Mt. Airy clerics on 'Christian Minimalism' next week

by Len Lear
Posted 5/19/21

Rev. Becca Ehrlich will discuss her book, “Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living” , accompanied by her friend, Rev. Callie Swanlund.

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Mt. Airy clerics on 'Christian Minimalism' next week


A woman from Brazil I once interviewed told me that “Americans do not know what real poverty is. Here, even poor people have cars, homes, electricity, plumbing, lots of clothing, etc. Where I come from, you stumble across homeless and hungry people everywhere.”

That thought came to mind when I learned about a Zoom event coming up on Monday, May 24, 7 p.m., sponsored by Big Blue Marble Bookstore in West Mt. Airy, featuring two Mt. Airy clerics.

Rev. Becca Ehrlich, an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a West Mt. Airy resident, will discuss her book, “Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living” (release date by Morehouse Publishing, May 17), accompanied by her friend, Rev. Callie Swanlund, an Episcopal priest and Mt. Airy resident.

The essential message of “Christian Minimalism” is that “our purpose in life is not wrapped up in accumulating possessions: wealth, power and prestige — Jesus is very clear about that — but society tells us otherwise … (the book) invites readers into a life that Jesus calls us to live: one lived intentionally, free of physical, spiritual and emotional clutter.”

Rev. Ehrlich, 37, who grew up near Albany, NY, definitely practices what she preaches. The 2010 graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mt. Airy (now called United Lutheran Seminary) got rid of 60 percent of her personal possessions in a six-month period and took part in a year-long shopping fast.

How was this possible? “Good, hard work and encouragement from my husband, Will. Minimizing possessions is fantastic and freeing when it's done, but it isn't very glamorous when the work is in process. When one of us was weary, the other would become the cheerleader and encourager, and vice-versa. Practically, we just started small, cleaning out one drawer each day, and then tackling big projects like the storage unit we had at the time when we could carve out more time. Minimizing our possessions took a lot of time, energy and work, but it was so worth it.”

The idea for the book came to Rev. Ehrlich after she watched a documentary on Minimalism and “noticed the connections between the minimalist lifestyle/worldview and the Christian faith. I started blogging about Christian Minimalism. Now, in the fourth year of the blog, I'm thrilled that the Christian Minimalism book is finally becoming a reality!”

How could the concept of Christian Minimalism possibly take hold with the public when the health of the U.S. economy depends almost entirely on relentless spending and consuming? “This is especially why Christian Minimalism is needed in the U.S,” insisted Rev. Ehrlich.

“Minimalism — and from a Christian perspective — is incredibly necessary while living in our consumer culture. We are constantly told that the best way to feel whole is to buy and consume more and more things, when the opposite is true. Consumer culture perpetuates a cycle of dissatisfaction in us because corporations and businesses make more money, but it actually hurts our well-being. I truly believe that we are invited to live a life that is different from the life expected in our consumer culture.”

Although most of Rev. Ehrlich's downsizing was liberating, one part of it was painful — the part that involved “minimizing the baby stuff we had in our storage unit. Our son died at birth years ago, and we had kept the stuff that had been in the nursery in storage for years, hoping to use it again at some point if/when we adopted. But we realized that there were families and children that needed these items right now and could be using them right this minute while they sat collecting dust in storage, so we donated all of it.”

Rev. Ehrlich, who has been conducting her ministry over the phone and on Zoom this past year, was asked about the best advice she has ever received. She replied, “I was once told to 'keep living life with exclamation points!' Too often, enthusiasm is considered gauche in polite society, but a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us that 'Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.'”

And when asked what person has had the greatest impact on her life, Rev. Ehrlich quickly answered, “My mom. She pursued her calling to be a foreign language teacher and speaks five languages fluently. Even in retirement, she continues to teach and help people as a yoga and Pilates instructor. I hope to help and teach people my whole life long, just as she has done.”
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