I’m reading Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad for a new book group I’m in which is reading classic books (you know, all the stuff you read–or didn’t read–in high school and college). I was a bit sceptical, especially when I found out it’s 700 pages long. But I’m loving it! Twain’s writing style and pointed perspective is hilarious. He satirizes Europeans and Americans equally.
As a congregational leader, particularly when we are new to a congregation, we are traversing a foreign country, even if we just moved across town. We bring our own prejudices, and the church members have theirs. Sometimes a clash occurs, or a misunderstanding, as when Twain desperately tried to obtain some soap in a public bath in Italy. If we can maintain our sense of humor, as Twain did so well, we’ll be better able to learn the territory. If we can laugh at ourselves and ask genuine questions, we’ll learn the territory more quickly and avoid the Ugly American reputation.