A Dresser of Sycamore Trees:

The Finding of a Ministry

The prophet Amos, a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees, had a more challenging calling as a shepherd of human souls. So too does Garret Keizer, an Episcopal minister to the community of Island Pond in Vermont’s remote Northeast Kingdom. But there is nothing remote or isolated about this book or the issues Keizer struggles to address. Key among them are reconciling a life of faith with the exigencies of daily existence – and providing proof that “grace” exists in lives and actions beyond the reaches, and perhaps understanding, of formal religion. This profoundly contemporary book displays not only Keizer’s knowledge of life’s small practicalities (winding the church clock, shopping for groceries), but also his insights about faith, the mysterious ways of God, and the persistent and daily foibles of ordinary mortals. With an eye attuned to both the pleasures and pratfalls that make life on earth so rich, he presents a refreshing and often hilarious account of the hands-on work required to maintain a parish and sustain its spirit. He is a man who believes that God’s intentions, if seldom apparent, are inevitably compassionate – and often compelling.


“[Keizer’s] hands-on sense of holiness grapples with epiphanies and aggravations with equal eloquence . . . A Dresser of Sycamore Trees is an inspiriting book, its alertness to what one reader calls ‘the extraordinary dailiness of grace’ both uncanny and true-to-life.”
— James Mustich, 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die

Garret Keizer is a contributing editor at Harper’s Magazine and a prolific writer and essayist on other platforms. He is the author of several books on teaching and faith, including Help: the Original Human Dilemma (2009), The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book about Noise (2012), and Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher (2014). He now lives in Vermont with his family.