Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry In A New Generation

I haven’t reviewed a book in SO long.  I wish I could say that it was because I just have not gotten around to reviewing the books I’ve been reading, but the reality is that I just haven’t been reading much lately.  I guess I am in a place right now where things are moving quickly at church and I just want to be doing and not reading.  I’m taking part in a certification program through the MACUCC and the Center for Progressive Renewal and so the coursework for that has some of my time right now as well.

It’s funny, though.  Every time I do stop and open up a book, I am reminded of why it is SO important for me to make reading a priority.  I am inspired, I am encouraged and I am reminded that I am not in ministry alone.

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Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation
Carol Howard Merritt

This book first caught my eye because, as part of the Renewal Redevelopment Certification Program I am taking part in, I am part of a Coach Share group wi the Center for Progressive Renewal.  Carol Howard Merritt, the author of this book, is our group leader.

I think what I really liked about this book is the fact that Carol really held the tension between the church that was, the church that is and the church that can be.  I get frustrated sometimes because I feel like a lot of the literature for church renewal either only applies to new church starts or to churches that are making radical changes in the structure and governance.  But that’s not the type of church I am serving!  I am serving a nearly-300-year-old congregation that still deeply cares about the structures, rituals and traditions that defined the last century.  Are there certain things that need to change?  Yes.  But I don’t think everything needs to change at this point.

This was poignant:

When we fail to recognize our history, we miss out on the great wisdom of previous generations.  We delude ourselves into thinking we are the first ones to come up with “new” ideas while we disdain those who have come before us.  When we ignore our traditions, we turn our backs on centuries of rich and wonderful though.  We shut out two thousand years of saints who have walked this same journey, praying fervently and teaching us how to commune with God.  We ignore the life-giving liturgies that have inspired countless congregations.  We close the books on libraries of theological engagement, veil the art that has been uplifted our forebears, and silence the beautiful music that’s been passed down to us. {pg. 5}

I think one of the biggest takeaways from this book is that it is possible to have hope in the midst of a church that is changing so rapidly.  And I don’t think we need to have a passive and dejected hope, either.  I think our hope can be a hope of resurrection that has ALWAYS defined our faith.  I’m tired of talking about how the church is “dying” and how we need to completely overhaul our churches and structures in order to survive.  I want to do more than survive.  I want to thrive.  I want to listen to what God is calling me and my little church in Rehoboth today and march forward in strong and confident hope that God’s grace will carry us through the good times and bad times.

This is definitely worth a read!  It’s more theological than it is practical (just FYI if you’re looking for a how-to guide, this probably isn’t it), but I’m at a point where I want to step back and focus on the theological.  Because I think only when we do that are we really allowing God to guide our steps.

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