a new novel by Eleanor Johnston

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Introducing Churchland!

Churchland, the book that so many people (especially Wayne) have helped out with (proofreading etc), is now available. People who are involved in churches react to the book as outspoken and at times funny. People who are mildly interested in church find the institution more complex than they imagined. People who are conservative acknowledge that the protagonist treats their beliefs with respect. People who live in a clergy couple or family say, “This is my story! The main character and her sister blurt out what I am thinking but what I’m afraid to say.”

A story that addresses

  • same-sex weddings
  • women priests and bishops
  • sexual and verbal abuse
  • climate change

A book for

  • stressed-out clergy
  • their smiling spouses
  • lay workers: the talented, the organized and the obsessed
  • anyone concerned about the future of mainstream churches

A novel that can make you

  • think twice: “How can we can stop the bullying in our church?”
  • wonder: “What will be the function of our church in the near future?”
  • worry: “Will humanity destroy our species by despoiling our own habitat?”
  • hope: “Can loneliness can be replaced by love, and wrong by justice?”
  • laugh as you recognize classic Anglican types: “High and crazy, broad and hazy, low and lazy.”
  • make “cradle Anglicans” proud and the rest of us a little jealous.

Thoughts from the Author

I’ve written the book. Now it’s your turn — to read, and hopefully really enjoy the read. Its topics—especially climate change, safe church and shrinking churches — are relevant now.

The book tells what it’s like to be a person—clergy or laity— involved in a mainstream church in 2012-2013. It articulates ideas and ironies that many believers notice but are discretely careful to avoid expressing to anyone else. Another interested audience involves readers who want to learn about Anglican traditions and history. As well, church-goers having problems with repeating the ancient creeds and/or struggling with new theologies will, in reading this book, find reassurance and understanding.

This book might be especially interesting to young priests, newly-ordained/middle-aged priests, gay priests, spouses of priests.

My goal is to ‘get it out there’ soon. Hopefully it will be welcomed by groups and by individuals struggling to understand the interface of religion, spirituality, science and environmentalism.

Praise for Churchland

At the end of chapter three I realized I was really enjoying this novel. It has a terrific RHYTHM—it really flows along. Also, what happens to the characters is not at all predictable.

Having finished reading the final chapter, I say, “Bravo!” (The pedant would say “Brava!”) It is a thoroughly GOOD READ. It sounds REAL—NOT CONTRIVED. I thought chapter five was BRILLIANT.

Sean Foley, LSM
Retired Legal Aid Lawyer,

A Christmas Eve Service You Won’t Forget!
This book demands discussion.
Sometimes comic, sometimes sad and often serious, this tale set in small-town Ontario speaks to all those concerned about falling church membership. Readers will recognize the folk of All Saints Jordan Harbor Anglican as their new, young, female priest provides them with an insightful and provocative glimpse into the challenges of the ‘New’ or ‘Progressive’ Christianity of our time. Will she solve their problems or make matters worse? Will changing doctrine attract young people or just drive the older stalwarts away? Can intellectual environmentalists and spiritual seekers find a home in the new church? The competing claims of science, theology, the environment and social justice are all compressed into a snow-packed stretch of time from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night and Epiphany during which the reader is forced to pay close attention to rapidly-moving scenes. This thoughtful and entertaining novel will raise many questions—and eyebrows. Churchland should appeal to a wide audience both within and outside the church.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

Jean Stewart
Presbyterian laywoman and writer
(Eleanor’s first cousin once removed)

There is no doubt that the setting and subject matter of the story will be of interest to those who have an interest in the church in general and in the Anglican Church in particular!

There is a wealth of information delivered throughout the forward movement of the story that creates a credible world within which the plot develops and the characters act out their various personae.
The characters are stable in presentation so that reading is genuinely enjoyable; they are carved out as strong personalities and this makes their exchanges credible.

The writing is very steady and strong. There is a very thorough and trustworthy tone to the whole enterprise. Nicely done!

Rev Max Woolaver
Parish Priest of St. Andrew’s, Grimsby
Poet and composer
Full review here.

I was thoroughly absorbed in Churchland, chuckling in enjoyment of its succinct style. The choice of words is impeccable, and the story flows beautifully. Eleanor writes with the pithy adroitness of Jane Austen.
The pageant was hilarious and the near-seduction was surprising. The interaction of the two sisters is great because it allows the exploration of issues. The book does a super job of church history, breaking it into manageable paragraphs of interplay between the sisters.
The comment that The Book of Alternative Services is obsolete points to the need for clergy to create new liturgies. Recently this was thought daring and now it is seen as normal. My husband said, “Someone has to think it through on behalf of the rest of the population.” This is a reason for ministry.
The theme of the journey into a new theology is boldly tackled and almost excruciatingly vivid. It will be appreciated by all clergy and their spouses. Marcia’s rants are oh so heartfelt and cover so many present controversies such as women priests, lesbians, the Old Boys network. Sadly, extremists of all faiths make it tough for those living a life of faith, justice, peace and love.

Elizabeth Whitton,
Intercessor, St. Paul’s Church, Fort Erie

Barb and I like the writing style. Each character has his/her own voice and that is entertaining. Love the humor, especially in the dialogue with her sister. The humor fleshes both of their characters out and helps us understand their relationship and why Marcia relates to the congregation the way she does.

Rev Alfred Dumont
Retired minister of St. John’s United Church,
First Speaker of the All Native Circle Conference of the United Church,
(Wayne’s best man)

Just finished reading Churchland by Eleanor Johnston. A wonderful novel about women, faith communities, leadership, power and love.

The Reverend Canon Marni Nancekivell,
Secretary of Synod,
Diocese of Niagara

I’m not sure how a copy of Churchland arrived at my office door – but I thank you for the wonderful contribution to our Author’s Corner. You should be proud of your accomplishments!!
Thank you again – and keep up the writing/publishing!!!!!

Kelly Neill,
Development Officer/Alumni Relations at Ridley

I have just finished reading Churchland (2014) by our Niagara author and teacher, Eleanor Johnston. I want to add my praise for her most ingenious novel. It is both factually informative regarding the history of the Church and how our
Church traditions developed, and edifying in dealing with the realities of church life today in a fictional Anglican parish here in Niagara. The daily interactions of her most human characters, both clergy and lay, are often disturbingly familiar to us in the church, while at other times the events are shocking!

Thanks to Eleanor Johnston’s knowledge, experience and insight, her expressive Anglican characters enable us to laugh at ourselves, to recognize our own fear of change in the Church, and to understand better how determination and courage guided with genuine kindness and respect for the well-being of others in the parish struggling on their journey as Christians can allow the parish to grow and evolve into the all inclusive Family of God that Jesus proclaimed. Johnston encourages us to embrace the liberation and empowerment offered us through UNDERSTANDING the inclusive Way of Jesus as revealed through modern biblical scholarship and progressive Christian theology (read Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan and John Shelby Spong.)

Heather Brinkman,
contributor to the Niagara Anglican


Churchland and Eleanor in Niagara Anglican

Discussion Questions

Species of Churches and Churchgoers

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