260: A Gathering of Memories by Charles R. Pinches

by Gerard


260: Pinches, Charles R. A Gathering of Memories: Family, Nation, and Church in a Forgetful World. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006. 170 pp. ISBN 1-58743-104-1.

Dewey Construction:

  • 200: Religion
  • 260: Christian social and ecclesiastical theology

As I dig into my dinner of homemade chicken curry korma tonight (and the inevitable large helping of ice cream after that), along with the flavor, there is another sensation: one of memory. When I was eleven, our family moved to Turkey, and I remembered thinking that that new place wouldn’t be my home; it would just be someone else’s home that we were staying in. While I wasn’t overly dramatic or moribund over the thought of moving (we had moved several times before), it was the first time I can remember the anticipation of changing places and how that would feel.

Very soon after arriving in Turkey, we went out as a family to restaurant in town and ordered things we couldn’t even pronounce yet. Exotic breads with new meats on them came and spices lit up the senses. This all seems like puffery, but if you can remember your first taste of foreign food, it will make sense. There, amid the accents and the sitar playing in the background, we were still a family and this—this—was our new home. Whenever I eat even vaguely Middle Eastern, I am reminded of that day in Turkey. Memory is a wonderful thing.

At that’s what Charles Pinches get at, too, in A Gathering of Memories. His book concerns the place of memory in how we build communities, families, nations, and churches. While it is inevitably centered around Christian ideologies, he still makes a decent point. Without memory (not just factual recall, but experiential memory), are we still whole? And families, nations, and churches are all bodies based on an foundation of memory, of past wisdom, teachings, celebrations, and rituals that help to both bolster and grow the community.

Pinches draws on sources outside the Bible as well. He uses Homer’s Odyssey, Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe, and Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg to further his point. While at times his evangelism gets thick, the general message is pretty clear: memory is who we are, so we should center our lives around the transmission and creation of positive memories to improve the places where people gather. Not a bad lesson to learn.