Monday, November 2, 2009

A Book Club is Born

From a rare friendship, a book club for the homeless is


At the crest of Beacon Hill in a well-appointed room, the

Tuesday morning book club is tearing a novel apart. The story

of the book club, now having marked its one year anniversary,

began with a stunningly unlikely friendship, between two men

from different worlds: Peter Resnik, a high-powered lawyer on

his way to work, and Rob, a homeless man guarding a friend’s

shopping cart on Boston Common.

Through months of daily conversation that began with jokes

and sports talk and gradually delved deeper, they found a common

interest: literature. After sharing a book, they started a book club.

Their story has been told on CBS and You Tube and our

members have seen their story; one of them, Wendy Coe, told

me about it and approached me about potentially starting such

a book club as an extension of our homeless ministry.

Beginning November 3rd, we will start a homeless book club

here at Bethel. We will be one of five such book clubs that we are

aware of in the country: New York, Detroit, Boston, Jackson-

ville and now Madison. Our book club is possible due to a

generous start up donation of $500 from the University Hill

Farms Circle. Bethel members Suzanne Alexander and Norv

Bernhardt will be leading the weekly book club.

Our first book will be “Water for Elephants,” a story set in

the Great Depression about a veterinary student who joins a traveling


In the one year that the Boston book club has been in

existence, it has proved its power to reach homeless people and

build their confidence, filling the gaps left by programs that

offer food and shelter but little or no personal connec-

tion. When talk flows at the book club, the dynamic that

emerges has been powerful. The members are equals, linked

by what they read and respected for their insights. Their dis-

cussions are both a stimulus and respite for people used to

staying focused on survival.

The friendships we have made in our weekly homeless

spiritual support group have been transformative for all of us who

have participated. As we undertake this new mission, we pray that

this ministry can be an effort in helping to restore self esteem and hope.

~Pastor Laura Sutherland

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The average age of a homeless person in Madison is 9 years old.