“Spirit in the Dark” Examines the Boundaries of Religious Life

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, Lee Hinson-Hasty is curating a series identifying books that Presbyterian leaders are reading now that inform their ministry and work. Why are these texts relevant today? How might they bring us into God’s future? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

by Derrick McQueen

The book that is providing theological perspective and inspiration for me these days is Spirit in the Dark: A Religious History of Racial Aesthetics by Josef Sorett. It is a work that examines the African-American cultural movements and their artistic offspring. From the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920’s through the Black Arts movement, Dr. Sorett examines the pervasive effect religion plays on these commonly seen as secular literary visions. This work is exciting because it puts religion in conversation with the secular and in doing so allows the church/religion to erase the divide between what is inside and what is outside of the church walls, or the boundaries of religious life.

Spirit in the Dark does not attempt to answer the question, “How does the church make itself relevant in the secular world?” It lays claim to the ways in which the division between the sacred and the secular is an artificial one. In fact, it sees the religious as an integral ingredient in the African-American literary tradition.

Church book study group leaders will find this book extremely helpful in training the eyes and ears to the religious undercurrents in the secular literary tradition. As Dr. Sorett’s work deals with the African-American experience, the culminating lessons are also applicable or at least adaptable for many different communities. It is just that in Spirit in the Dark, Sorett’s impressive research makes clear that the African-American experience is one that able to be clearly defined and claimed as such in this rich tapestry of literary tradition and can serve as a model to other communities.

Specifically, it frees the preacher up to understand that the literary resource of the African-American literary tradition is ripe for bringing in texts to be in conversation with the Bible and the community. It also provides a way for preachers and pastors to parse culture without giving in to the demand to “do something new to fill the pews” by watering down the theological foundations upon which their churches and communities are built. This is an important book and readers will definitely find their own jewels within.


Rev. Derrick McQueen, Ph.D., serves as Assistant Director for The Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice (CARSS) at Columbia University. He is also serving as pastor to St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem, N.Y., and is an adjunct professor of Worship and Preaching at Lancaster Theological Seminary. Derrick has been actively involved in work for LGBTQ inclusion in churches and society, facilitating dialogues and serving on the boards of such organizations as Presbyterian Welcome, That All May Freely Serve, More Light Presbyterians and Auburn Seminary. Recently he served as the Moderator of the Presbytery of New York City.

A Lenten Book List

This book list was compiled during our Lent/Easter planning Church Leader’s Roundtable on January 10, 2017. We hope you will find these resources to be fruitful for prayers, liturgy, sermon inspiration and more.

A Pilgrim People: Learning Through the Church Year — John H. Westerhoff

Stages on the Way — Wild Goose Worship Group

The Awkward Season: Prayers for Lent — Pamela Hawkins

God is on the Cross — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Forgiveness: A Lenten Study — Majorie J. Thompson

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World — Brian D. McLaren

Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles our Judgment — Rowan Williams

Lectionary Liturgy — Thom Shuman (there are several options based on the Revised Common Lectionary Year)

Immortal Diamond: The Search for our True Self — Richard Rohr

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life — Richard Rohr

Building Community Across Divides: A Book List

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. In November, Don Meeks and Jeff Krehbiel curated “Can We Talk?”, a modest attempt at an uncommonly gracious conversation among colleagues who differ on matters of conscience. Can we bridge the theological differences that divide us? Can we even talk about them? Can we affirm the best in each other’s theological tradition while honestly confessing the weaknesses of our own? We invite you to join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter!

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We asked our contributing authors this month to tell us what they are reading or have read that has helped them in the work of building community across divides. Here’s what they said:

Jodi Craiglow

Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, Andy Crouch
“I recommend this book probably five times as often as I recommend all other books — combined. Crouch’s main argument is simple but profound: We can’t change culture by critiquing it. We can only change culture by creating
more of it.”

Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf
“Easily (and simultaneously) the most beautiful and the most challenging book I’ve ever read. Volf argues that we can only truly experience reconciliation when we embrace “the other,” bringing them into our lives in the same way that we’ve been embraced by God.”

Roy Howard

Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World by Larry Hurtado
“This is a clearly written book of Christian history that has implications for the church of our time under a different empire and seeking a distinctive identity as Christians that will resist the idolatries of the culture and more than resistance, offer a compelling alternative. Our ancestors in the faith have frequently had to face similar challenges as we do.”

