The Books

Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People

Dorothy C. Bass, Editor

"Practicing Our Faith is more than a book; it outlines a movement — God's movement — that is both as old as Abraham and as new as today's emerging Christianity. Here is a way to live the abundant life that is good news for our neighbors, sweet rest for our souls, and hope for a church too long fragmented by division. Like the preachers of the last great awakening, I want to shout, 'Get on board!'"

— Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, new monastic, author, speaker

Practicing Our Faith offers help to Christians who are asking how our faith can help us discern what we might do and who we might become. How can we live faithfully and with integrity in a world where the pace of existence is so fast and life's patterns are changing all around us? Can we conduct our daily lives in ways that help us not just get by but flourish — as individuals, as communities, and as a society in concert with creation and in communion with God?

These questions are on the hearts and minds of many seekers who are exploring spirituality today. They are also at the heart of Practicing Our Faith.

Practices are those shared activities that address fundamental needs of humankind and creation and that, woven together, form a way of life. The twelve practices explored in this book are practices that human beings simply cannot do without, particularly at this time in history.

This book will stimulate your imagination. It will encourage you to reflect. It initiates a conversation that will spread into many contexts, each of which presents unique opportunities for noticing, discussing, and living the practices of faith.

This edition includes chapters that will help readers bring this approach to their own contexts ("A Way of Thinking About a Way of Life") and guide reading groups ("Suggestions for Conversation and Reflection").

Book cover for Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People

On Our Way: Christian Practices for Living a Whole Life

Dorothy C. Bass and Susan R. Briehl, Editors

Written for emerging adults, this book explores twelve practices particularly applicable to persons in their twenties: Study, Discerning God's Call, Living as Community, Friendship and Intimacy, Making a Good Living, Care for Creation, Honoring the Body, Singing Our Lives to God, Knowing and Loving Our Neighbors of Other Faiths, Peacemaking and Nonviolence, Doing Justice, and Living in the Presence of God.

Download the free On Our Way study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more for engaging Christian practices.

Book cover for On Our Way

Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens

Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, Editors

Like its parent book Practicing Our Faith, this book advocates a set of Christian practices that are crucial to human well-being and that, together, shape a life well lived. Reflecting on and growing stronger in such practices, teens encounter the possibility of a more faithful way of life, one that is both attuned to present-day needs and taught by ancient wisdom. To deepen their insights and ground their images, adult authors partnered with teenaged colleagues throughout the planning and writing of Way to Live.

Download the free Leader’s Guide, which provides chapter-by-chapter suggestions, activities, scripture study, prayers, and other resources for involving teens in thinking about and engaging 18 Christian practices.

Book cover for Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens

Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time

By Dorothy C. Bass

For busy people who see time as an adversary to be managed, manipulated, and controlled, this book provides a fresh vision of time as a gift from God, waiting to be unwrapped and savored with true presence and delight.

Book cover for Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time

Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

By Stephanie Paulsell

This winsome book offers readers a much-needed guide for cherishing the human body and countering the corrosive cultural messages that prevent us from knowing that we are children of God in our bodies as in our spirits. Written for anyone who has struggled with weight gain and loss, body image, illness, birth and death, Honoring the Body does more than help us cope with these issues — it helps us enrich our practice of faith. Throughout this book, the author leads us on a remarkable journey born of gestures large and small, in ordinary life and in extraordinary circumstances, in every moment of every day. From Paulsell, we can learn how to regain a sense of awe and wonder about our bodies and to cultivate the healing practices that lead to joyful, mindful, and embodied living.

Book cover for Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice

A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice

By Don Saliers and Emily Saliers

Church musician and liturgical theologian Don Saliers joins with daughter Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls fame to reflect on the what, the how, and the why of music as a vital spiritual dimension of our lives. Don and Emily reflect on how music shapes our souls in relation to justice, grief, delight, healing, and hope. This book bridges two generations, two approaches to the life of faith, and two genres of music — the music of Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Download the free A Song to Sing, A Life to Live study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

Book cover for A Song to Sing, A Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice

In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice

By Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

Theologian, mother, and writer Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore shows us how to integrate and strengthen the practice of faith in the everyday — and often mundane — experience of raising children. In the Midst of Chaos reveals what it takes to find the spiritual wisdom in the messy, familial ways of living. By rethinking parenting as an invitation to discover God in the middle of our busy and overstuffed lives, it relieves parents of the burden of being the all-knowing authority figures who impart spiritual knowledge to children. Finding spirituality in family activities such as reading bedtime stories, dividing household chores, and playing games can empower parents to notice what they are already doing as potentially valuable and to practice it more consciously as part of their own faith journey.

