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Christianity for the Rest of Us

Named one of "Publishers Weeklys" Best Religion Books of 2006, this firsthand account explores the grassroots phenomenon of church life today, showing how neighborhood churches are not only surviving but thriving.
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This book by church and religion expert and former New York Times columnist Bass (Strength for the Journey) is a noble attempt to examine the health of America's mainline neighborhood churches. The "rest of us" refers to the countless masses of Christians in traditionally mainline denominations-Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist-who are spiritually searching and do not fit in with the media's casting of the new Christian model of Evangelical or Fundamentalist brands. The book is a culmination of a three-year study titled "The Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice (PCIP)," which was funded by the Lily Foundation and sponsored by the Virginia Theological Seminary. A mix of ethnography, spiritual reflection, and academic study tinged with moments of sentimentality and caution, it attempts to fit the middle ground between scholarship and popular literature. There is a continued focus on the idea of the "pilgrim," who represents the notion of spiritual searcher in contemporary Christian America. This study is one piece of the great debate on contemporary American religion and will certainly foster innumerable discussions. Recommended for seminary or theological libraries.-Anthony J. Elia, American Theological Lib. Assn., Chicago Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"This excellent and timely book celebrates a vastly important phenomenon that has been too little noticed."--Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury This excellent and timely book celebrates a vastly important phenomenon that has been too little noticed. --Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury"

Most pundits will tell you that the mainline churches Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists and Disciples of Christ are in decline: it is now commonplace to assume that liberal churches are doomed and only evangelical churches are growing. Think again, says Butler Bass (The Practicing Congregation) in this challenging and hopeful book, which summarizes the findings of a three-year study funded by the Lilly Endowment. Yes, many mainline churches are struggling, but not because liberal Christianity is a contradiction in terms. Rather, the old neighborhood Protestant church has fallen on hard times because the old neighborhood has been replaced by a strip mall. And many mainline churches are thriving. Butler Bass showcases 10 of them, including Redeemer UCC in New Haven, Conn., and Saint Mark (Lutheran) in Yorktown, Va. She then examines 10 practices, from hospitality to worship to vigorous theological discussion, and posits that these practices are the heartbeat of vital mainline churches. Her provocative conclusions include the observation that today's mainliners have redefined politics by favoring bottom-up acts of service over structural change. And, she says, the thriving congregations are neither red nor blue, but purple a mix of Democrats and Republicans. This is Bass's best book yet. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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