Smith begins with his own church's experience of Sunday evening conversations. It was a bumpy ride, he says, but ultimately grew to a place of trust and maturing conversation. He argues the need for conversation and that the church is the best place in which to learn the skill. His desire is that this book be a sort of a field guide to the path.
His focus for the book is this question: “How do we learn to talk together in our churches when we have been formed by a culture that goes to great lengths to avoid conversation?” (164/2922)
Smith gives a theology of conversation using the Trinity, for example, as a model. He explores three conversational techniques, giving examples of their use, and provides additional resources in an appendix. He gives examples of ground rules or agreements and covers other factors, such a group size, facilitators, and kinds of topics to begin with and what kinds for later conversation. He helps us understand the spirituality that will draw us deeper into conversation, drawing on the Quaker and other traditions. He also gives good information for dealing with conflict.
Smith says that ultimately every community will have to decide how conversation will take place. There are no universal rules to follow. He provides resources and suggestions but each church will need to work out the process for themselves.
This is a book suitable for church leaders. Smith's writing style is academic in nature and I doubt laypeople would persevere through the text. The best use of the book, I think, would be for pastors or church leaders who desire to see conversation developed in their church with a view to expanding it to include the community in general. The material in the book would be a good resource for a sermon series.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
C Christopher Smith is a writer, community developer, and editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is coauthor of the Award-winning book Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus and the author of Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish. His work has been featured in several publications. He and his wife have three teenage children and live in the urban Eastside of Indianapolis, Indiana. You can find out more at http://c-christopher-smith.com/ .
Brazos Press, 222 pages.
I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.