Cedric Willow is a middle-aged journalist and senior warden at St. Bartholomew by the Lake, a small Episcopal parish in Minneapolis. St. Bart's church is a widely admired icon of mid-century modern architecture, but its congregation is aging and attendance is on the decline. When the incumbent rector resigns, Cedric forms a search committee—a "discernment" committee, in Episcopal parlance—and embarks on a nine-month search for a new spiritual leader.
Complicating his task: a bitter feud between two members of the vestry, the fact that he's an atheist, and a disruptive voice in his head called Op Ed. There's also the Church Lady, a mousy junior warden who aspires to his position, who strikes him as pious to a fault, and with whom he is falling in love.
Discernment is a novel about trying to do the right thing in a world with no easy answers, and what happens when altruism and self-interest collide.
Minneapolis native Roy M. Close served twenty-four years as a journalist, most of them as a theater, classical music, and dance critic for Twin Cities dailies. He is the author of more than a dozen plays, including A Brief Crack of Light, written with Bill Semans and now in the running for a London production. Among his short plays are Zambezi Blue, A Postcard from the Corn Palace, Killing Mother, and Your Call Is Very Important to Us. He has also written poetry (the sonnet and limerick are his favorite forms) and an assortment of freelance articles for publications ranging from Orchids magazine to the Washington Post. Discernment is his first novel.