Retired Sicamous United Church minister and author Juanita Austin will be signing her new book, Cup of Wine and a Piece of Bread, at Bookingham Palace in the Mall at Piccadilly on Saturday, Nov. 7. (Contributed)

Retired Sicamous United Church minister and author Juanita Austin will be signing her new book, Cup of Wine and a Piece of Bread, at Bookingham Palace in the Mall at Piccadilly on Saturday, Nov. 7. (Contributed)

Retired Shuswap United Church minister shares songs, stories of healing and hope

Juanita Austin to hold signing of her new book on Nov. 7 in Salmon Arm

For more than 30 years, whenever Juanita Austin couldn’t find a prayer or song to share with her congregation, she would write it herself.

Prior to retiring two years ago, the former minister with the Sicamous United Church said she attended a workshop that had her focus on what she was doing, and wanted to do with her life. From that, Austin realized she wanted to capture her words and music in one volume.

“I wanted to offer a book of worship resources and also music, because I’ve been writing music over the years but it’s just been words and guitar chords and if I’m gone, nobody knows what that means,” said Austin.

Austin’s five-year writing journey culminated in the release of the book, Cup of Wine and a Piece of Bread. She will be at Bookingham Palace in the Mall at Piccadilly on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for a book signing. Health and safety protocols will be in effect.

Despite it’s intended purpose as a worship resource, the book has been described as “non-churchy,” and contains work that reflects Austin’s passion for addressing human suffering and the empowerment of women.

“I have a music section where I’ve taken some of the common hymns, but I’ve changed the words or added words to them,” said Austin. “So for example, each year we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which is lovely, but it’s about the grieving and mourning of Israel in the time of exile. But I’m thinking, today there are 70 million people who are in exile, who are homeless, who are refugees, so I’ve re-written the song to reflect that and then come back to the lovely old chorus that’s still there.”

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One piece entitled, Grey Morning on Hastings Street, a reflection on homelessness, Austin wrote when she was a student minister in Vancouver. The song, Let there be a bird, co-written by her husband Jim McConnell, was influenced by the story of a man suffering from PTSD who, after moving to Newfoundland, would be visited by birds.

“The birds started to come to him and for him that was so healing…,” said Austin, describing how the song came to fruition. “I woke up the next morning with these words and this melody in my head and I wrote the song… I started it and sang it to my husband, Jim, and he went downstairs and he came back up and he said, ‘Well how about this,’ and he added some more words and more verses, so it was delightful to have this song in as a collaboration between the two of us.

“I would love to sing some of these songs at the book signing but we’re not supposed to be singing these days.”

Other parts of the book focus on grief, forgiveness and healing.

For more information or to purchase a copy of Austin’s book, email at revjuanita@gmail.com, or call 250-832-6385.

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