Download the free In the Midst of Chaos study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

Book cover for In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice

Testimony: Talking Ourselves into Being Christian

By Thomas G. Long

In this groundbreaking book, Thomas G. Long — a theologian and respected authority on preaching — explores how Christians talk when they are not in church. Testimony breaks the stained-glass image of religious language to show how ordinary talking in our everyday lives — talk across the backyard fence, talk with our kids, talk about politics and the events of the day — can be sacred speech. In a world of spin, slick marketing, mindless chatter, and easy deceptions, Testimony shows that the hunger for truthful, meaningful, and compassionate speech is ultimately grounded in truth about God.

Download the free Testimony study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

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Money Enough: Everyday Practices for Living Faithfully in the Global Economy

By Douglas A. Hicks

In this much-needed book, Douglas Hicks looks at how Christian faith applies to the practices of economic life-spending, saving, and giving, especially as an alternative to a life of unbridled consumerism. This book offers reflections for people of faith and anyone who wants to connect their Monday-through-Saturday lives with their faith and live a more integrated way. It takes a look at how to realistically apply Christian principles in these especially perilous economic times.

  • Explores how Christians can rethink their practices of faith as consumers, investors, and earners
  • Offers reflections on an important Christian concept in a practical, lively, and engaging style
  • Contains ideas for meeting the everyday pressures, questions, and anxieties of economic life as they connect with Christian faith

Download the free Money Enough study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

money enough

Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility

By Claire E. Wolfteich

How can we respond to violence in our neighborhoods or in battle zones thousands of miles away, to layoffs in a nearby corporation, or to troubling and conflicted moral questions? We want to engage the world around us faithfully, yet we are often leery about how religion gets woven into social and political life. What does it really mean to use prayer in bringing faith to life — in the workplace, in daily tasks, in the voting booth?

Lord, Have Mercy offers a guide for those who want to move prayer beyond private devotion and engage faithfully with the questions, decisions, policies, and movements that shape our lives in society. This important book is designed to help you think about how you pray about vital — and often confounding — social and political questions. Lord, Have Mercy is filled with stories from around the world that illustrate what prayer might mean and do in difficult situations. Throughout this compelling book, Claire E. Wolfteich explores how communities pray about social issues, especially where questions of justice are at stake and where opinions differ about what constitutes justice or what is an appropriate public faith witness. These stories confront theological and spiritual dilemmas and show how individuals and groups have grappled with them.

Lord, Have Mercy is written for anyone who seeks to thoughtfully connect faith with political, social, and economic issues. It is for those who want to grow in discernment of God's purposes in the world, who want to stand on the side of justice, and who want to pray with conviction and humility.

Download the free Lord, Have Mercy study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

lord, have mercy

Christian Practical Wisdom: What It Is, Why It Matters

By Dorothy C. Bass, Kathleen A. Cahalan, Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore, James R. Nieman, and Christian B. Scharen

In this richly collaborative work, five distinguished scholars examine the oft-neglected embodied practical wisdom that is essential for true theological understanding and faithful Christian living. After first showing what Christian practical wisdom is and does in several real-life situations, the authors tell why such practical wisdom matters and how it operates, exploring reasons behind its decline in both the academy and the church and setting forth constructive cases for its renewal.

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Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life

Edited by Miroslav Volf and Dorothy C. Bass

In a time when academic theology often neglects the lived practices of the Christian community, this volume seeks to bring balance to the situation by showing the dynamic link between the task of theology and the practices of the Christian life. The work of thirteen first-rate theologians from several cultural and Christian perspectives, these informed and informative essays explore the relationship between Christian theology and practice in the daily lives of believers, in the ministry of Christian communities, and as a needed focus within Christian education.

Book cover for Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life

For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry

Edited by Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra

Theologians and pastors explore practical theology as an indispensable dimension of Christian faith and show how it can clarify and strengthen life-giving ways of life in and for the world.

