Sunday, February 19, 2012
I was intrigued by Tim Owens’ debut novel, The Search Committee, because I’ve spent the last one and a half years on my own church’s search teams for a new children’s minister and a new student minister. Coincidentally, we completed our tasks the week before I read the last chapter in The Search Committee.
Although the search team in Owens’ book is Presbyterian and is looking for a pastor, and I am Southern Baptist and was part of a student minister’s and children’s minister search, I could still relate to the frustrations, triumphs, and bonding experienced by the committee members. In the book, we are introduced to Travis, Dot, Matt, Frankie, Susie, Joyce, and Bill who each represent various archetypes of a southern protestant congregation. The story takes place in North Carolina, but the setting described by Owens is one that any southerner can easily recognize and relate to. The author is careful not to go overboard with the use of southern dialect and stereotypes, but he does portray characters in a way that non-southerners might doubt are accurate. This southern-born and -raised girl can attest to the accuracy, though!
I like the way the author introduces and fleshes out each character, giving equal time to every member of the search committee. We observe not only the interactions of the search team members with each other, but also get glimpses into each member’s past and insight into why they act and react the way they do. The group of seven travels the North Carolina countryside seeking a new pastor, but also learning about life and love alongside each other. Forgiveness, redemption, and hope are themes throughout the book and each play out not only in the individual lives of the characters, but also in the work of the search team as a whole.
I like the way the author incorporates actual sermons throughout the book. We “hear” the same sermons as the search team, and we are able to reflect on them just as the characters do. I also like the well-placed Bible verses and excerpts at the beginning of each chapter from Presbyterian catechisms and Book of Order. They tie in well with each chapter and provide an interesting look into the world of Presbyterian Church order.
Perhaps I enjoyed The Search Committee because it paralleled the work I was doing for my own church as I spent many hours, weeks, and months with an equally varied group of folks. At the very least I can attest to the accuracy of the author’s portrayal of the frustrations and joys we experienced as we searched for the right ministers to make our church whole. His team, like ours, followed God’s lead to find the right person for the right time for their church, and I’m glad to have participated in both of those journeys.
Note: Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of The Search Committee for the purpose of reviewing it.