Join us for a virtual talk with Reverend Kirk H. Neely in conversation with Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz and Mary Thomas! They will be discussing Neely's new book, December Light 1916 on Tuesday, November 10th, at 6PM.
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Kirk Neely has written a new book and his first full-length novel. December Light 1916 is an historical novel that takes place in Georgetown County, South Carolina. Set in the early twentieth century, the book gives insight into the social history of the Deep South. It also presents a fascinating look at the natural history of North Island and Winyah Bay. Here is master storyteller Kirk Neely at his best.
Eli Solomon is the lighthouse keeper at the North Island Light located at the mouth of Winyah Bay. Eli is an immigrant from the Ukraine. He is a naturalized United States citizen. As an Orthodox Jew, Eli's faith often conflicts with his duties as a lighthouse keeper. He does his best to be diligent in his work and to be an observant Jew. Roy Holden, the inspector for the United States Lighthouse Service, is anti-Semitic. He is Eli's superior and his antagonist.
Samuel Pringle is a former slave on a rice plantation. Samuel is a man of unusual insight and wisdom. He embodies the traditions of his Gullah culture, and he retains his Gullah dialect. Samuel is a person of faith, though he rarely attends church. He works for Richard Meade, the owner of a general store in Georgetown. Meade is a man filled with hate and prejudice toward Blacks, Jews, and Catholics. Samuel and Eli are both objects of Meade's ridicule.
Though Eli and Samuel work and live thirteen miles apart, and though they see each other rarely, they develop a friendship that spans racial, religious, and ethnic differences. Both are watermen. Both are widowers grieving the loss of their wives. Though they have clay feet, both are men of integrity struggling daily against the indignities and the injustices of discrimination.
In his debut novel, Neely has written a well-crafted story that is for our time. It is a story of hope in the face of fear and despair. It is a story of love conquering the forces of hate. It is a story of light overcoming the darkness. It is a story set in 1916 and a story for now.
"It is a rare gift for one to look beyond their faith and to appreciate the light of another's faith. Rarer still is the capacity to recognize the beautiful truths that shine through in all religions. My dear friend, storyteller, and beloved pastor, Dr. Kirk Neely writes in a unique narrative style. In December Light, he has brought to life a most moving spiritual tale of the intersection of Jewish light and memory with his own Christian faith. It is a blessing for both our traditions!"—Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz D.D.
Kirk H. Neely has been in pastoral ministry since 1966. He is a graduate of Furman University and earned the Master of Divinity and the Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was named a Merrill Fellow at The Divinity School of Harvard University where he did postdoctoral study. Kirk and his wife, Clare, have been married since 1966. They are parents of five children and grandparents of thirteen grandchildren. Since his retirement as Senior Pastor of Morningside Baptist Church, he has continued ministry through teaching in the Religion Department at the University of South Carolina Upstate, serving as Pastoral Counselor at First Presbyterian Church, Spartanburg, SC, and supply preaching on a regular basis. In addition to teaching, counseling, and preaching, Kirk is a freelance writer and a storyteller.
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz was born in Brooklyn New York, holds a masters in Hebrew letters as well as two honorary doctorates. He has recently completed his sixteenth year in the rabbinate. Rabbi has served in pulpits in New York State and on the West Coast. He has completed his tenth year with Congregation B’nai Israel. Rabbi Liebowitz is married and has four children ages 34, 27 and 25 and 15. Rabbi supports a wide number of interests from Dinosaur digging, Science Fiction to Music. His interfaith musical duo with Pastor Paul Harmon “The cap and the collar” have performed well over forty concerts in venues from Churches and Temples to concert halls. Rabbi Liebowitz taught at the university level for many years and continues to do so at the local women’s college Converse and at University of South Carolina upstate.
Mary L. Thomas has over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. She currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of The Spartanburg County Foundation where she is responsible for the day to day operations of the organization and leads its mission, vision, and strategies while translating the Foundation’s goals into the overall program of work. Prior to joining the Foundation in 1998, Ms. Thomas was the Executive Director of The Bethlehem Center, a ministry that serves families in the Highland community of Spartanburg, SC for 11 years. Ms. Thomas is a graduate of Winthrop University, and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in French and Communications. She was an exchange student to France through Lenoir-Rhyne College in 1983 and is a former French teacher in Spartanburg District 7 schools. Ms. Thomas is a very active leader in the Spartanburg community and has held extensive leadership roles with a host of organizations throughout the area and beyond. She currently serves on the Apella Board of the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Converse College Board of Visitors, the Northside Development Group Board of Directors, and the BMW Community Advisory Panel.