Is Your Pastor or Priest a Man of Action? Check Out Pastor Stephen Grant in, for example, WINE INTO WATER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL, MURDERER'S ROW: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL and THE RIVER: A PASTOR STEPHEN GRANT NOVEL by Ray Keating

Pastor Stephen Grant?

Stephen Grant is the pastor at St. Mary’s Lutheran Church on eastern Long Island. Grant is one of the more unique second-career clergy around, as he once worked for the CIA. Besides theology, his interests include archery, golf, writing, classic films, the beach, poker, baseball, and history. Grant also knows his wines, champagnes and brews. Oh yes, he generally dislikes politicians, and happens to be an expert marksman with a handgun and a rifle, while being pretty handy with a combat knife as well.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

9-11 Reaction: An excerpt from Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel

The following is an excerpt from Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel. The scene occurs after terrorists set off a string of bombs in New York City. It reflects on the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

     Stephen had talked about the bombings during the Thursday Matins service, and a special Vespers gathering later that night. They were the largest turnouts for mid-week services since the 9-11 attacks, except perhaps an Ash Wednesday here or there. Pastor Grant learned from those earlier acts of terror, however, not to expect the spike in attendance to last.

     After the country’s most deadly day of terror, church attendance at St. Mary’s had jumped by about 50 percent. But roughly a month later, it was back to normal. People came to church in the aftermath of the attacks saying that they sought answers and comfort. Whether finding what they wanted or not, they again stopped coming – except a few more come back on Easter and Christmas.

     At first, Stephen felt responsible, blaming his own distractions and doubts about his pastoral call and desire to get back in the fight against terrorists. He never fully shook off that sense of guilt. But after hearing about and reflecting on the same phenomenon at so many other churches, Grant largely concluded that it wasn’t about him. Nor was it about whether people did or did not find what they came looking for. Instead, he saw a combination of short attention spans, widespread desire for the quick fix, everyday duties once again crowding out the Lord, and people generally looking to God only during the worst times in life. And even then, for many, it was an occasion to question God, rather than seeking out His comfort. Grant came to see that each person had to decide what really mattered. His job was making the case that God was the ultimate priority.

     The impact on Grant this time around was different. No doubts materialized about his calling. Nor was there the near-overwhelming wish to get back in the game. But Stephen also realized that his job helping to protect Pope Augustine may have quenched any lingering subconscious thirst on that front. After all, he was, to some degree, in the game.

     Stephen tried to come up with a sermon that helped people sort through their feelings and responses to the devastating bombings. The usual query he heard in similar times and during natural disasters was: How could God let this happen? Grant wanted them to ask two different questions. First, why do I only come to God in bad times? Second, if I think about God in bad times, shouldn’t I be making time for him in good times as well?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI, Martin Luther and Christianity Today

Powerful speech by Pope Benedict XVI about Martin Luther and the challenges of Christianity today. Could have been given by Pope Augustine, the pope in Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Life, Art, Security and Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel by Ray Keating

In terms of the many reactions that I’ve received regarding this novel about a former CIA agent who becomes a pastor, most interesting are references to various members of the clergy who actually once were in the spy and law enforcement communities.

The idea for Warrior Monk: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel came to me when a friend mentioned that a priest at her parish used to be with the CIA. It was a passing comment, but I immediately thought that would make the basis for a fun novel. Eventually, I wrote the book. But over these past months, I’ve been somewhat surprised to hear about so many more individuals who have followed that path from national security to, if you will, working for security for eternity.

Consider the following comment from an reviewer:

“Keating's protagonist, a CIA field operative who became a Lutheran parish pastor, is not far from reality. Rev. Kavouras and I, like Keating's fictitious Rev. Grant, are ordained ministers of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Among our brothers in ministry are men who in their former lives were military intelligence officers (one was KGB), military base security chiefs, Secret Service agents and organize crime prosecutors. I was one of them. There are professional church workers who were formerly in the technical end of the intelligence community. Warrior Monk is well worth reading.”

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