Continuing with our series of interviews with Eastern Christian authors about their recently published books, today we present Fr. William (Bill) Mills, whose website is here and blog here.
He is a prolific author of numerous recent books, including Our Father: A Prayer for Christian Living and one of my favorites, The Prayer of St. Ephrem: A Biblical Commentary. Additionally, he has written several scriptural commentaries, liturgical-festal commentaries, and produced a very useful anthology (which should be on the curricula of seminaries), Called to Serve: Readings on Ministry from the Orthodox Church.
His most recent book is the one we sat down to discuss:
A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal (Paulist Press, 2010), 176pp.
Please tell us about your background:
WM: For the past eleven years I have served as the rector of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC. Our parish is a mixture of “cradle” Orthodox as well as recent converts to the faith. We also have a very international mix with parishioners from India, Eastern Europe, Syria, Georgia, Eritrea, Peru, and Russia. The cultural and religious diversity makes for a great coffee hour on Sunday!
During my pastorate I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Pastoral Theology. I have always been interested in the intersection between scripture, liturgy, and pastoral care, how these areas are related. My pastoral work has informed my scholarship, reading, and research which in turn has effected my pastoral work: the two go hand-in-hand. When you hear confessions, perform weddings, conduct funerals, lead council meetings, and deal with all sorts of joys, pains, trials, and troubles you draw from the rich liturgical and pastoral resources that we have in the Eastern Church. My reading and research has clearly effected my preaching, teaching, and pastoral care. In many ways I have one foot in the academy and one foot in the Church. A pastor must have his hand on the pulse on the culture and the Church at the same time. I am always interested in how we as clergy can convey the best of our Eastern heritage in a way that is meaningful and “down to earth.”
Tell us why you wrote this book:
WM: The reason why I wrote A 30 Day Retreat: A Personal Guide to Spiritual Renewal is to bring people into greater and deeper conversation with the Word of God. As a pastor I realize that parishioners know very little about the Bible yet at the same time they want to know what God is saying to them. I wanted to write a book that was easy to read, down to earth, and simple. Voila, a 30 Day Retreat was born! Each chapter is a short pastoral reflection on a passage from the New Testament and includes a Food for Thought section, a series of questions for discussion, reflection, or journaling.
What about your own background led you to the writing of this book?
WM: I consider myself an educator. I have taught Scripture in a small Christian college as well as a large secular research university. My students ranged from committed Christians to those who were barely Christian to agnostics. My job was to teach the Bible to these people, which wasn’t always easy, yet I had to convey the same message to a wide range of students and their varied religious background.
Are there similar books out there, and if so, how is yours different?
WM: There are a wide range of books on Christian spirituality--just peruse any major bookstore! My book was written for a large ecumenical audience. Anyone from a Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, or Episcopal background could pick up my book and get something from it. The Word of God is meant for anyone and everyone and my book is a testimony for the ecumenical nature of the Word of God.
Sum up briefly the main themes/ideas/insights of the book
WM: Basically that the Word of God is meant to be read, studied, prayed over and over again. Everyone needs time away for rest and renewal and what better way than to spend 30 Days with the Scriptures. Buy a copy of a 30 Day Retreat for yourself and a copy for friends and family: you won’t be disappointed!