The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art by Luke Timothy Johnson
“This book explores theology through the experiences of the body: the dying body, the aging body, the sexual body, the body in play and the body at work. It’s a compelling argument by a New Testament scholar that scripture itself is a response to the experience of God in the body, and hence we should pay attention to the body for signs of God’s presence among us.”

Joe Duffus

City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era by Michael Gerson with Peter Wehner
“This looks like a fitting start for traditional or evangelical Christians to consider in light of changes in our culture and the sharp decline of civility in discussion.”

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
“This book tells the stories of various people whose lives were ruined by Internet ‘mobs’ that reacted to things those people said on social media. He wrote a long article based on the book for the New York Times a while back that I keep coming back to, because of what it says about how people’s online behavior has become so much more impulsive, vicious and bombastic than anything they might do face-to-face.”

Don Meeks

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls
From Amazon: “Whether the issue of the day on Twitter, Facebook, or cable news is our sexuality, political divides, or the perceived conflict between faith and science, today’s media pushes each one of us into a frustrating clash between two opposing sides. Polarizing, us-against-them discussions divide us and distract us from thinking clearly and communicating lovingly with others. Scott Sauls, like many of us, is weary of the bickering and is seeking a way of truth and beauty through the conflicts. Jesus Outside the Lines presents Jesus as this way. Scott shows us how the words and actions of Jesus reveal a response that does not perpetuate the destructive fray. Jesus offers us a way forward – away from harshness, caricatures and stereotypes. In Jesus Outside the Lines, you will experience a fresh perspective of Jesus, who will not (and should not) fit into the sides.”

Body Broken: Can Republicans and Democrats Sit in the Same Pew by Charles D. Drew
From Amazon: “Can Christians be political activists without hating those who disagree? As the next presidential election comes into view, Americans are deciding where to stand on the key issues. The church has often been as politically divided as the culture, leading many Christians to withdraw from politics or to declare alliances prematurely. But Charles Drew offers an alternative for people who care deeply about their faith and about the church’s corporate calling in the world. In this updated and revised version of A Public Faith (NavPress 2000), Drew helps Christians to develop practical biblical convictions about critical social and political issues. Carefully distinguishing between moral principle and political strategy, Body Broken equips believers to build their political activism upon a thoughtful and biblical foundation. This balanced approach will provide readers Democrats, Republicans, or Independents with a solid biblical foundation for decision making. Drew even helps Christians of all political persuasions to understand how they can practice servanthood, cooperation and integrity in today’s public square. With questions at the end of each chapter to help readers explore and apply principles, Body Broken will train believers to actively engage with political issues while standing united as a church.”

The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones
From Amazon: “Drawing on more than four decades of polling data, The End of White Christian America explains and analyzes the waning vitality of white Christian America. Jones argues that the visceral nature of today’s most heated issues—the vociferous arguments around same-sex marriage and religious liberty, the rise of the Tea Party following the election of our first black president, and stark disagreements between black and white Americans over the fairness of the criminal justice system—can only be understood against the backdrop of white Christians’ anxieties as America’s racial and religious topography shifts around them.”

Jessica Tate

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland
“This is a book that takes our all-too-common labels of one another as ‘right Christians’ and ‘wrong Christians,’ explores the sociology behind our division, and reminds us that Jesus commands us to love our neighbors (all of them), just as he did — relentlessly.”

The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words by Deborah Tannen
“Written in 1998, this one is starting to show some age, but continues to be a helpful book as it traces today’s public discourse (or lack thereof). While it is a linguistic perspective, not a theological one, Tannen opens by saying, ‘This is not another book about civility…. Our spirits are corroded by living in an atmosphere of unrelenting contention — an argument culture.'”

Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game that Made a Nation by John Carlin
“This book paints the picture of Nelson Mandela’s consistent and persistent work to humanize white Afrikaners and black South Africans to one another through the winning of their hearts in a united force behind the rugby team – the Springboks. It’s a compelling story of playing the long game, refusing to demonize, and seeking to find the image of God in every person. I read it as a parable.”

Quinn Fox

The Road to Character by David Brooks
“One of the leading public intellectuals of our day, Brooks challenges readers to focus on the deeper values that should inform our lives—by striving to shift the focus of our living away from the ‘résumé virtues’—achieving wealth, fame and status—toward the ‘eulogy virtues’—those character traits that are worthy of being at the core of our being: kindness, bravery, honesty and faithfulness.”

