Christian Formation


Our next read is Rascal by Sterling North. We will be meeting via Zoom on September 23 at noon.


Sterling North’s Rascal is a gem I re-discovered by reading to my kids. It is a story supposedly about a raccoon, but really about North’s boyhood growing up in Wisconsin during World War I — the war that affected everything yet, compared to the decades that followed, changed so little of essential American life. He narrates the story as an adult, retelling a treasured part of his childhood from the perspective of his eleven-year-old self.

Sterling’s mother died a few years before this book begins, and his father was loving but preoccupied with work, so North had a boyhood of freedom and responsibility that was unusual even at the time. It seems to have worked out well. North remembers his boyhood self as industrious, compassionate, curious, and honorable even at significant personal cost.

From working as a newspaper boy, to spending days alone in the forest (save for his pet raccoon), to building a canoe with his own money in the family living room, Sterling lived an adventurous, self-sufficient boyhood that reads as very wholesome. He kept a menagerie of adopted animals, some domesticated, some not, and tells about their habits with the familiarity of long acquaintance.

“All my friends in this book, both animals and humans, were real, and appear under their rightful names.
A few less lovable characters have been rechristened.
— Sterling North

Even as a boy, North seems to have been a keen observer of character. He tells of crows and cats, lumber dealers and leather-men with the same frankness and sense of humor. In their various responses to his strong-willed, beautiful, destructive, affectionate pet raccoon, he plumbs the depths of their natures in a way that could be startling, if it weren’t so gentle and natural-feeling. There was a lot of laughter in the room when we were reading.

It is in this open-eyed wonder and curiosity, shared by raccoon and boy, that Rascal’s value truly lies. Sterling wrestles with a lot of big problems: The loss of his mother, the great war, the town bully, how to reconcile biological evolution with the book of Genesis, and finally the loss of his pet raccoon. His boyhood conclusions may not always be strictly orthodox, but his attitude of humble generosity to his fellow creatures always is.

North has a wonderful writing style that is evocative without being ornate, and clean without being stingy. It’s well balanced, too: rhythmic alliterative passages winsomely portray the beauty of Wisconsin’s wild areas; short and punchy sentences bring the action to life. It’s a thorough pleasure to read aloud.

Whether you’re looking for a “living book” to enrich your family’s nature studies, or a tale of goodness to read for pure enjoyment, adopt Rascal for a while. I think you’ll like him.

Happy reading!


All gatherings for Canterbury Cinema have been postponed until further notice. If you have access to films you might want to order the following that were selected for viewing. We will look forward to the time when we can gather together again.

RBG – the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (2018)
RBG is a delightful, inspiring film on the Notorious RBG, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, giving us the backstory the 86-year-old Supreme Court justice who has become a pop culture icon. Long before she became known as the Notorious RBG, Ginsberg was a brilliant legal mind who was a courtroom ground-breaker in the battle for women’s rights. We are introduced to a host of friends, family and colleagues of RBG, in an inspiring recap of her life of hard work and determination. The film also recaps the wide-spread discrimination women faced in the work place, and throughout society, in the 1950s.

The Strike (2006)
This fictionalized biopic of a respected Polish labor activist is nicely balanced between the political and the personal. “Strike” tells how the dismissal of aging crane operator Anna Walentynowicz provided the spark for the Solidarity trade union. Solidarnosc would later effectively bring down the Communist government in Poland. The story covers events in the Gdansk shipyard from 1970 through 1980. Anna heads the women’s wing of the shipyard union. The Communist party bosses not only exploit the shipyard workers, but they ignore safety regulations to increase productivity.

On the Waterfront (1954) Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint. 8 Academy Awards
Terry Malloy dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny’s thugs, and later meets the dead man’s sister and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry, who tries to force him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers.

The Post (2017) Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks. Nominated for two Oscars. 18 wins, 113 Nominations
A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between the press and the government. With the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Kay Graham, owner of The Washington Post, must decide whether to back down for the safety of her paper or publish and fight for the Freedom of the Press. In doing so, Graham and her staff join a fight that would have America’s democratic ideals in the balance.

CHRIST IN CRISIS: Why we Need to Reclaim Jesus by Jim Wallis, will be the basis for a five to six week study discussing two chapters each week. We will meet via zoom on Thursdays at 10 a. m beginning on June 18. If you are interested in joining the study please contact Betsy Rogers at Books are available in the outside mailbox at church. Anyone interested is encouraged to take one.