I've been writing, as you know, about this wonderful conference Beth and I attended---setting up a large Hearts & Minds book display, complete with draped shelves, wooden cartons, specially made signage and the rest. It was held in Washington DC at the National Press Club and gathered authors who had contributed to a brand new Jossey-Bass release, edited by Mark Nepo, entitled Deepening the American Dream: Reflections on the Inner Life and Spirit of Democracy. If you haven't looked at our last two or three posts, we'd love it if you would. They told of our adventures at the Big Event, shared of our joy in meeting some of these fine organizers and authors, and plugged the book a bit. We think it is a book you should know about.
A new paperback arrived this week from Eerdmans, one of our favorite and certainly one of the most esteemed religious publishers in the biz. My sales rep Bruce had assured me I'd like it--socially engaged and well written! And it seems to me to be germane to our reflections these past days. Travelers on the Journey: Pastors Talk About Their Live and Commitments by Mark D. Constantine ($20.00) carefully tells of, and offers splendid interviews with, a handful of socially engaged pastors. From homelessness to racism, troubled schools to fraying families, domestic poverty to employment issues, most of us agree that the church must, somehow, address the social issues of the day with healing insight, compassionate care, and political savvy. Here, you can follow the journey of some of the best, who have done the work, paid the price, taken the stand, and done so to illustrate care for the common good, and who have done so as Christian pastors. We have often promoted Ron Sider's very useful Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works* (Baker; $19.99) since it came out a few years ago; his co-authors, the very diligent and sharp Heidi Rolland Unruh and the ever-energetic Presby pastor, Phil Olson, are friends, and their efforts, with Ron, to document some of the best examples of wholistic social outreach is thrilling. It seems right to mention it, too.
This new book, Travelers on the Journey, yields not only well-written inspiration, but gives helpful guidance for those that may want to take some next steps towards faithful community action. Like the Sider book, it looks at particular congregations, but, more so, at the pastors who are the visionaries who lead in their churches in this work. This is a book to study, to share, to give to church leaders and pastors you know.
Here are a couple of blurbs that are on the back of the book:
Mark Constantine has captured the authentic voices of moral leaders who rarely make the headlines but who, in addressing social injustices, continue the effort to form the more perfect union of which America's founders dreamed.
James Joseph, former U.S. ambassador to South Africa
With an eye for detail and nuance, in prose that often sings, this volume tells the stories of outstanding, inspired, and inspiring human beings whose calling is service to others....Students, parents, clergy, congregations, public officials, anyone listening to his or her social conscience---all owe it to themselves to read Travelers on the Journey and learn from the experience of kindred spirits.
Lynn Huntley, President, Southern Education Foundation
*When Ron, Heidi and Phil did their research and wrote the stories and published Churches That Make a DifferenceSaving Souls, Serving Society (Oxford University Press; $35.00.) It is a major contribution to the scholarly literature on faith-based social action.
Oxford University Press took notice. They were invited by the prestigious academic press to follow up these effective, wholistic churches, asking what motivates them, what sustains them, how the faith-factor serves their church-based social ministries. Heidie and Ron just released that serious, scholarly work, years in the making, and it is called
Here is what Nancy Ammerman says: Faith-based organizations do a lot of good in society---that much we already know. What Unruh and Sider tell us is why and how. Knowing that the answer is not a simple one will surely help policymakers choose more wisely. Knowing that the answer doesn't fall neatly into liberal versus conservative boxes will surely enlarge the imaginations of religious leaders and social scientists alike. All of them should read this book.
All three of these are useful books to help churches get more involved, to sustain current involvement, or to struggle with the painful and joyful complexities of doing this kind of hard work. I wish the American Dream project had, given their interest in spirit and such, brought a few traditional church workers on board. These folks really are keeping the Dream alive.
Travelers on the Journey: Pastors Talk About Their Live and Commitments Mark D. Constantine (Eerdmans; $20.00)
Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community With Good News and Good Works Ronald J. Sider & Heidi Rolland Unruh (Baker; $19.99.)
Saving Souls, Serving Society: Understanding the Faith-Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry Heidi Rolland Unruh & Ronald J. Sider (Oxford University Press; $35.00.)