Book cover for For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education and Christian Ministry

Educating People Of Faith: Exploring the History of Jewish and Christian Communities

Edited by John Van Engen, Foreword by Dorothy C. Bass

Creates a vivid portrait of the lived practices that shaped the faith of Jews and Christians in synagogues and churches from antiquity up to the seventeenth century. Rather than focusing solely on either intellectual or social life, the authors all use the concept of “practices” as they attend to the embodied, contextual character of religious form.

Book cover for Educating People Of Faith: Exploring the History of Jewish and Christian Communities

Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices

By Craig Dykstra

In this new edition of his popular book, Craig Dykstra explores the contributions of the traditions, education, worship practices, and disciplines of the Reformed Christian community in helping people grow in faith. Dykstra persuasively makes the case that the church has a wealth of wisdom about satisfying spiritual hunger and the desire to know God deeply — wisdom that offers coherent, thoughtful guidance in such diverse settings as congregational life, families, youth groups, and higher education. This new edition includes a study guide by Syd Hielema, a new foreword by Dorothy C. Bass, and a new preface by the author. The book is ideal for clergy, Christian educators, and all who are interested in finding guidance in their quest for a genuine encounter with God.

Book cover for Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices

Holden Prayer Around the Cross

By Susan Briehl and Tom Witt

Explore a flexible order for contemplative prayer that was developed at the Holden Village retreat center in Washington state. These authors present a wealth of practical suggestions for planning and leading such services. This resource also includes fourteen liturgies in the Prayer Around the Cross format, designed for use at particular seasons or centered on certain themes.

Book cover for Holden Prayer Around the Cross

Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us

By Christine D. Pohl

Every church, every organization, has experienced them: betrayal, deception, grumbling, envy, exclusion. They make life together difficult and prevent congregations from developing the skills, virtues, and practices they need to nurture sturdy and life-giving communities.

In Living into Community, Christine Pohl looks at four specific Christian practices — gratitude, promise-keeping, truth-telling, and hospitality — that can counteract these destructive forces and help churches and individuals build and sustain vibrant communities. Drawing on concrete congregational experiences and interacting with the biblical, historical, and moral traditions, Pohl thoughtfully discusses each practice, including its possible complications and deformations, and points to how these essential practices can be better cultivated within congregations and families.

Book cover for Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us

Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

By Christine D. Pohl

This book portrays how communities and individuals can be blessed and transformed by greeting, welcoming, and sheltering others — especially strangers — in the name of Christ. Although hospitality was central to Christian identity and practice in earlier centuries, our generation knows little about its life-giving character. Pohl traces the eclipse of this significant Christian practice, showing the initial centrality of hospitality and the importance of recovering it for contemporary life. Combining rich biblical and historical research with extensive exposure to modern service communities — The Catholic Worker, L'Abri, L'Arche, and others — this book shows how understanding the key features of hospitality can better equip us to faithfully carry out the practical call of the gospel.

Download the free Making Room study guide with chapter-by-chapter suggestions, ideas, activities, scripture study, prayers, and more.

Book cover for Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition

Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be

Edited by Mark R. Schwehn and Dorothy C. Bass

Leading Lives That Matter compiles a wide range of texts — from ancient and contemporary literature, social commentary, and philosophy — related to questions of vital interest for those who are trying to decide what to do with their lives and what kind of human beings they hope to become. This book draws upon both religious and secular wisdom, bringing these sources into conversation with one another.

Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass identify four vocabularies typically used in discussions of the meaning of life choices: authenticity, virtue, exemplarity, and vocation. Six guiding questions shape the chapters that contain the majority of the texts. Each chapter’s texts provide a variety of insights and approaches to be considered in addressing the question, arranged and introduced in ways that prompt deeper reflection. Leading Lives That Matter invites readers into arguments that have persisted for generations about what we human beings should do and who we should be.

This second edition includes forty-seven new readings from a diverse array of writers, including Toni Morrison, Kazuo Ishiguro, Denise Levertov, Malcolm Gladwell, Julia Alvarez, Alice Walker, Martin Luther King Jr., Pope Francis, and Chung Tzu. Three new guiding questions have also been added: To whom and to what should I listen as I decide what work to do? With whom and for whom shall I live? What are my obligations to future human and other life?

