Gift Ideas from Friends of The Living Church

Each year, The Living Church asks a number of our writers, supporters, and friends to suggest Christmas gifts that are meaningful to them. As an Amazon Associate, TLC earns from qualifying purchases.

Best wishes to you and yours for a blessed Christmas.

Jenny Andison

Socks. My husband and I have three teenage daughters and every single weekday morning, I listen to some version of, “Mummy, I need some socks!” For Christmas, everyone is getting Conscious Step socks made in Nepal from Ten Thousand Villages. Ten Thousand Villages is the fair-trade social enterprise of the Mennonite Central Committee in North America. They partner with small-scale artisans and co-ops to bring their wares to international markets. They have a wonderful Christmas guide, which also sells socks!

The Rt. Rev. Jenny Andison is a bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Toronto.

Elizabeth Baumann

For any small children on your list or a gift to your church’s children’s ministry, I love board books — the kind with thick cardboard pages toddlers can’t tear.  Our family especially loves Psalms of Praise: A Movement Primer by Danielle Hitchen; My First Pictures of Jesus by Maïte Roche; and We Go to Mass by George Brundage (unlike others of its kind, it shows children receiving Communion, rather than just a blessing.)
Elizabeth Baumann is a priest’s wife and children’s minister, whose two daughters (ages 4 and 1) tested these recommendations.

Christopher Beeley

Heart Fire: Adventuring into a Life of Prayer (Muddy Pearl, 2018) by Johannes Hartl is a moving tale of the sort of prayer that will change your life. Hartl writes of his ecumenical experience of prayer, from Cistercian monasteries and the Syrian desert to hospital wards and inner-city drug communities. A compelling introduction and a worthy guide into the depths, replete with miracles that testify to the power of the risen Lord, Heart Fire is a treasure of a book.

The Rev. Christopher Beeley is Bovender Professor of Theology and director of the Anglican Episcopal House of Studies at Duke Divinity School.

Kristine Blaess

When our children were young, we began the tradition of giving them money to give away. This is their “big” gift each year and has brought the most joy of any gift. The kids choose where to give the money. They can give it to their school, to the church, or to a nonprofit doing work that is meaningful to them. Our kids have built relationships with leaders of the nonprofits they support each year.

The Rev. Kristine Blaess is rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a member of the Living Church Foundation.

Brian Cole

In a year when many of us have followed Episcopal bishop elections closely, I commend The Election of Pope Francis: An Inside Account of the Conclave that Changed History (Orbis, 2019). Written by Gerard O’Connell, a long-time Vatican reporter, the book is an ecclesiastical thriller. The reader goes inside the room where voting cardinals pray, debate, and decide who will lead the Catholic Church after the surprising resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Rt. Rev. Brian L. Cole serves as the 5th Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of East Tennessee. 

Sarah Cornwell

Many of us have quasi-sacred Christmas traditions that we have shared with loved ones in the past that distance or other circumstances may prevent us from celebrating together at present. Consider sending the ingredients of a cherished tradition (like Christmas morning pancakes) along with a handwritten note of fond memories to let your loved ones know that these Christmas traditions continue to be beloved and remembered.

Sarah Cornwell is a laywoman who lives with her family in the Hudson River Valley.

Anthony Currer

The best present I have given recently was to my nephew for his eighteenth birthday. A student of English literature,  he is very proud of his book collection. I bought him an embossing stamp to mark his books “Ex Libris Joseph Stonor.” Last year I made Marmalade and gave jars to the three secretaries with whom I work at the Pontifical Council. Shops don’t sell bitter Seville oranges in Rome as they do in the UK, but there are orange groves on the Aventine Hill and the trees, planted for ornamental reasons, are Spanish, and perfect for making marmalade. I use the fool-proof technique demonstrated in this classic old video, but with much less sugar and some grated fresh ginger in a little whiskey for a kick.

The Rev. Tony Currer is an English priest who works in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity with responsibilities for the Catholic Church’s relations with Anglicans and Methodists

Stuart Dunnan

Last Boat out of Shanghai (Ballantine, 2019) by Helen Zia tells the true stories of four young people who fled Shanghai as the Red Army was taking the city in 1949. They look back to their childhoods under the Europeans, then the Japanese, and then the Nationalists, and the lives they built after leaving.  Saint John’s University, an Episcopal mission founded by our alumnus Samuel I. J. Schereschewsky, also figures prominently. The story was incredibly engaging, in just the way that the Christmas story is engaging: a testament to human hope, love, courage, and resilience, and the grace of God which carries us through, that light shining in the darkness.

