My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was an interesting book on several levels. My initial thought was that the author was referencing the isolation of the current pandemic and would talk about how to get folks to come back and attend in person … that is not what this book is about at all and that caught me by surprise. Instead, the basic idea was this: “It is isolation that better describes the complex way in which sin divided human beings from God and one another, distancing them from the goodness and benefit of the God who is our source and from others, through whom we receive these good gifts.” Being separated from God as a result of sin is not an entirely novel idea; however, adding separation from others into that same equation was new for me and it was a profoundly beautify way to view what we need out of community. Even more interesting was how isolation can be seen as either a misplaced emphasis on the individual (or individualism) or an emphasis on conformity with a crowd (tribalism). The former is fairly come to see in the US and the later I have frequently encountered with tween students that never want to do anything that makes them stand out in the crowd. I other words, I felt that I knew exactly what the author was talking about. With the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Guide, the author reviews a lot of the habits found within our church communities that also suffer from these two issues and tries to come up with proposed solutions.
Chapter 1 explored the nature and origin of isolation within the Christian Communion, with Chapter 2 and 3 tying that isolation to our fallen state (in other words, such is normal and to be expected) and why this is a problem. The most important mistake that I recognized here that is common to many churches is the drive to survive and grow that at times seems counter to the true mission of the church. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 start the process of what we need to do in order to over come this problem; mostly this seems focused on community prayer and action (service) … “to ask not only what we do but how we do it if in fact church practice is about being knit into one body in Christ and overcoming the isolation that is regnant in creation” breaking everything down into communal/common life, provide life and mission/ministry and is in my opinion the heart of the entire book … but was also short on specifics. I must admit to a bit of a struggle here as the analogies and repetition began to blur a bit for me; however, I still came away with what I believe is a good general understanding of the way forward. Most interesting was the exploration of the “days apart” concept and how that should be structured to reinforce the “days together.” Chapter 7 covers confession and communion with a surprising recognition that even within Protestant traditions, confession is important (just not necessarily to clergy). “Without the common confession of faith, we are only a body who knows how to judge in a way that divides, but without confession of sin, we are not a body that is willing to be healed.”
Over all this is a book to come back to as you slowly gain better income into the concepts that it contains and begin to put them into practice.
Introduction - Naming Our Problem: Isolation and the Human Condition
Part One - Isolation and the Structure of the World
- 1 Life in Isolation, Then and Now
- 2 The Church and the Practice of Isolation
- 3 The Logic of Bodily Community
Part Two - The New World of Christian Community
- 4 Renewing Common Life
- 5 Restructuring Private Life
- 6 Renewing the Shape of Ministry
- 7 Life Together Made Visible
Conclusion - After Isolation, in Isolation
I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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