"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Churches Leaving Buildings (I)

I've previously noted the advent of this new collection, The Church Has Left the Building: Faith, Parish, and Ministry in the 21st Centurybut it was only last night that I actually got my own copy and could see all its riches for myself, none of which were known to me previously. Now I will of course be accused of bias insofar as I have a chapter in this book edited by, inter alia, my friend Michael Plekon; but in fact I did not know of the other chapters, and read none of them in advance, nor had a hand in them. Thus any "bias" is quite limited, and I have no vested financial interest in the sales of this book; my comments about it, therefore, are not self-interested in any real way.

I will say at once that this is a short collection whose brevity belies its riches. I have only read about a third of it, but so far each essay is a gem (except, perhaps, for my own....). Part of the radiance of this collection comes from its limpid honesty.

In an era quite nearly drowning under a surfeit of depressing demographic data purporting to demonstrate clear evidence of Christian decline, and drowning even more under a flood of superficial if not vacuous "solutions" and "options" purporting to show us how to arrest that decline, it is very refreshing to read people here admit, simply, honestly, and without fanfare, that we do not have a lot of answers at present, not least because some of the questions are new and have barely been asked, let alone pondered for a sufficient time. In short, this is not another "quick-fix" type book, or a handbook on how to turn your dwindling parish of 25 lukewarm people into a mega-church of 10,000 zealots between now and Christmas--thank God.

The contributors are an incredibly diverse lot--some known to me (indeed, some are dear friends of mine), others not. I will offer further comments in future installments, but for the time being let me say that whether you are in the academy or the church contemplating the future of Christian life and practice, especially on this continent, then this book will offer you a great group of companions with whom to ask searching and sometimes searing questions about the place all Christians--Eastern and Western--are in, and the future we all face.


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