The Rev. Stuart Dunnan is headmaster of Saint James School and a member of The Living Church Foundation.

Nicholas Knisely

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper (Image, 2011) by Brant Pitre (with a preface by Scott Hahn) is a brilliant, accessible presentation of an underappreciated aspect of the Eucharist given to the Church; its deep and profound meaning to the Jews of Jesus’ day. It will transform your preaching during Holy Week and broaden your understanding of the Mass.

The Rt. Rev. Nicholas Knisely is the present Bishop of Rhode Island and an occasional author.

Lorenzo Lebrija

A single figure who embodies God’s self-giving love sets a great feast to change the hearts of all. I’m not talking about Jesus. In this case, it’s the plot of a film that makes for a beautiful pilgrimage you can take without ever leaving your home. Babette’s Feast (1987) is a movie that theologians, critics, artists, and, of course, foodies all love. And it’s a favorite of both Rowan Williams and Pope Francis. Treat yourself.

The Rev. Lorenzo Lebrija is the founding director of the TryTank Experimental Lab for church growth and innovation.

Mark Michael

Ronald Welch’s 12-volume Carey Family Saga is an excellent choice for the swashbuckling adventure fan on your list. Handsomely republished by Slightly Foxed, this postwar children’s classic traces seven centuries of a family’s service to God, King and Country, from the Horns of Hattin to the trenches of Ypres. It’s sure to kindle a love of British history and — with God’s help — a passion for valor and magnanimity. May also result in bedroom floors littered with toy soldier reenactments of Waterloo.

The Rev. Mark Michael is editor of The Living Church.

Kate Moorehead

My mother is a composer and loves to set sacred texts to music. One of my favorites is a setting of the words, “Peace Be with You.” The phrase, which the world cries out to hear and experience, is repeated in twelve languages: Portuguese, Zulu, Croatian, Hindi, Hebrew, Thai, English, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Swahili, and Russian. Mom will send you an MP3 and PDF files of the full score and other goodies, for free if you contact her at .

The Very Rev. Kate Moorehead is dean of Saint John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, Florida.

Dane Neufeld

A few years before he passed away, Canadian fiddler Oliver Schroer walked the Camino trail with his wife, two friends, and some recording equipment. The result was a beautiful solo fiddle album, Camino (Big Dog Music, 2006), often recorded amidst the gentle sounds of village life, monastic chant, and the sacred acoustics of churches along the way. The music is raw, unproduced, and richly complex and meditative. For years my wife and I have loved this album, which makes a wonderful gift.

The Rev. Dane Neufeld is the rector of All Saints’, Fort McMurray, in the Diocese of Athabasca.

Amber Noel

Give away something you own and love. Feel confident the recipient will value and use it. If necessary, give yourself time to be ready to part with it. (Give the wrong thing, too soon, or to the wrong person, and you’ll just feel annoyed.) Your rose bush, your favorite mug, heirloom boots, or a sweater you knit (good patterns at It’s a bracing Advent exercise, fun, and often (prepare yourself) a real tear-jerker.

Amber Noel is newly associate director of the Living Church Institute and associate editor at TLC.

Kirk Petersen

I give you my wife’s recipe for candied nuts, which look great in a festive tin:

  • 1 lb. walnut or pecan halves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


  • Combine sugar, salt and cinnamon; set aside.
  • In large bowl, whisk egg white and vanilla.
  • Add nuts and seasonings to large bowl, toss to coat.
  • Spread nuts on sprayed cookie sheet, bake 1 hour at 250, turning once.
  • Make a double batch – you don’t want to give them all

Kirk Petersen is associate editor of The Living Church.

Chip Prehn

Besides a gift subscription to The Living Church magazine, I recommend Wendell Berry’s What I Stand On: Collected Essays, edited by Jack Shoemaker. This handsome, two-volume boxed set from the Library of America may be ordered for less than $35 from Amazon and sent directly to the person you wish to remember at Christmas. This gift would be a way for someone you love to have some of the most beautiful prose-writing of our time. Berry is wise and a prophet.

The Rev. W.L. Prehn is a board member of the Living Church Foundation.

