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Title:  Sacred Habits: The Rise of the Creative Clergy Editor: Rev. Chad R. Abbott Series: Intersections: Theology and the Church in a World Come of Age Imprint: Noesis Press 304 pp. soft cover USD 28.00 ISBN 978-1-934542-39-2 September 21, 2016 The Davies Group, Publishers At a time when the church in the United States is struggling to make sense of its place in the public square, a space of inquiry is needed that intersects the work of religion scholars and local church pastors. What will the future of the church look like, and is there hope for transformation? Sacred Habits focuses upon an emerging future for the church, one that embraces creativity and experimentation in the pastorate in the midst of a context of rapid decline. It is written to encourage pastors to bring wisdom to the work of parish ministry through the use of creativity and experimentation; for seminarians who are anticipating entering the parish and seek practical wisdom from clergy and academics whose work impacts the local church; and for congregations who are in the process of examining how to engage in practices, habits, and creative ideas for the future of the church. Sacred Habits is a collection of essays from local clergy, scholars, authors, and entrepreneurs who are utilizing their own creative habits to transform the Church, a chorus of voices that are not afraid to see the future of the Church as a space that uses creativity as a model, all arguing that the work of the pastorate can be examined through the eyes of creativity, risk, experimentation, and a theology of hope; and that the work of habits and creativity can address the issues of how to lead, how to use creativity, and how to empower and enable local churches to thrive and to be engaged in their own future. The diversity of voices contained in this volume reminds us that we are in constant conversation about the future of our work as Church and that we can learn from one another's experiments in ministry. “Chad Abbott has gathered a collection of articulate pastoral voices who make knowing responses to the current crisis in the US church. The themes of these essays are not new or surprising. They are, however, explored in rich and suggestive ways. The accent, recurringly, is on spirituality, relationality, and intentionality. My hunch is that many pastors will find suggestive prompts here for their own rethinking of pastoral practice. These writers affirm that Christian pastors are bound to certain historical restraints; we are not free to scu— ttle them for the sake of success or effectiveness. There is, however, a great wisdom in the tradition that has been entrusted. These authors know that in wise affirming ways.”   — Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary “The poet Randall Jarrell said, ‘The soul has no assignments, neither cooks nor referees…it wastes its time…it wastes its time.’ Clergy forget, to our peril, that the commandment to Sabbath is the longest, and probably least-kept. Sacred Habits reminds us, through a symphony of convincing mentors, the many ways we can choose to make more elbow room within the crush of daily ministry. If the brain needs boredom to spur the imagination, and the soul needs emptiness to invite the presence of God, here is ample encouragement (and compelling arguments to use with your church leadership circle) for new/old spiritual practices such as sabbatical-taking and spiritual direction. We can reclaim Monday through Saturday from “the relentlessness of Sundays” and restore our souls by ‘wasting time’ with colleagues, with strangers, with friends virtual and physical, and even with scripture.”  If you are weary, burned out, suffering or struggling, you owe it to yourself, and your calling, to read this book, and remember. — Rev. Molly Baskette is the Lead Pastor for First Church Somerville UCC in Somerville, MA and is the author of Real Good Church and Standing Naked Before God. “Sacred Habits is an honest book: clergy and lay leaders know that the church is in trouble as its membership continues to shrink since the 1960’s. It is a hope-filled book: through risk and experimentation, an abundance of new approaches is emerging. This book proposes the way through: creativity, deep listening, compassionate relationship and letting go. Here is the place to start.” --The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Honorary Canon of Grace Cathedral and author of Walking a Sacred Path. “Chad is paying attention both to what it means to live into one’s vocation in a time of great transformation, and how the commitment to serve faithfully in such a time challenges a pastor’s