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World by James Davison Hunter
“To change hearts and minds has been the goal of modern Christians seeking to correct a culture deemed fallen and morally lax. Hunter (author of Culture Wars) finds this approach pervasive among Christians of all stripes and in every case deeply flawed, to the point of undermining the message of the very gospel they cherish and desire to advance. After charting the history of Christian assumptions and efforts to change culture, Hunter investigates the nature of power and politics in Christian life and thought, and then proposes an alternative: what he calls the practice of faithful presence, rooted not in a desire to change the world… but rather in a desire to honor the creator of all goodness, beauty, and truth.”

Living with Difference: How to Build Community in a Divided World by Adam B. Seligman, Rahel R. Wasserfall, and David W. Montgomery
“Written by a team of scholars who specialize in helping communities engage with difference, this book explores the challenges and necessities of accommodating difference, however difficult and uncomfortable such accommodation may be. The authors are part of an organization that has worked internationally with community leaders, activists, and other partners to take the insights of anthropology out of the classroom and into the world. Rather than addressing conflict by emphasizing what is shared, Living with Difference argues for the centrality of difference in creating community, seeking ways not to overcome or deny differences but to live with and within them in a self-reflective space and practice.”

Book Review: Earning Innocence

Earning Innocence by Andrew Taylor-Troutman
Resource Publications (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers), 2015
Reviewed by Carol Ferguson

614dgwywrgL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In his first novel, Earning Innocence, Andrew Taylor-Troutman gives the reader entrance to the mind of Rev. James Wheeler, a mind both precise in its renderings of the everyday and aware to the indwelling of the transcendent. Wheeler, a husband, father, and Moravian pastor, takes to the page to record his life, but more than that, to order, disorder, and reorder it again. Taylor-Troutman’s narrative is thick with the study of memory. Though the story is contained in just eight late summer days, Wheeler moves through the crash and eddy of a lifetime of memories, finding meaning in the way old stories slap up against the new ones.  Many of the events of Earning Innocence are familiar and ordinary—celebrating an anniversary, taking a dog for a walk, writing a sermon, eating a family dinner—yet in Taylor-Troutman’s hands they become windows into the faith that transforms ordinary into breathtakingly holy.

Throughout, Taylor-Troutman taunts with stories that might become The Conflict—an accident, a death, a combative son. Yet as soon as each rises, it slides away again, taking its place in the realm of memory, painful but past. In the end, Wheeler’s struggle is not with The Moment that Changes Everything, but with The Moment that Shouldn’t Have Changed Anything At All—an admission by his oldest son. The book concludes with a deep sense of hope, however, that the breach between them can be repaired, and that the innocence of a father’s love for his son can be re-earned.

Taylor-Troutman has created a true community on the page, and I find I want to be a part of it again. I am glad he intends to revisit these characters in another novel.

Wheeler’s mantra is this: “so much of prayer is a calling to mind.” In Earning Innocence, Taylor-Troutman calls to our minds the limping blessings of family and faith. If a book can be a prayer, this one certainly is. I found myself whispering Amen as I closed it.


Carol Ferguson is a native of Salem, VA, a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, and a final-level MDiv student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. A candidate for ordination in the Presbytery of the Peaks, she is currently seeking her first call to pastoral ministry.

Nones and Dones Book Recommendations

At the 2016 NEXT Church National Gathering, Renee Roederer hosted an optional ministry context conversation on “nones and dones,” people Renee defines as spiritually curious and institutionally suspicious. As part of that discussion, a book list emerged for those looking to learn more:

Church Refugees: Sociologists Reveal Why People are DONE with Church but not Their Faith – Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope

Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope provide a sociological study that explains why the Dones are leaving churches behind. They explore the primary themes for departure in order to listen to the concerns of the Dones and help churches adapt.

The Nones are Alright: A New Generation of Believers, Seekers, and Those in Between – Kaya Oakes

Kaya Oakes provides historical analysis about why people are leaving organized religion and how some are reclaiming it outside of institutional structures.

Grounded: Finding God in the World – A Spiritual Revolution – Diana Butler Bass

Diana Butler Bass argues that what appears to be a religious decline in the U.S. is actually a new, transformative movement of people experiencing God as intimate and incarnational in the world.

Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory  – Tod Bolsinger

Tod Bolsinger tells the story of the Lewis and Clark exploration as they had to dramatically adapt once they reached the Rocky Mountains. In the same way, church leaders recognize that dramatic adaptation is needed as culture is changing.

The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why – Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle argues that the Christian Church experiences a major reformation approximately every 500 years,  and that a new, great emergence is currently developing which will invite more into the faith as the institutional church changes.

What is the NEXT Church Reading?

by MaryAnn McKibben Dana

Happy March! This month on the blog we will be featuring reflections from our 2016 National Gathering. Watch this space for thoughts from a wide variety of folks, especially around the question, What “stuck”? What ideas, speakers, workshops or worship services are continuing to work on your heart as you envision “the church that is becoming?” We’ll be hearing from ruling elders, teaching elders, seminarians, and more.

We start with a list of books and blogs collected during our authors’ lunch, in which writers and book-lovers came together on Tuesday to share favorite books, websites, and other resources. What is the NEXT Church reading? What is the NEXT Church writing? Here are a few answers, in the order they were shared. Bold items are books written by NEXT attendees and leaders.

A list like this one is by nature incomplete, even inadequate. What would you add?
  • Aric Clark, et al — Never Pray Again
  • Martha Spong, editor — There’s a Woman in the Pulpit
  • Denise Anderson — Soula Scriptura blog
  • Kathleen O’Toole — Meanwhile (poetry)
  • Andy Weir — The Martian
  • Mark Douglas — Confessing Christ in the 21st Century, Believing Aloud: Reflections on Being Religious in the Public Square
  • Christian Wiman — My Bright Abyss
  • Ta-Nahesi Coates — Between the World and Me
  • Marilynne Robinson — The Givenness of Things
  • @ This Point — journal from Columbia Seminary, theological investigations in church and culture
  • Adam Copeland, editor — Kissing in the Chapel, Praying in the Frat House: Wrestling with Faith and College, Stewardship Made Whole (forthcoming)
  • Jenny Lawson — Let’s Pretend This Never Happened
  • Mark Davis — Left Behind and Loving It
  • MaryAnn McKibben Dana — Sabbath in the Suburbs, Improvising with God (forthcoming), theblueroomblog.org 
  • Theresa Latini —Transforming Church Conflict
  • Jennifer Harvey — Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation (Prophetic Christianity Series)
  • Scott Dannemiller — The Year without a Purchase (blog: Accidental Missionary)
  • Fredrik Backman — A Man Called Ove
  • Lynn Miller — The Power of Enough
  • Samuel Wells — Nazareth Manifesto
  • Charles Freeman — blog: Way More Important Than That (A blog on where faith and sports intersect … or don’t …)
  • Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru — League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth
  • Diane Roberts — Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America
  • Jessica Vazquez-Torres, contributor — Church Responds to Racism 
  • William B. Sweetser Jr. — A Copious Fountain: A History of Union Presbyterian Seminary, 1812-2012
  • Atul Gawande — Being Mortal
  • Diana Butler Bass — Grounded: Finding God in the World-A Spiritual Revolution
  • Ian Haney López— Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class
  • Amanda Palmer — The Art of Asking
  • Stephen King — On Writing

mamd profile picMaryAnn McKibben Dana is a teaching elder in the PC(USA) whose ministry consists of writing, speaking, and freelance writing/consulting with non-profit organizations on their social media needs. She is a member of the NEXT Church Strategy Team. Connect with her at her website, The Blue Room.

Book Review: Inhabiting Eden: Christians, the Bible and the Ecological Crisis

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. During September, Leanne Pearce Reed is curating a month of blog posts exploring stewardship of all creation. Join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Walter Canter

Patricia Tull’s book Inhabiting Eden searches the wisdom of the Old Testament for a way of ideal relationship with God and creation. Tull ends up in Genesis and Isaiah (along with a supporting cast of plenty other texts from across the OT and gospels) basing her approach to the ecological crisis in humanity’s identity and prophetic call.

Photo from: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Gtu0Wp1TL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Tull begins with a broad assessment of human relationship with God and creation—she finds that the relationship we have isn’t the ideal depicted in Scripture. After the broad overview, Tull assesses the implications of this less than ideal relationship in regards to commerce, food, animal life, and human rights. Inhabiting Eden ends with a hopeful prophetic call to renewed relationship with God and creation through living within the planet’s means.

