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The Mystery of Being Born

series: Pastoring for Life: Theological Wisdom for Ministering Well

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This volume explores the connections between our own birth, the experience of having children, and the new birth of the Christian life. Seasoned pastor James Howell offers theological perspectives on a variety of themes associated with birth, such as who we are in light of having once lived in utero, why people might have children, infertility, adoption, baptism, and how to make sense of it all in light of God coming to us first in Mary's womb and then as an infant. The book includes paintings, photos, and drawings.

About the Series
Pastors are called to help people navigate the profound mysteries of being human, from birth to death and everything in between. This series, edited by leading pastoral theologian Jason Byassee, provides pastors and pastors-in-training with rich theological reflection on the various seasons that make up a human life, helping them minister with greater wisdom and joy.


Series Preface
Part 1: Our Mysterious Beginning
1. In My Mother's Womb
2. My Birthday
3. Unchosenness and Being Chosen
Part 2: Jesus's Birth and Early Life
4. Mary, Mother of Our Lord
5. The Birth of Jesus
6. Jesus's First Days
Part 3: The Complexities of Conception and Raising Children
7. Why Have Children?
8. Having Children
9. The First Days after Birth
10. Infertility and Medicine
11. When Medicine Fails
Part 4: Our New Birth
12. Adoption
13. Remember Your Baptism
14. You Must Be Born Again


"Whether he is pointing out the trivialization of baptism in popular movies or reminding us that there is no stopwatch on grief, Howell has the gift of seeing the sacred in the ordinary, and the subject of birth is no exception. This is why pregnant women, perplexed parents, and seasoned pastors will be passing this book around, with sentences underscored on pages worn thin from the wisdom they offer. From the fast-tracked technological changes of our era to the ancient practices of biblical midwives, no subject is too hot for Howell to handle. Be it surrogacy, same-sex parents, or stillbirths, he addresses them all with the tenderness of a pastor who has performed more than two thousand baptisms and from a tradition older and wiser than we are."

Lillian Daniel, senior pastor, First Congregational Church, Dubuque, Iowa; author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don't Belong To and When "Spiritual but Not Religious" Is Not Enough

"Where most theological reflection on human life centers on adult bodies, James C. Howell focuses our attention on birth and infancy. With conversational eloquence, Howell gathers scientific, cultural, and scriptural resources to illumine babyhood as a theological event. Birth makes a compelling case for the importance of deep theological deliberation on the flesh of the youngest among us."

Natalie Carnes, associate professor of theology, Baylor University

"To paraphrase songwriters Gimbel and Fox, pastor James Howell 'tells the whole of our lives with his words.' He speaks with the sensitivity of a seasoned pastor, the depth of a life immersed in Scripture, and the insight of a wise theologian. Birth: The Mystery of Being Born is a vulnerable, transparent excursion through our God-conceived multiple births and new beginnings."

Gregory V. Palmer, Resident Bishop Ohio West Area, the United Methodist Church

The Author

  1. James C. Howell
    Albert Dulin

    James C. Howell

    James C. Howell (PhD, Duke University) is senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and has nearly four decades of experience in parish ministry. He speaks frequently around the country and is an adjunct professor...

    Continue reading about James C. Howell