Friends at the American Cathedral,
I’m looking forward to arriving at the Cathedral in a few weeks to take up my summer work as your Theologian in Residence, and I wanted to give you a quick update on what I’ll be doing among you in June and July. I’m finishing up a literary novel this summer about an American journalist who falls for a Muslim woman in Paris against the backdrop of the 2016 Nice terror attack (with some important scenes actually taking place at the Cathedral!). It’s the first novel I’ve written since 2013, when I wrote The Prodigal, and I’m excited not just about my first book inspired by Paris, but about the way this very contemporary story deals with serious issues of prejudice, terror, interfaith relations, and the difficulty of faith, period.
During my first week with you, I’ll be going over to Cambridge to spend several days working with past Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. We’re recording a series of conversations between us for a book that will be out next spring from Church Publishing. In it we’ll talk about theology, culture, creativity, beauty, friendship, The Church, and anything else that strikes our fancy. You may or may not know that in addition to being perhaps the world’s greatest living theologian, Rowan is also an acclaimed poet, translator, and playwright. He’s also a huge fan of literature and culture, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we talk about my novels (and fiction in general), my work in exploring culture for meaning, and Doctor Who, which we both love.
I’m also working on a book for Oxford University Press revolving around my recent work exploring American films and the myths and narratives about race and prejudice that they communicate. Last summer, some of you will remember that we discussed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Crash in Sunday Forums and did a public screening of Moonlight in the Cathedral nave. Since then, I’ve curated a weekend of film screenings and discussions at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, and done similar programs around the US. My book (tentatively called History Writ with Lightning) will begin with 1915’s Birth of a Nation and end with last year’s Get Out, and I plan to write several chapters while I’m in Paris with you this summer.
I’ll also be preaching and teaching my first Sunday in the community (July 1), and look forward to being at worship with you every Sunday during my residency. If you don’t see me wandering around on other days, I think the three books I’m working on will explain why! Thanks to Dean Lucinda Laird for this continued opportunity to work among you, and thanks to the many of you who have offered your support and encouragement. It’s an honor to represent you, and for the past year, wherever I've gone to speak, I’ve been delighted to tell people about the good work and great people of the American Cathedral in Paris.
Jeanie and I look forward to seeing you very soon!
Grace and peace—
Theologian in Residence