Throughout Inhabiting Eden, Tull challenges contemporary understandings of ‘environment.’ Environment, to Tull, is not isolated to the nearest wetland, national park or forest. The environment that needs our care and respect in Eden is everywhere. All humans live in an environment and human action affects both the immediate environment as well as the beautiful places of wilderness. The story of creation includes everything, no part of this world is out of God’s reach and all parts of this world are loving gifts from its Creator. Using this all-encompassing definition of environment, Tull develops a theology of gratitude.

Within the ordered and fundamentally good creation, humans have the vocation of caretakers. God provides what we need, and in response to that providing, human beings have the task of preserving these gifts. In Tull’s words, “We were intended to draw sustenance from creation’s bounty. With each breath, we take in God’s provision of air; with each drink, the precious water supply; with each bit of bread, the manna for one more day of love and service. We can begin to uphold the world that upholds us by recognizing these gifts with gratitude, especially our place in an ordered world that is full and fundamentally good, and our vocation to preserve the goodness and health of this living, teeming, exuberant world” (30).

Tull, along with the biblical prophets, shapes her call for justice around an understanding of change in the world. The ecological crisis comes out of dangerous change, but hope comes out of an acknowledgement that just as change in human behavior brought danger, a new change in human behavior can overcome that danger.

Tull’s writing style and structure is accessible; she dives into current ecological issues and scriptural study with clear and concise language. Tull’s accessibility makes it tempting to read quickly, but the depth, poignancy, and relevance of the information often left me pausing to assess my own handling of these sacred texts in relation to my everyday activity. There were even a few moments in Inhabiting Eden where I paused mid paragraph to google things like, “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” hoping that Tull’s description of our planet’s state was hyperbolic (it wasn’t… and ew).

Inhabiting Eden is an excellent read that reminds the reader of the timeless power of Scripture as it challenges the reader to see these old texts in a new light.


Provided by: Walter Canter

Rev. Walter Canter is pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church of Big Lick in Crossville, TN. He’s an avid soccer fan and enjoys hiking with his wife (and occasionally his dog). Contact him at canterjw@gmail.com.

Paracletos Reading List

Brownson, James V. et al: Storm Front: The Good News of God. Eerdmans 2003

Butler Bass, Diana: Christianity After Religion. Harper One 2012

Hudson, Jill M.: When Better Isn’t Enough: Evaluation Tools for the 21st Century Church. Alban 2004

Kitchens, Jim: The Postmodern Parish: New Ministry for a New Era. Alban 2003

Mancini, Will: Church Unique: How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement. Jossey-Bass 2008

Merritt, Carol Howard: Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation. Alban 2010

Rendle, Gil: The Multigenerational Congregation: Meeting the Leadership Challenge. Alban 2002

Whitsett, Landon: Open Source Church: Making Room for the Wisdom of All. Alban 2011

A Passion for the Reign of God–A Review of Emergence Christianity

by Elizabeth Michael

emergence christianityI heard Phyllis Tickle speak at the Festival of Homiletics this spring.  The speaker introducing her went through a long list of her credentials and accolades and then asked her, “What is your passion?”

I expected to hear that Tickle was passionate about her small farm in Tennessee, knitting, rock-hopping, and sea-salted dark chocolate, or some such things.  (After all, who of us hasn’t wrestled with that last line of a bio, which conventionally includes friends/family/pets, a favorite creative pursuit, a slightly obscure physical activity, and a rather innocuous guilty pleasure?)  Instead, I found myself sitting up straight when I heard her response: “What is my passion?  Still, though it may sound ridiculous, the reign of God.”

That answer got me to pull Tickle’s books out of my “good intentions” pile and open them.

A few years ago, Tickle’s writing popularized the concept of semi-millennial cultural tsunamis: she posited that every 500 years, almost as clockwork, the Western world has experienced periods of enormous upheaval in which every piece of culture has been reconfigured.  Five hundred years ago it was the Reformation, 1000 years ago saw the Great Schism, 1500 years ago witnessed the Great Decline and Fall, and 2000 years ago birthed the Great Transformation.  This, then, is one of Tickle’s gifts to the heart wearied by anxiety for the church and culture in our age: we are right on schedule.

Indeed, it is not the church alone that experiences upheaval: economic, political, and social life are disrupted right alongside ecclesial life.  The upheaval of our own times, christened the Great Emergence, has been the subject of a few of Tickle’s books.  Her latest, Emergence Christianity: What It Is, Where It Is Going, and Why It Matters, published in 2012, serves as an “interim report” on the church-that-is-becoming.

