It’s never really fair to ask a new columnist to describe his writing before the first piece has even appeared in print.
The thing to do is check it out and then decide for yourself.
But the Rev. Paul Graves, who today starts a monthly column on The Spokesman-Review’s Saturday religion page, already knows how he hopes readers will react to his perspectives on culture and spirituality.
“I’d like to think at least some people will say, ‘I hadn’t thought about that issue quite like that before,”’ said Graves. “I’d like to promote dialogues on important themes that lead to different meanings, deeper meanings.”
He said he likes to explore connections between ideas that at first glance do not seem linked.
That’s no simple task. But he’s accustomed to challenges.
Graves has been a minister for 28 years. He served most recently as pastor of the Sandpoint United Methodist Church.
Though he still lives in Sandpoint, he is currently attempting to establish a consulting ministry focusing on helping congregations deal with internal conflict and change.
“I know there is a real need for that,” he said. “What I’m not sure of is the extent to which there is a perceived need.”
Beyond his church experience, Graves in recent years has been spiritual adviser to the Bonner Community Hospice, a board member of the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, a member of a special planning team for the Bonner County School District, and a member of an HIV/ AIDS prevention planning group affiliated with the Panhandle Health District.
“I think the columns are going to be generated by looking at what’s happening in the world around us,” he said.
Graves likes the idea that part of his potential audience in the newspaper will be people not affiliated with a church. And that’s not because he intends to make instant converts of those readers.
“I just think that some of the best, most passionate conversations about religion are with nonchurch people,” he said.
He’s hoping feedback from readers, including members of the clergy, will come to be an important guide to his selection of column topics.
He promised he won’t wilt in the face of skepticism about religious commitment.
“I believe very strongly in the power of thinking,” he said.
In any case, he’s excited about this new challenge.
Said Graves: “While this is a very new venture for me, perhaps my columns could provoke persons to consider their lives of faith in new, sometimes growing ways.”