Saranac Lake pastor shares small-town stories in book

Rev. Joann White is seen here in her office in Saranac Lake on Friday. (Enterprise photo – Quinlan Peer)

SARANAC LAKE — The Rev. Joann White likes to use fictional characters in her sermons at the Saranac Lake First Presbyterian Church — characters such as those included in her new book.

She uses these characters to support the understanding of the scripture in today’s world. Those in the pews have been encouraging her to write a book, and now her collection of short stories is published.

“Blest Be the Tie: Fables of the Far North” contains 24 interwoven short stories inspired by small-town life in the Adirondacks. White describes her work as having abundant love, gentle humor and the timeless truth of scripture to portray what it means to be a church family and, simultaneously, a diverse community.

The stories are written with White’s spiritual leadership as Tubby has a broken heart, Lenore needs something to sing about, Eugenia is afraid of change and Bruce still fights the war in Iraq. Through it all, Pastor Bob, with the help of the Holy Spirit, tends the flock entrusted to his care. All of these characters were written with attributes that connect to readers.

“When I first began reading … I thought, ‘I know these people.’ As I continued reading, I thought, I am these people,” Joanne Lindstrom, associate professor of ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary, said in a press release.

White’s writing skills were honed in Bucks County, Pennslyvania, where she grew up. In sixth grade, she was awarded a young authors award helping her realize that she could be an author. After going to Colgate University and living in Washington, D.C. for a few years, White went to Chicago to pursue her master’s degree at the Institute for spiritual leadership. After graduating, she was a pastor at a church just north of Chicago. However, she wanted to go back to the East Coast. After applying, White had three callbacks. She decided to go to the Saranac Lake First Presbyterian Church, where she’s been since 2005.

“I just felt connected to the people and community,” White said.

This idea of writing and publishing a book became cemented during a retreat in 2013. After working on it for eight years, it was complete.

“I contacted the publishing company Wipf and Stock, and a month later we started publishing,” White said.

White’s writing continues to get praise.

Laurie McKnight, a spiritual care professional writes, “Using poetic and descriptive language, White does not just tell stories; she paints rich pictures and shares complex emotions. … I was moved to tears often, and I laughed out loud several times.”

When not at church, White’s likely to be found wandering local trails with her husband Duane Keith Gould and their dog.

The book is available for purchase on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, the publisher’s website and at the Book Nook in Saranac Lake. Hardcover copies are $30 while paper copies are $15.


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