark: Some Practical Advice as You Begin Your Ministry, 2013
The letters in this book by the Rev. Dr. Roger Douglas book were inspired by a series of meetings with a recent seminary graduate. Seminary students are trained in theology, Greek, and the Bible but are not prepared for the management of a parish and the intricacies of the work as a parish minister.
The book is written in three sections: 1) Welcome to the New Job; 2) A Few Things You Might Have Missed in Seminary; and 3) When Things Go Wrong. The author gives practical advice to the new priest and pastor, but it is also a good read for parishioners as well. A parishioner will find insight about ministry that is not appreciated in the toss and tumble of finances, falling church attendance, and the lack of lay people willing to support the ministries they say they want.
The Sacred Dance: New Possibilities for Later Life, 2014
The Rev. Dr. Roger Douglas writes about an issue we all face, growing older. The preface is written by a member of the affiliated clergy at St. Philip’s and Social Services Director of Casa de la Luz hospice in Tucson, Dr. Frank Williams. He points out two problems with aging: “the attitude of society toward the old, and the attitude of the old to being old.” (p. vii)
Rev. Douglas cites many authors in this book, but this reviewer is especially fond of the citations from the poet Mary Oliver. One is from The Summer Day and found on page nine.
“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
A more lengthy citation from Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes is found on pages 60–62. It is here that the author first makes reference to growing old as a “Sacred Dance”: “… You realize with Jeremiah said: ‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the Lord, I will put my law in the minds, and write it on their hearts.’ Somehow you are finding the prayers you said with your lips are taking hold in your heart. What was formerly seen as impediments to growth are now viewed as stepping stones to a broader view of creation? What was seen as stumbling and falling down is now viewed as part of a sacred dance. It need not be overlooked.” (p. 60)
Chapter fourteen, entitled “The Sacred Dance,” clarifies metaphor further. “… This is a sacred dance, the celebration of life, the stepping through the gates of heaven into the arms of God. In this dance you stand with your feet planted in reality… The message of the sacred dance is this: Do not worry about appearing odd or different. Do not be mindful with what is beyond your control. Your dance may not be the same as your neighbor’s. Don’t be concerned about the right steps. Just remember nobody looks natural when they dance. When you cease asking for guarantees and stop demanding certainty, your feet will take care of themselves. Dancing the sacred dance is the clue to maturity in the second half of live.” (p. 95)
Letting Go: One Golfer’s Journey, 2015
“My motivation for writing about the golf experience was that I found myself puzzled by the contradictions inherent in the game. The more I tried to improve, the worse I seemed to play… It was only when I began thinking of golf as a mystery, not to be solved but to be embraced, that new understandings emerged. When I played the game with this in mind, I was able to accept that one could never predict what would happen from one day to the next. Golf, like life itself, had a perverse refusal to be packaged, managed, or even predicted…” (p. 3)
The author’s bibliography will surprise you, especially if you are a golfer. Here is a sample:
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll; The Power of One, by Eckhart Tolle; Falling Upward by Richard Rohr; Discernment, by Henri Nouwen; Anthem, by Leonard Cohen; and The Missing Piece, by Shel Silverstein.
As you surmise, this book is about life and not a “how to” golf manual. He heads the final chapter, “The Last Chapter,” with a quotation from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “’But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked. ‘Oh you can’t help that,’ said the Cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’ ‘How do you know I am mad,’ said Alice. ‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’”
Rev. Douglas’s final statement reminds us of life and it difficulty. “…We discover the game of golf within ourselves. Nothing need be changed, but everything can be different. Just don’t forget to smell the flowers, rejoice at the grass beneath your feet, be thankful for the sun and the clouds, delight in the wind as it caresses your face. And remember this is a game to be enjoyed.” (p. 68)
—R. R. Kuns, 2016
Richard Kuns writes reviews of books that can be found in the Renouf/Nelson Library at St. Philip’s