When Life Gives You Hardback Lemons, Turn Them Into CD-ROM Lemonade.

Several years ago, the good folks at Westminster/John Knox Press announced a new set of biblical commentaries, a series of twelve volumes on Revised Common Lectionary texts. It is called Feasting on the Word, and it is a massive undertaking. There are four short articles for every scripture text in the lectionary. With four texts per Sunday to choose from and three years in the lectionary cycle, that amounts to some 2,500 articles in all, if my math is right. Read more about the series here.

My first question upon hearing about this series, lo these many years ago, was, “No CD-ROM edition? Ex-squeeze me?” Alas, it appeared not. And the publishers appeared to be proudly “of the book,” writing in their promotional materials, “We offer this print resource for the mainline church in full recognition that we do so in the digital age of the emerging church.” Which, to be honest, I found a bit irritating. Was this some kind of line in the sand? I do not like lugging books around. It is so mid-Gutenberg-era, no? What I DO like is writing sermons in St. Arbucks and especially Panera, which my friend Michael says is Latin for “sermon birthing room.”

But, Feasting is a great resource for lectionary preachers and still well worth having, even in its less ideal (for me) format. So, thanks to a nice discount for contributors, I made the investment.

You know where this is going.

It’s 2011 now, and guess what “proud to be hardbound” series is now available in CD-ROM?
Now that all twelve volumes are sitting on my shelf?


I am choosing to believe that WJK changed their minds about CD-ROM after a groundswell of requests, rather than believing that they had a super secret plan all along to be coy about the CD-ROM, get people to buy the books and only then spring the (searchable and in many ways superior) CD-ROM format on us.

Still, Grr.

After I vented to Robert about this for a moment, I thought, “How can this annoyance become redemptive?” The CD-ROM is way more useful to me and how I work, and I have the book allowance to make it happen, thanks again to a contributor discount that puts it within reach. But I don’t need both the CD and the books… and some people out there might prefer books, but can’t afford the series.


I am giving away my 12-volume Feasting on the Word hardbound commentary.

Between now and Friday, I am taking nominations for worthy recipients. Tell me why you or a friend should be the recipient of this series (which I will ship, book-rate, anywhere in the continental US at no cost to you). New pastor? Recent seminary graduate? Off to serve a small church with minimal resources and not much of a theological library? Tell me why you’re the one.

Leave your nomination in the comments, or if you’d rather keep it private, e-mail it to reverendmother03 (at) gmail (dot) com. Nominations are due at 5 p.m. EDT Friday, May 27.


25 thoughts on “When Life Gives You Hardback Lemons, Turn Them Into CD-ROM Lemonade.

  1. marciglass says:

    That’s interesting. I had a similar thought when I ordered my CD ROM series today. But I have notes written all over the pages of my volumes that I would hate to lose. I can’t quite rid myself of the books yet. And Chuck Campbell gave me my first volume, so there’s no way I’m ever getting rid of that one!

  2. Hallie says:

    I was just at a presbytery wide educator meeting last week, and someone from Louisville gave a presentation on the Feasting Sunday School curriculum. She was very proud of the fact that it’s now all digital. I do have a friend who graduated from seminary last year and is about to start work at his first church next month. He saw the info on the Feasting curriculum on my desk and commented on how great the resources are. His wife is also a pastor and they are looking for ways to build their library.

  3. Kristin says:

    I too found this disconcerting since I only recently purchased the last two volumes I needed to make my collection complete. Don’t have the money to buy the CD-ROM version yet, but may at some point be doing what you are doing now. I would really love to recommend my home pastor to receive the 12 books from you. He would love them–though his wife may want to kill me since she already thinks he has too many books…

  4. NotShyChiRev says:

    I’m figuring out how to swing the book rate thing without losing my shirt, but I’m thinking I will be joining you in this process…perhaps with a Chicago limitation. A great idea.

    My one question is about the format of the electronic version. I have the electronic version of the NIB Bible Dictionary and it is a TERRIBLE, ancient, clumsy internet browswer interface. What does your research tell you about what they are using here?

    Oh, and thanks for the h/t on Panera. 🙂

    • MaryAnn says:

      OK. I just weighed one of the volumes and it was about 2.5 pounds. Rounding up to 3, times 12, that’s 36 pounds, or $16.18 according to the USPS website. Am I reading that right?
      It might end up being a little more, since I’m thinking I’ll send them in more than one shipment just to be less cumbersome.

      And unfortunately I don’t know about the format. I’m going to pose a question on the Feasting FB page and see what they say. I’m hopeful it will not suck. But who knows.

