Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: The Spirit's Tether: Eight Lives in Ministry

There are plenty of books written by academic theologians and teachers on the topic of pastoral ministry. Unfortunately many of these books are written by people who have little or no real life experience in the pulpit. These books deal with the theology of ministry as seen in the Scripture or the great Tradition of the Church but have little reference to real people and real lives.

The Spirit's Tether is different. The Spirit's Tether: Eight Lives in Ministry (Alban Publishing, 2011) by Malcolm L. Warford is a book focusing around the lives and ministry of 8 ministers. Warford followed these ministers from their seminary days in Union Seminary in NYC from 1976 to the present. He started his research as a way to get feedback from seminary students about their experiences in seminary. He followed them along their life-travels, including their parish experiences as well as their own personal ups and downs. The Spirit's Tether is not theories about ministry but ministry from the "ground up" told by both men and women who have diligently served in various pastoral settings.

The pastor's included in this volume come from a wide Christian background: Baptist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Episcopal, as well as Brethren. There are men and women, black, white, and hispanic. Some have been married more than once, others have had one spouse. Many have overcome great personal and spiritual battles: cancer, divorce, parish conflict, and other such difficulties. It is amazing to hear their stories. Warford does a very good job weaving their personal narratives into a seamless story about the formation and life of pastors.

I recommend this book for seminary teachers, spiritual directors, and pastoral mentors. These eight lives are witnesses to God's work in the world and in the Church.

Below is the Table of Contents of the Book:

Foreword by Donald W. Shriver, Jr.

Preface: Stories of Work and Calling

Chapter 1: Setting the Context

Chapter 2: Childhood and Formative Events

Chapter 3: Beginning Theological Education

Chapter 4: The Middle Years of Theological Study

Chapter 5: Reassessments and Moving On

Chapter 6: Years in Ministry

Chapter 7: Looking Back and Going Forward

Chapter 8: Summing Up

Afterword by Serene Jones