Books, books, books and more books
Written by Mette Bjergbæk Klausen
These are just some of the answers I got, when I asked members of clergy whether they saw a need for theological books for them and their colleagues and whether they themselves would be using them.
On the table in front of them were the content of one out of six boxes filled with books, which we have received as a donation from Theological Book Network (TBN). Hopefully, this is just the first of many deliveries of books from TBN. We are presently working on two different projects together with them. The first project is where these initial books belong and that is to gather a good library for the Mount Zion Retreat and Training Centre, the construction of which is about to begin in the outskirts of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. As the centre will be some years away, we are setting up a temporary library where people can read the books in the meantime.
The other project is a number of mobile library-boxes for the parishes in Sierra Leone and Guinea, so that members of clergy can borrow them for their sermon preparations, for inspiration and information on relevant issues, to further their education, for spiritual development, and simply for interest, curiosity and thirst for more knowledge.
Books are hard to come by in Sierra Leone. There are two bookshops in the capital, two more in the provinces – for a country double the size of Denmark. Here people can buy bibles, a very scarce selection of new books and a random selection of second-hand books. It is thus very difficult to find books on specific topics, books that are contextually relevant, or to build a library.
Many people in Sierra Leone are illiterate, and even though all members of clergy can read, having grown up and living in an oral culture means that many won’t necessarily rely on reading for information. I was therefore very curious to hear what these different members of clergy would feel about the ideas of different types of libraries. And I was even more interested in seeing how they would react upon seeing the many new books, of which many were written by African theologians and addressing common African issues. Issues such as a biblical response to African Traditional Religions, how to speak the good news to people suffering under poverty or violence, how to impower women in male dominated societies etc.
One by one my guests arrived, and while all took time to greet me politely, they all went quiet, eyes fixed on the table with books, and soon they were lost to their surroundings. Any normal meeting is dominated by talk and laughter. But here I had almost 20 members of clergy, who hadn’t seen each other for a while, and yet the room was almost quiet. Actually, it was not that easy to interview them after that; all were busy examining books, reading a bit here and there before finding another promising title.
Yet, their lack of words certainly gave me crystal-clear answers to my questions! These types of books are deeply desired, and they will be used!