  5. Lisa Cook says:

    I am a candidate for the ministry under the care of the Nashville Presbytery. I have been attending Memphis Theological Seminary for 1.5 years now and hope to graduate by 2013. I have recently started building a library of theological resources. I have half of a commentary series (Interpretation) but had to stop purchasing due to a leave of absence from work to help my mother take care of my father who is in late stages of dementia. To have a full commentary set would be a true blessing for me. Thanks for any consideration…

  6. Catherine Foster says:

    Dear MaryAnn,
    My name is Catherine Foster, and Randal McGee sent me an email about your generous offer. I just graduated from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2010 and am currently serving as a Lilly Resident Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. While FPC is a big church, I only have the privilege of serving here for 12 more months before I will seek a call at a smaller church as a head of staff or associate.
    I was studying at Columbia while many of the professors there were contributing to Feasting on the Word. I would covet the oportunity to read their work and to use this resources as I learn to preach the lectionary.
    After three years of seminary, I am struggling to pay off debts while earning the Presbytery minimum in my current position. There is no way I could afford the resource right now, but I am happy to pay for the shipping. That seems like the least I could do.
    Thank you for your consideration!
    Grace & Peace,
    Catherine Foster

  7. Sarah says:

    Catherine would put the series to good use, MAMD. Hello, Catherine.

    I can’t even afford all the volumes and I work right.where.they.are.generated. I think I own 4…but can walk to the library.

    Michael – good question – it’s one I have, too, as I ponder.

  8. susan says:

    I’ll look forward to hearing what you think of the digital version. I have about half of the FOTW books. I’m torn.

  9. Matthew Baker says:

    I was considering responding on my own behalf (as a recent seminary graduate), and I only have one of the books. It has been a great help to me. However, I browsed the list of responses, and I’d like to put a plug in for Catherine Foster. She was a true friend to me at Columbia, and I know that this would be a blessing to her. She exemplifies what it is to be a pastor. She was always quick with a well thought theological perspective, her excitement about Christ (and life in general) is contagious, and she was one person who would always ask about how my wife was doing. I promise that that this is an unsolicited plug. I believe that she is the person you are looking for to pass along this generous gift.

  10. susan says:

    I’d like to throw my office work-study assistant’s name into the ring. She’s just received a string of big rejections, and is fearful for her future–she has type one diabetes and really needs health insurance.

  11. Andy Acton says:

    I’m a fellow blogger, pastor, CTS alum, followed in your footsteps as student council president at Columbia… and…wait for it…benefitted immensely from the amazing sermon you delivered at my installation for my first call in Maryland in September 2005, and therefore I would become an even better person and pastor to have your commentaries which probably helped you craft said sermon 🙂

  12. Andy Acton says:

    And I have 2 volumes of Feasting On the Word that I will pay forward to someone else or a library. Seriously, I ain’t lying…and I having my own set would prevent me from going into DCE Anna Brown’s office and swiping her New Interpreter’s Commentaries. And I would share my set with other colleagues who needed to borrow them. 🙂 🙂

  13. Kerri says:

    This is great mamd! I’m going to talk JP into doing the same. I’m wondering if there is someone in one of the tornado/flood areas that could benefit.

  14. Andy Acton says:

    dang, after reading all the comments I feel like a selfish jerk. The books should definitely go to someone who really needs them like Catherine Foster or a pastor in a tornado-flood area.

  15. i’m not in need of them, since I’m about to be on sabbatical-by-proxy (husband’s sabbatical) for the fall, but I love that you’re doing this.

  16. Catherine Foster says:

    Hold Up, MaryAnn. What Matthew Baker said about me was sweet, generous, and totally in line with his impeccable character. And you need to know a few things about Matt and seriously consider sending him your resource.
    Before seminary, Matt worked as a carpenter, wait for it . . . making church pews. He and his wife, Liz, moved to Atlanta for seminary, and Liz served as a teacher for autistic and mentally disabled children. Matt was always a gentle, humorous, and prayerful colleague at Columbia.
    Leaning on their faith, Matt and Liz brought their precious daughter Elly Mae into the world before Matt had a call to a church. But the call came . . . to Candor, NC where Matt serves as a solo pastor. He is preaching every week and caring for a whole congregation, wife and baby daughter. Any help and support that could go Matt’s way is needed and richly deserved.

  17. MaryAnn says:

    I’ve gotten some really sweet, touching messages, here and at gmail. So inspiring!

    I want to challenge my fellow pastors to go the distance and give these bad boys AWAY!

    And to my detractors (cough*Keith*cough)… I think you know the rest.

  18. Erica says:

    Oh, pissers!!! Seriously, it just came out on CDROM? And I had started using my book allowance to buy it this year, just as I’m about to MOVE and loose major shelf space…DANG!!!!!

    I just read the stuff above, though, and it is truly humbling.

    When I have a big old bunch of books that I’ve culled from my library, I often donate them to a guy I know by way of my dad (who is a theological librarian at a seminary) who crates up theology books and ships them to international seminaries that are trying to build up their libraries. (I can pass on the information about him if anyone is interested…)

    However, as I dissolve some of my library over the summer with this move, I wish I could find some pastors who have lost their libraries in the US due to disasters to send things to. I am getting rid of a bunch of stuff, and alot of really nice youth and children’s stuff that could be best used in a North American context.

  19. Keith Snyder says:

    I think this is a TERRIFIC idea!

  20. […] enjoyed reading all the nominations of people to receive the Feasting on the Word set. It made me wish I had copies to give to everyone… for everyone seemed to be doing great […]

  21. […] commentary, since I was planning to switch to the electronic version. (You can read about that here and […]

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