Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Christianity for the Rest of Us ~ ecumenical discussion

Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith ~ by Diana Butler Bass, 2006
For decades the accepted wisdom has been that America's mainline Protestant churches are in decline, eclipsed by evangelical mega-churches.  Church and religion expert Diana Butler Bass wondered if this was true, and this book is the result of her extensive, three-year study of centrist and progressive churches across the country.  Her surprising findings reveal just the opposite — that many of the churches are flourishing, and they are doing so without resorting to mimicking the mega-church, evangelical style.  Butler Bass describes this phenomenon and offers a how-to approach for Protestants eager to remain faithful to their tradition while becoming a vital spiritual community.  As she delved into the rich spiritual life of various Episcopal, United Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, and Lutheran churches, certain consistent practices — such as hospitality, contemplation, diversity, justice, discernment, and worship — emerged as core expressions of congregations seeking to rediscover authentic Christian faith and witness today.  This hopeful book reveals the practical steps that leaders and laypeople alike are taking to proclaim an alternative message about an emerging Christianity that strives for greater spiritual depth and proactively engages the needs of the world.
A couple of us decided to talk about religion from an ecumenical or interfaith perspective.  We picked this book, partly because it includes chapters on ten spiritual practices (hospitality, discernment, healing, contemplation, testimony, diversity, justice, worship, reflection, and beauty).  I'll post qustions — for each section of the book — as we read.  Clicking on the discussion links will take you to the appropriate set of questions.  This is not a class, so you don't have to answer all the questions, but do put your comment under the question(s) you are discussing.


Comments are open to anyone, but are moderated.  So please keep your remarks positive.  If your comment is rude, hateful, bullying, or condescending, it won't get posted.  If it is critical, please make it constructive.  The definition of terms ("rude, hateful, bullying, or condescending") is left solely up to the moderator.

Author's website
Video on "Religiously Unaffiliated"

Overview of labyrinths for Book Buddies
Labyrinth at Thankful Memorial Episcopal Church
Labyrinth at St. Paul Episcopal Church
Labyrinth at Burks United Methodist Church
Labyrinth at St. Francis of Assissi Episcopal Church

End-of-discussion party on Essencia Island

PART I – What Happened to the Neighborhood Church?
1.  The Vanished Village
2.  Remembering Christianity
3.  The New Village Church
4.  Finding Home
PART IITen Signposts of Renewal
5.  Hospitality
6.  Discernment
7.  Healing
8.  Contemplation
9.  Testimony
10.  Diversity
11.  Justice
12.  Worship
13.  Reflection
14.  Beauty
PART IIIFrom Tourists to Pilgrims
15.  Transforming Lives
16.  Transforming Congregations
17.  Transforming the World
Epilogue ~ Home Again


AuntyDon said...

I am anxious to get started as I've finished this book and loved it! I am very interested in the opinions of all others as they read Butler Bass's ideas.

AuntyDon said...

Bonnie, how do we answer individual questions?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Shirley emailed me back, saying, "Sounds good! I have reserved this at the library so plan to participate. I hope this will be a good discussion."

Donna, I'll post questions for chapters in separate posts, which I'll link to the list in this post. That way, when anybuddy is ready to answer questions, they can come here and click on the appropriate chapter.

I'll post questions for the introduction right now -- that's the only section without questions in the discussion guide at the back of the paperback version.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

The latest count of people planning to join this discussion (not counting any who may comment, whether or not they read the book) is now seven:

Alison (Alisonwonderland)
Bonnie Jacobs
Donna (AuntyDon)
Jane H.
Cheryl P.

I'll try to answer some questions today -- and post more DQs (discussion questions) for the next chapter or two.

Zorro said...

Bonnie, I am following the discussion with interest, but do not have the book yet. You may hear something from me, if the book comes in.

(Also you may see me in the flesh when I come to see my daughter in Ooltewah, TN soon!)

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Zorro, that's great! You may speak up even without the book, but you'll get more out of it with the book. Did I send you my phone numbers?

Bonnie Jacobs said...

It may interest some of you to know about this Pondering Life's Challenges post on the RevGalBlogPals blog. I left this comment:

Thanks for the shout-out, though what I found was not a book, but a website on spiritual practices called Spirituality & Practice. If you click on that link, you will eventually get to a book review, but it was the quote on savoring from the website that I shared on my book blog.

I was looking for spiritual practices because my online book club (another of my blogs) is starting to read and discuss (as we go) Diana Butler Bass's Christianity for the Rest of Us, published in 2006. The middle section of her book covers ten practices that "point Christians in the right direction, toward the wisdom of God, toward love, toward home" (p. 74).

Some of you read this book in 2007 and discussed it here on RevGalBlogPals before I got here.  If you've read it -- or want to read it now -- come discuss it with my Book Buddies.  (Jan @ Yearning for God is searching for her copy and plans to join us.)

NOTE: Click on these links, like to Jan's blog, to read more about our book under discussion. How fun to start my morning by finding that something I shared with my readers has been picked up and shared in a wider circle of readers. We never know where the influence of our words may travel.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

I didn't link you to my post on Savoring, so here it is.

Shirley said...

I got the book so eager to join in on the discussion. It's pleased me to see that there is quite a conversation already going on.