balance. This work, an assemblage of wisdom from some of today’s most creative thinkers, does more than challenge those in ministry to risk something in the hopes of ushering in a new day. This book offers tools for sustaining oneself through the madness that will follow. It reminds me of what Sgt. Esterhaus said at the end of every briefing in the series Hill Street Blues: “Hey, let’s be careful out there.” In other words, we are sending you out to do some risky business. Do it – do it well. But take care of yourself. If you are a pastor engaged in change-making for the sake of a gospel you love, and at times are thrown off balance by what comes of that good work: read this book.” — Rev. John Dorhauer is the General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ and the author of Beyond Resistance. “This is a wonderful collection of life-affirming essays ranging from the practice of prayer-as-painting to the challenges (and benefits) of silence and theological reflection. The authors draw upon a wide and rich tradition of Christian reflection of the spiritual life and they shape it in creative and helpful ways to enable the development of life-sustaining habits of the heart. The fresh wind this volume provides simultaneously clears out the old tired cobwebs of the ‘church-as-business' model but also returns to the idea of pastoring as creative vocation – a calling that perpetually seeks the true, the good, and the beautiful.” — Dr. Craig A. Boyd is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Liaison for Theological Studies and Philosophy at St. Louis University. He is also the author of the books Virtues and Vices and A Shared Morality. Contents Foreword by Rev. Carol Howard Merritt Acknowledgments Author Biographies Introduction by Rev. Chad R. Abbott Part 1 Habits of the parish Chapter 1 Rev. Leah Robberts-Mosser “The Pastor as Creative: 4 Principles for Centering Pastoral Life in Creativity”      Chapter 2 Rev. Dr. Andrew T. Kort “Spiritual Structure: A Rule for Church Leaders” Chapter 3 Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Rodkey “Theological Reflection as Pastoral Practice”     Chapter 4 Rev. Emily C. Heath “Reading Scripture as Pastoral Practice”       Chapter 5 Rev. Michelle L. Torigian “Worshiping in the Gaps: Developing Unique Worship Services” Chapter 6 Rev. Ryan Byers “Young Adults and the Creativity of Local Churches” Part 2 Habits of community Chapter 7 Rev. Michael D. Mather “The Church WITH Christ: The Practice of Building Community, Economy, and Mutual Delight” Chapter 8 Rev. Caela Simmons Wood  “Doing Nothing Together: The Art of Getting to Know Each Other” Chapter 9 Rev. Dr. Andrew Hart  “Creating Space for those Experiencing Trauma Chapter 10 Rev. Zayna Hart Thompson “ A Table by the Window: Public Office Hours as a Central View into Contextual Ministry”     Chapter 11 Rev. Elizabeth Dilley “Real Presence: Clergy and Community in the Age of Social Media” Chapter 12 Rev. Dr. Bruce G. Epperly “Synergy in Ministry: Pastoral Excellence Groups as a Catalyst for Creative Transformation” Part 3 Habits of Spiritual Discipline Chapter 13 Rev. Dr. Rick McPeak “Prayer by Painting: Tracing over the Daily Office in Pastoral Life” Chapter 14 Rev. Dr. Jeffrey M. Gallagher “Incarnationally Experiencing the Divine-One Mile at a Time” Chapter 15 Rev. Dr. Sarah Lund “The Heart of Silence”               Chapter 16 Rev. Dr. Kay Mutert “The Labyrinth as a Clergy Practice”         Part 4 Habits of Self Care Chapter 17 Rev. Callie J. Smith and Rev. Dr. Robert Saler “The Practice of Sabbatical as Renewal”   Chapter 18 Rev. Teresa Blythe “Spiritual Direction as Clergy Self Care”   Chapter 19 Rev. Courtney Stange-Tregear “Pastoring and Parenting: Experiments in Family Ritual”   Chapter 20 Rev. Dr. Kristina Lizardy-Hajbi “ ‘Mind Fullness’ and Mindfulness: The Practice of Clergy Mental Wellness”    Chapter 21 Rev. Rachel G. Hackenberg “Disrupting Sabbath” Chapter 22 Rev. Chad R. Abbott Conclusion: “A Clergy Rising from the Ashes” Afterword by Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II About the editor Rev. Chad R. Abbott is a pastor having served churches in both the United Methodist and United Church of Christ traditions. His area of focus and research lies in the field of spirituality and spiritual practices, especially as it relates to the work of interfaith dialogue.  Abbott is a contributing author to the book The Justice Project and is the co-editor for the book Breaking Silence: Pastoral Approaches for Creating an Ethos of Peace.  Abbott currently serves St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Alexandria, Kentucky.
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