Book cover for Leading Lives That Matter: What We Should Do and Who We Should Be

Help: The Original Human Dilemma

By Garret Keizer

What does it mean to help others? When does our help amount to hindrance? What informs our ideals of providing aid and how does doing so shape our character? Drawing from history, literature, interviews, personal anecdotes, and parables such as the "Good Samaritan," this book invites us to ponder what is at stake whenever one human being tries to assist another.

Book cover for Help: The Original Human Dilemma

Faith as a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership

By Christian B. Scharen

Christian ministry is deeply concerned with proclaiming the transforming power of God's gift of faith in the daily lives of disciples. How is it, then, that Christian faith so often fails to be an orienting force that impacts every aspect of our lives?

In Faith as a Way of Life, Christian Scharen articulates a vision of pastoral leadership grounded in substantive faith language. He examines other powerful languages in our culture — emotion-driven therapeutic and results-driven managerial models of leadership — and shows how their domination leads to faith becoming a weak sibling. Highlighting concrete examples of excellent pastoral leadership in action, Scharen offers creative practical theological reflection on how faith can truly inform our family life, our work, our politics, our leisure — literally all of life — and how pastoral leaders of all kinds can foster faith as a way of life.

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Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church Is Transforming the Faith

By Diana Butler Bass

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.

Christianity for the Rest of Us 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 Butler Bass 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, which includes a study guide for groups and individuals, 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.

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From Nomads to Pilgrims: Stories from Practicing Congregations

By Diana Butler Bass and J. Stewart-Sicking

In The Practicing Congregation (Alban, 2004), Diana Butler Bass explored the phenomenon of "intentional congregations," an emerging style of congregational vitality in which churches creatively and intentionally re-appropriate traditional Christian practices such as hospitality, discernment, contemplative prayer, and testimony. Against the steady flow of stories highlighting "mainline decline," The Practicing Congregation suggested that there is a new and often overlooked renaissance occurring in mainline Protestant churches. The success of The Practicing Congregation made it clear that the next step was to provide examples that would illustrate the concepts laid out in that initial work. In From Nomads to Pilgrims, the editors continue to build this narrative, gathering specific stories of congregational vitality and transformation from participants in their research at the Project on Congregations of Intentional Practice, a Lilly Endowment Inc. funded study at Virginia Theological Seminary. Including stories from a variety of faith traditions across the U.S., From Nomads to Pilgrims explores: how intentional congregations develop ; how they negotiate the demands of interpreting traditional Christian practices in a postmodern culture ; how these practices lead to congregational and personal transformation. Each chapter is an instructive case study, illustrating a unique expression of the vitality experienced by a congregation that intentionally reclaims a traditional Christian practice. The pastors who have been involved in these congregations' stories share their practical wisdom gained through the experience of leading these churches.- how intentional congregations develop- how they negotiate the demands of interpreting traditional Christian practices in a postmodern culture- how these practices lead to congregational and personal transformation.

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Background

 

The Practices of Faith Series

The writing of Practicing Our Faith was sponsored by the Valparaiso Project on the Education and Formation of People in Faith.

Three chapters of Practicing Our Faith were later developed into books by the same authors: Stephanie Paulsell, Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice; Dorothy C. Bass, Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time; and Don Saliers and Emily Saliers, A Song to Sing, A Life to Live.

Additional Books on Practices

Thomas G. Long wrote on the practice of testimony, Talking Ourselves into Being Christian, and Douglas G. Hicks wrote on household economics in Money Enough: Everyday Practices for Faithful Living in the Global Economy. Christine Pohl wrote Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Practice and Living into Community: Cultivating Practices That Sustain Us. Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore extended the approach developed here to a consideration of parenting in In the Midst of Chaos: Caring for Children as Spiritual Practice.

Theology and Practices

The theological dimensions of this way of understanding the Christian life are further explored in Miroslav Volf and Dorothy C. Bass, eds., Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life and Dorothy C. Bass and Craig Dykstra, eds., For Life Abundant: Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Christian Ministry.

Practices for Young Adults

Two Valparaiso Project books explore Christian practices from the perspectives of teenagers and emerging adults: Dorothy C. Bass and Don C. Richter, eds., Way to Live: Christian Practices for Teens and Dorothy C. Bass and Susan Briehl, eds., On Our Way: Christian Practices for a Whole Life. These books began to expand our list of practices.