An Ode to the Saint James Devotional Guide

Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 7.25.08 AMAn Ode To The Saint James Devotional Guide, By Michelle Van Loon

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When my husband and I went to our first home school convention in 1992, we expected to discover curriculum and how-to’s. My husband picked up a sample of a devotional booklet from an exhibitor on our way out the door at the end of the day. In a sea of vendors hawking brightly-colored curriculum promising academic success and spiritual bulletproofing to prospective home school families, we nearly overlooked the modest table from a group calling itself The Fellowship of Saint James.

Frankly, I think the “Saint” in their name kept some conferees from stopping at their booth. The state home school convention in those days catered exclusively to the fundamentalist and conservative Evangelical crowd. That “Saint” signaled something a little too…non-fundamentalist.

The Fellowship of Saint James was offering from their little booth something the complete opposite of just about everything else in the convention hall: a vanilla-covered quarterly devotional booklet comprised of readings, references to the liturgical calendar, some scholarly-but-deeply-devotional notes on some of the readings, and bits of prayers from Anglican, Orthodox, and Catholic sources.

Though we attended that home school convention for many years afterward, we never saw again representatives from the Fellowship Of Saint James, also publishers of the conservative, lower-case c catholic Touchstone magazine, at the convention. I later heard that this was the only time the Fellowship made an appearance at this particular convention.

To this day, I am grateful our paths crossed at the close of that convention. The Saint James daily devotional guide has been a constant in the spiritual formation of my husband and I. The guide is compiled by Father Patrick Henry Reardon, an Antiochan Orthodox priest with a wonderfully ecumenical resume: he’s an alumnus of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and has taught at two Episcopal seminaries.

For nearly a quarter of a century, the St. James Devotional Guide has sustained my husband and me with its thoughtful selection of daily readings that follows the church calendar while covering the entire Bible in two years. In addition, there are morning and evening Psalm suggestions drawn loosely from the Book of Common Prayer.

Certainly, of the creating of Bible reading plans, there is no end. On a basic level, the plan is not the point. Scripture reading should help us grow in reverence and knowledge of God, show us how to lives pleasing to him, and shape the way in which we relate to others.

The readings in the Saint James guide follow the rhythms of the church calendar, making note of both Eastern (Orthodox) and Western dating and major feast days. For years, our family attended congregations that didn’t pay much heed to that calendar beyond Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. Our daily devotional reading awakened my husband and me to the historic rhythms of time and worship in the Church beyond the four walls of our local congregation. Those rhythms have amplified the truths of God’s Word in my life and helped me connect to its larger story. That free sample of the Saint James devotional guide was for us the most enduring piece of curriculum we brought home with us from that long-ago home school convention.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.