Every congregation has a “culture” - a unique blend of history, values, rituals, traditions, symbols and stories which comprise its identity. Thomas Frank, professor of Church Administration and Congregational life at Candler Seminary, identifies this blend as the “soul” of a congregation. By carefully analyzing this soul, congregational leaders and participants can build on strengths and values to chart a positive course for the future. The chapters spell out Frank’s holistic approach to congregational discernment. He begins by using a series of letters as points from which to explore the meanings of such notions as “the soul of the congregation,” “congregational culture,” “balancing perspectives,” and “the framework of imagining.” Especially useful for clergy and leadership groups are questions and experiences posed to clarify the mix of preconceived notions and hopeful expectations that individuals sometimes bring to leadership positions. Suggesting ways of inviting a congregation to discern who they are, who they wish to become, and how they might serve as catalysts for the transformation of society, this book could serve as a useful framework for a leadership retreat. Although written from a Christian perspective, it touches the universally human in ways that are relevant to the congregational life of other faith perspectives.
Reviewed by Brian Witwer