UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Dear Church
Dear Church Dear Church
Letters from a Disillusioned Generation

Sarah Cunningham
ISBN 031026958X (9780310269588)
Zondervan, 2006

Category: Emerging Church & Postmodern Faith

Dear Church by Sarah Cunningham, published by Zondervan this year is not for you if you're in a church that is working well and you're involved and going great guns. It's probably not for you if you use expressions like "going great guns." This book is not for you if you're old like me and involved in a liturgical church and finding valid outreach opportunities. Ok? Don't bother. The first few chapters could make you sneer "Give me a break" in your best John McEnroe voice. And the rest of the book might not make any sense and you almost certainly won't see how the two parts connect.

Dear Church was for me. Just. I eventually caught fire during the second half, but I cleared my throat several times during the first few chapters. I threw my racket once. I'm too old and boring and liturgical and stuff. But I teach lots of younger, more interesting, quirky, edgy low-church folks who are uncomfortable, even disillusioned, with their churches -- with The Church. And that's who it's for. That's who will love it and benefit from it.

Sarah is one of those authors where you forget you're reading. It's more like she's sitting there across from you, sipping her skinny cappucino, eyeing your almond croissant and you're listening to her but knowing she's wondering whether she should've gotten one of those too. When you tell someone about one story or another (and you will because they're irresistable) you're really going to tempted to start it with "You know what Sarah told me yesterday?" I'm telling you, she's in the room with you; it's weird.

And not only are you in the same room, you're in the same boat. I mean it's like she's got her finger on your emotional pulse. She has. You'll love how she delights in your strengths; you'll squirm as she accurately describes your foibles. She's been there. And she's in the process of moving on past cynicism and disillusionment. She hasn't arrived yet, but she's moving on. And she shows you where she's going and look, there's room for you too. And it might mean leaving your church and starting something new and it might not. There's the pay-off. Here's who the book is for: You are asking yourself one of these questions and Sarah doesn't give you the answer but helps you ask the rest of the questions as well: Is it time to leave? How do I leave without running away? How could I possibly stay without faking it?

Here (I can't resist) is one of the things Sarah told me last week: "...When we draw pictures of 'the church' for our children, we want those images to look less like a steepled building and more like the latitude and longitude lines embracing every inch of the globe." (p.108).

Conrad Gempf, August 2006

Dr Conrad Gempf teaches New Testament at London School of Theology. He is the author of Jesus Asked (Zondervan, 2003), Mealtime Habits of the Messiah (Zondervan, 2005) and Christian Life & The Bible (LST, 2006). He writes extensively for various books, journals, magazines and websites; here's his blog: Not Quite Art; Not Quite Living.

Review Previously Published by Not Quite Art, Not Quite Living. Reused here by kind permission. meet the author, download an excerpt, write your own letter to the church...

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