Those who still find themselves uncertain of what emergence Christianity is will find in this volume a helpful introduction.  Here Azusa Street, Taize, New Monastics, the by now infamous SBNR crowd, and theology-on-tap groups find a place in Tickle’s chronicle.  Here the “emerging” and “emergent” camps are differentiated.  Here are considered, if not answered, questions of our present moment: How will Christian community look in an Internet age of anonymous intimacy?  What does the deinstitutionalization of Emergence Christianity mean for the future of professional ordained clergy?  When an Emergence culture finds meta-narratives suspect, what is to become of Christianity’s Grand Narrative?  What does “growth” mean to the church-that-is-becoming?

It is perhaps telling that the final section of the book, “And Now What?” is also the shortest.  Looking ahead to the inevitable reconfiguration of all that is currently being disrupted, Tickle is not prescriptive and minimally predictive.  She identifies impending dilemmas to be revisited, among them atonement theory and the question of what it is to be a human being.  She wonders about the implications for the church of an Emergence culture skeptical of hierarchy and disinclined toward membership.  Most incisively, she raises the question that follows inevitably in the wake of every tsunami: where now is our authority?  Or, put another way, how then shall we live?  The volume is only an interim report, after all.  There is more to come, and readers are left with the implicit responsibility of living into the questions.

Were its first 200 pages useless, the book would be worth purchasing for the annotated bibliography and afterword alone.  The robust reading list offers further fodder for those so inclined; it is evidence of Tickle’s careful scholarship.  But the brief afterword evinces not only her scholarship, but also her faith.  She writes of the mystery of the Trinity and of the story by which she lives her life; she writes like a person passionate about the reign of God.


Elizabeth Michael is privileged to serve as Associate Pastor at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church in Durham, NC.  She does love sea-salted chocolate but is striving to be still more passionate about the reign of God.

Essential Reading for the NEXT Church

A theological memoir. A scriptural guide to community organizing. A collection of stories and reflections from young clergy women. A cheeky look at the end times. These are just a few of the books featured at our two Author Luncheons during the 2013 NEXT National Gathering in Charlotte. During the lunch, authors shared a few words about their books, then we opened the floor for suggestions of books, blogs and resources that others have found helpful in engaging the church that is becoming. What is the NEXT Church reading? What is the NEXT Church writing? Here are a few answers. A list like this one is by nature incomplete, even inadequate. What would you add?

Books Featured at NEXT Left Behind and Loving It: A Cheeky Look at the End Times, Mark Davis Reflecting with Scripture on Community Organizing, Jeff Krehbiel Bless Her Heart: Life as a Young Clergy Woman, Ashley-Anne Masters and Stacy Smith Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family’s Experiment with Holy Time, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Church and Stage: Producing Theatre for Education, Praxis, Outreach and Fundraising, Dean Seal The Benefit of the Doubt, Frank Spencer (coming soon to Amazon) Take My Hand: A Theological Memoir, Andrew Taylor-Troutman Imagining the Small Church: Celebrating a Simpler Path, Steve Willis

Other Books Recommended by NEXT Church Conferees Einstein’s God: Conversations about God and the Human Spirit, Krista Tippett Geography of God: Exploring the Christian Journey, Michael Lindvall Effective Organizing for Congregational Renewal, Mike Gecan Putting Away Childish Things: A Novel of Modern Faith, Marcus Borg When Spiritual But Not Religious Is Not Enough, Lillian Daniel Kneeling with Giants: Learning to Pray with History’s Best Teachers, Gary Neal Hansen

Blogs and Websites (in no particular order) Mustard Seed Journal, Mary Harris Todd 1001 Hints for Youth Ministry, Kent Smith The Pudgy Parson (Still) Going to Graceland RevGalBlogPals Glass Overflowing, Marci Auld Glass Painted Prayerbook, Jan Richardson A Church for Starving Artists, Jan Edmiston In the Meantime, David Lose The Blue Room, MaryAnn McKibben Dana Spirit in the House, Dean Seal and the Forgiveness 360 Project Inside Outed Tribal Church, Carol Howard Merritt

Resources for Writers CreateSpace: Amazon Publishing Wipf and Stock (publisher) Presbyterian Writers Guild Collegeville Institute (writing workshops and programs) Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt