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May3TueSally's Book Club, an initiative of Spryfield Community Church, Halifax, provides a fellowship opportunity that involves reading and discussing African-Canadian literature. May 3, 2011 by Julia Hosking
Every second Saturday, since January this year, 12 people gather at The Salvation Army's Spryfield Community Church, Halifax, with Lieutenant Rob Jeffery, corps officer. They are there for Sally's Book Club.
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- Territorial News
Before the meeting, members of the group have, in the previous two weeks, devoured either a book written by an African-Canadian or one that explores African-Canadian experiences.
“The Department of Education gave us a grant to develop a literacy and family learning outreach initiative in the African-Canadian community,” says Lieutenant Jeffery. “They saw the Army as one of the few organizations capable of running a quality program that would be true to the intent of the grant.
“There is a strong presence of African-Canadians in the greater Halifax area,” he continues. “In fact, Nova Scotia has the highest population of African-Canadians per capita. Our church wanted to become more involved in this section of our community so the grant was the perfect opportunity to get started.”
Influenced by the popularity of Oprah's Book Club, and combining that concept with the Army's “Sally Ann” nickname, Lieutenant Jeffery decided discussing books in Sally's Book Club would be an appropriate way to fulfil the Department of Education's wishes.
Men and women of all ages meet for a discussion of the chosen book and then a fellowship meal. A childcare program runs simultaneously for those with children.
“Of the 12 in the group, only one is from our church. The remaining members are from within the community and several are Christians,” notes Lieutenant Jeffery. “Half of the group are African-Canadian and there is also a representative from the Muslim community. This diversity opens up the meetings for a lot of discussion about spirituality. I'm amazed at how often the conversation revolves around topics of faith and salvation.”
Lieutenant Jeffery has discovered that the book club is a safe environment where people can not only learn about African-Canadians through literature but where others can share their own stories.
“I've seen our members from the Black community come alive with excitement when they read the books about African-Canadian experiences,” he says. “Sharing their stories with others is liberating for them and it gives the rest of us a greater understanding into their lives—a real integrative experience.”
Members of the group often make suggestions to Lieutenant Jeffery about what they'd like to read—fact or fiction. Several are from local publishing houses found only in Nova Scotia.
“The discussions within the book club meetings that continue over lunch make the entire morning a great fellowship opportunity,” comments Lieutenant Jeffery. “Sally's Book Club helps us fulfil our church's mandate of reaching out into the community.”