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Spring Edition
Volume 97, Number 4


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Rhonda Jacobsen
Gentle minister pens family history

Gilead, the prizewinning book by Marilynne Robinson, is fiction but reads like autobiography. The storyteller is John Ames, an old congregational minister, who is approaching death and wants to pen a family history for his beloved son who is still a small child. Set in Gilead, Iowa, in 1956, the stories of John’s father and grandfather stretch back to the abolitionist movement and the Civil War. Given that heritage, it is not surprising that the tragedy of American racism weaves its way through the narrative, though this well-told story includes many other themes as well. In particular, Ames has a keen eye for seeing God’s grace in the ordinary elements of life. Acutely aware of his own inadequacies, this gentle minister understands human weakness and failure but ultimately affirms the mystery and beauty of life found in family, friendship, and faith.

—Rhonda Jacobsen is a professor of psychology and assistant dean for faculty development.

Rhonda Jacobsen teaches psychology and directs the faculty development program. Her doctoral degree is from Temple University in Philadelphia, and she has been part of the Messiah community since 1984.  Rhonda thoroughly enjoys her work with both faculty and students and is convinced that their quality really is, as the Prairie Home Companion would say, far above average.

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