Ephraim Radner

For New Year’s: Burns’s “Auld Lang Syne” has faded. Besides, it’s boring. Far better is Léo Ferré’s “Pauvre [Poor] Rutebeuf,” from 1956. Ferré, a standout French popular musician, stitched together his lyrics from the 13th century poet Rutebeuf, who recounts his hard life and vanished friends. It is filled with pathos, love, loss, and God. Ferré’s simple music is inspired, along with his performances. Nana Mouskouri has a sublime version. Even a young Joan Baez (1965) shines!

The Rev. Ephraim Radner is professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, Toronto and a member of The Living Church Foundation.

Vivian Ruth Sawyer

My cousin Peggye Hart Knight was a fantastic cook, and produced an epic, all-butter pound cake with a crunchy, sugary crust that made people swoon. I routinely ordered dozens to give for Christmas, tying the recipe on top with a deep blue ribbon. Peggye died this year, so I might dare try making her pound cake, although it will not be as good as that being shared this Christmas by the communion of saints.

Vivian Ruth Sawyer is co-facilitator with her husband, Tom Noland, of the Consortium for Christian Unity.

Rita Steadman

At Christmas I can find lovely gift lotions and oils that soothe the hands and the heart at  Thistle Farms helps “women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction find healing, hope, and freedom.”  Women find safe housing and support, and become employed by participating in product creation and commerce at Thistle Farms.  As their web site says, “Survivors get a second chance at life and you feel good about the things you buy.”

The Rev. Marguerite Steadman is rector of St. John’s, Bangor, Maine, where she also works with women from Courage Lives, an organization committed to supporting women survivors of human trafficking.

Bobby Smith

Take someone you love on a hike through the Willamette National Forest in Oregon.  I particularly recommend the McKenzie River Trail; don’t miss Sahalie and Koosah Falls.  Fly into Bend, sample some of the local wines and craft brews; spend time in Sisters and hike the beauty that is God’s creation.

The Rev. Bobby Smith is dean, president and CEO of Saint Francis Ministries, an international ministry that offers healing and hope to children and families.

Joe Swimmer

Every year on or around Christmas, we watch the film adaptation of Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons (1966)While you can quibble with the historical veracity of Bolt’s text, the overarching theme of holding fast to one’s faith and beliefs, even when it means sacrificing everything, never fails to encourage. It is a message we need to hear now more than ever. Also, Paul Scofield is an amazing actor!

Joe Swimmer is executive director of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes.

Steven Tomlinson

This year I’ve been sharing re:memberthe latest project by Icelandic musician Olafur Arnalds. What’s remarkable about friends’ responses is not the considerable enthusiasm with which they’ve embrace the music, but the range of emotion it seems to evoke – “childlike joy,” “awe,” “startling empathy,” “grief and rebirth” – to quote from a few thank-you notes. The conversations about Arnalds’ “reimagined” classical music have been as much fun as the work itself.

Steven Tomlinson is associate professor of leadership and administration at Seminary of the Southwest and teaches entrepreneurship at the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas.  

Paul Wheatley

For the Bible-lover on your list, I recommend two new translations. First, The Hebrew Bible (Norton, 2018) by Robert Alter with commentary is a pricey but valuable gift for those who love the narrative quality of the scriptures, done by a master of biblical narrative. Second, David Bentley Hart’s New Testament (Yale, 2017) with commentary provides a literal — but not rigid — translation with notes alerting the reader to several issues of interpretation and translation.

The Rev. Paul Wheatley is a PhD candidate studying Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity at the University of Notre Dame.

Joseph Wandera

While Shepherds Watch Their Flock (Higher Life, 2009) by Timothy S Laniak offers helpful insights into the world of shepherds in Biblical times and today. Those engaged in pastoral ministry and other forms of leadership can learn much from its forty daily reflections on topics like compassion, courage, and searching for God’s own heart. This book is a gift to an increasingly polarized world in need of godly and compassionate leaders in the church and in political and economic life.

Joseph Wandera is Bishop of Mumias in the Anglican Diocese of Kenya and a member of The Living Church Foundation.

Paul Zahl

I suggest a little Italian comedy film entitled Don Camillo (1952), easily available in a nice package from Koch Lorber. It tells the story of a traditionalist Roman Catholic priest in a small town in the Po Valley, who “faces off” with the newly elected Communist mayor, who is just as strong in his convictions as the priest. Trouble is, they are childhood friends, and share a genuine bond of respect and love. This delightful, contagious movie could not be more apt and hopeful given the current political divide in our country. You’ll love it.

The Rev. Paul F.M. Zahl is a retired Episcopal priest living in Winter Garden, Florida.


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