Geeks in the Pews: A Review of The Ultimate Quest

Post Author: Robyn King

One of the fun parts of my ordination process was a summer parish internship. I served at a little church, where I stayed in their apartment and could walk down to the farmers market on Sundays after services. Now that I’ve been ordained for a while and preached more, I’ve become increasingly thankful for that church. They kindly listened to some sermons I would preach very differently now. Along with their homiletical patience, and an inside peek at day-to-day church life and power differentials, they also taught me something very important about who sits in our pews: Geeks.

I had preached a sermon that mentioned my deep love of speculative fiction (SF—often called science fiction and fantasy). While I don’t remember the details of the sermon, I do remember that for the rest of the morning people would approach me, always when it would be just the two of us, and confess their love for Star Trek. We were all, I learned that morning, Star Trek geeks.

This memory surfaces when I’m afraid I’m about to get too geeky for people. It’s a balm against the cultural norm that asks us geeks to stay in the basement with our dice, books, and scale models. It helps me remember that, even when the rest of the world seems a little too normal, I have a place in the pews with all the other geeks.

Jordan Haynie Ware’s book The Ultimate Quest: A Geek’s Guide to (The Episcopal) Church, tackles the topic of the Church and geeks, establishing her as a wise and witty writer. Jordan and I are friends and colleagues – we have known each other for a long time via Twitter, were once in the same room at General Convention 2012, and we will soon be in the same diocese.

Far more effectively than The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Ware guides readers through the basics of Christian faith, with special attention to Episcopal pomp and circumstance. She manages both an eye for the essential things people first wandering into the Church would need or want to know, balancing the basics with enough detail to impress some longtime attendees at coffee hour. Ware describes the communal praying of the psalm as “communal slam poetry” and I will undoubtedly break into giggles when that line goes through my head some Sunday.

As the title promises, Ware introduces lay and clergy in gaming terms,

Laypeople are the front-line fighters of the Christian party. Clergy are the caster—they hang back “buffing” with encouragement and teaching, “detecting magic” by naming the Holy in everyday life, and “healing,” by offering the sacramental presence of God when that everyday life gets rough. (pg 47)

Ware manages a delightful balance of truth and humour, with a deft combination of Church and gaming geek-doms.

Written with a similar approach to that of player guides for roleplaying games, Ware opens with two introductions.One introduces geeks to the world of the church; the other introduces church geeks to “regular geek stuff.” In the following chapters we meet “The Hero” (Jesus), discuss the ultimate quest which begins with our baptism, encounter the Episcopal Player’s Handbook (The Book of Common Prayer), and explore the world of the Episcopal Church with a heavy lens of geek culture. Orders of Ministry are, as the quote indicates, explored as the class of player Christians operate as in the world, vestments are explicated through the lens of cosplay, and attending Church on Sunday mornings is described as a grand adventure undertaken by the player.

Throughout the book Ware shows her thorough knowledge of many corners of SF and Church worlds, citing the Bible, Joss Whedon’s works, The Book of Common Prayer (‘79), The Princess Bride, Hamilton, papal encyclicals, Marion Zimmer Bradley, C. S. Lewis, and, yes, Star Trek among many others. And if you don’t know all of these inside out, there’s a bibliography (“Worlds Unknown”) in the back—you can find some new favourite authors and artists.

As a church and secular geek myself, Ware wrote the book I wish someone had handed me when I was fourteen years old. The Ultimate Quest could be the best book to hand the slightly awkward teens who have joined the Church or the perfect refresher book study with a group of young or young-at-heart adults. I would recommend using it as the main resource for an “Episcopal 101” type of class, as long as the leader was able to draw on a more traditional approach to faith and church easily – I could envision the church and geek culture being too much for some people to assimilate at the same time.

Written with a particular care for those who are new or newly exploring faith and the Church, this book would fit nicely into the shelves of all faithful geeks as we seek to “Quest long and prosper.”

The Reverend Robyn King serves at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She and her husband enjoy science fiction and play in the same Dungeons and Dragons group. Griz, their dog, would like to be everyone’s friend and is well loved, not spoiled.

Image by: Church Publishing Incorporated
Used with permission
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