“The Shack” author to speak Sunday at Tabernacle

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William Paul Young, the author of “The Shack” will be the guest speaker at the Tabernacle on Sunday morning. William Paul Young, the author of “The Shack” will be the guest speaker at the Tabernacle on Sunday morning. OCEAN CITY — Reviews of “The Shack” describe the 2008 New York Times best-selling novel as one man’s journey in coming to terms with the abduction and likely murder of his young daughter at the hands of a serial killer. The story, originally written for the author’s six children and close friends, grew from 15 photocopies to 15 million self-published copies sold.

William Paul Young, the author, sees the story as the tale of not just one man, but quite possibly everyone, and it is that different perspective worshippers can expect him to bring in his sermon Sunday morning at the Tabernacle, Fifth Street and Wesley Avenue.

Asked what he planned to speak on, Young laughed and answered, “Good luck with that. I don’t even know.”

Of his first work of fiction, Young said, “The reason the book resonates so deeply with people is that Mackenzie is everyman,” referring to Mackenzie Allen Philips, the main character of “The Shack.”

He called the more than 100,000 emails he received from readers touched by the tale of Mackenzie meeting God in an abandoned shack in the wilderness of Oregon “staggering.”

“There are so many people who have a great sadness in their life, or they’ve been hurt by the religious system, or they have questions they’ve never been allowed to ask, or they’re in the middle of a loss or after a loss, or they’re facing their own burden,” he said, mentioning reasons why readers have reached out to him.

Young said the book is not divisive as organized religion often is, but inclusive.

“You could see someone reading ‘The Shack’ and know he was a brother,” the author said during a 20-minute phone call placed from Orlando, Fla., on Monday afternoon. “The book is a conversation about God, not about religion.”

It was his eighth interview of the day, and he still had a dinner speaking engagement in front of him.

Young, the oldest of four children born to missionary parents, attended 13 schools by the time he headed off to Warner Pacific College in Portland, Ore. where he earned a degree in religion. He worked as a general manager, janitor and salesman, and wrote “The Shack” at the urging of his wife, Kim.

“Death and dying are universal,” Young said, mentioning that the main character of his next book, “Cross Roads,” which will be released Nov. 13, 2012, is “caught in between life and death.”

“I don’t know anybody who hasn’t been affected by death. It’s pervasive. It addresses our history, the choices we’ve made, the ripples that roll out and the consequences of that. Death and dying raise fundamental questions.”

For Young, ripples and consequences came as the result of sexual abuse he suffered as a boy and a strained marital relationship as an adult.

On his website, windrumors.com, he alludes to these character-testing and -shaping events:

“The journey has been both incredible and unbearable, a desperate grasping after grace and wholeness. These facts don’t tell you about the pain of trying to adjust to different cultures, of life losses that were almost too staggering to bear, of walking down railroad tracks at night in the middle of winter screaming into the windstorm, of living with an underlying volume of shame so deep and loud that it constantly threatened any sense of sanity, of dreams not only destroyed, but obliterated by personal failure, of hope so tenuous that only the trigger seemed to offer a solution. These few facts also do not speak to the potency of love and forgiveness, the arduous road of reconciliation, the surprises of grace and community, of transformational healing and the unexpected emergence of joy.”

Of coming back to Ocean City for the second year, Young said he has fond memories from his first visit last year when he spoke at the Tabernacle.

“I had such a great time,” he said. “I walked the boardwalk the night before. I remember it distinctively. For me, it was such a lull, such a respite. There was a rain shower … I remember it very clearly.”

Young does not confine his speaking engagements to places or groups with religious affiliations, having spoken to atheists, prisoners, Mensa, and in September, the national conference for Catholic cemetery caretakers. The non-denominational Tabernacle appeals to him because it is not as strictly structured as some religions.

In an email, Dr. Richard Stanislaw, president of the Tabernacle, said Young’s sermon on Sunday will be one of the best.

“He will simply tell some fascinating stories,” he said. “I’ve heard lots of speakers and he tells a tale better than anyone else – and it always has a cogent punch to it that reveals a Biblical message.”

Young will speak at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Tabernacle, 550 Wesley Ave.

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