Wee Kirk/small churches
For the past several days, Beth and I journeyed to Western PA for the annual Wee Kirk conference. Wee Kirk is Scottish (I guess) or Presbyterianese, at least, for Small Church. This retreat is organized by a Pennsylvania team funded in part by Presbyterians for Renewal and is an event we look forward to each year. It serves pastors and lay leaders of small and struggling congregations and offers workshops--from stewardship issues to youth ministry and all kinds of other congregational matters--customized for the wee kirk. And, you should know, most chuches in America are on the smallish size. The mega-church is a rare beast; the larger tall steeple church not at all the norm, either. Mid-to-small is the average, despite what the PR image is. These guys and gals we worked with are the salt of the very earth.
Of course our book display showed off our regular fare: Reformed theology, the missional church, charistmatic renewal, contemplative theology and spiritual formation, social justice, cultural engagement, social action, racial reconciliation and all kinds of stuff about worship, liturgical renewal, congregational life, church conflict, preaching, Christian education and other studies of routine parish stuff. Although our website and blog posts often feature Kingdom visions for laypeople serving God in the marketplace or sensing vocation or thinking Christianly about pop culture and the like (there's that Kuyperian perpsecitve, again) we DO stock tons of stuff about church life and congregational development, parish life and church leadership. Too many to list here, but we have a very extensive selection.
We featured a whole table of helpful resources written specifically for the smaller congregations (like, for instance, Single Digit Youth Groups or O For a Dozen Tongues to Sing, about small church choirs, obviously.) There really are a good fifteen or so excellent titles like this, from doing pastoral care in smaller congregations to classic Lyle Schaller stuff like Small Congregation, Big Potential or the new and cleverly-titled The Small Church At Large by Robin J. Trebilcock which is about how smaller congregations can do global thinking and mission outreach. Our friend Phil Olson (a small church pastor and ESA staffer) who co-wrote, with Ron Sider & Heidi Unruh, Churches That Make a Difference (a book I've blogged about before) was there. He reminds us that this book, about wholistic, evangelical, urban outreach not only examines larger congregations doing full-orbed ministry, but that several of the model parishes they studied were, actually quite small. But small or not, they combined word and deed with relevance and faithfulness to good effect. So he helped us plug that Hearts & Minds fav, too.
And, we did some showing off of our "sense of place" kind of books; sold some Wendell Berry (yeah!) essays and novels, an important new book by Fortress Press called Sustainable Agriculture: A Christian Ethic of Gratitude by Mark Graham, and other titles about small towns, rural life, doing ministry in the country life setting, blue collar ministry and good books of essays on appreciating creation (do you recall my blog posts about Holdfast late this summer?) Fewer big city churches, I'd say, have members who hunt or farm or live close to the land, so those kind of books are nice to show off at the Wee Kirk event (even though not all small churches are rural.) We think these kinds of books resonate with more rural folk and is an example of contextualizing the gospel. Thank goodness there are books for nearly everybody, Christian resources for living into the reign of God in any setting.
And thank God that the small town churches, the rural farmers, the weary wee kirk leaders are not ignored. This event is a good, good thing and we were pleased and honored to play a small part.