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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Church After: Finding Transformation in Unexpected Change by Anna Mitchell Hall is a non-fiction guide to the reality of transition and how best to not only adapt but to thrive. When I initially came across Hall's book, I assumed it was a post-pandemic manual on the future of live attendance at services. While this is certainly mentioned, Hall's outlook is sweeping. This is a book that begins with how we struggle with change within ourselves before moving into a fantastically comprehensive breakdown of the types of change a church can and likely will face, be it at a place like a small town First Baptist or an urban congregational. Topics include but are in no way limited to challenges and the power of change, facing, embracing, and practicing change, and preparedness and assisting youth in change, among many other areas.
I can't say that I ever anticipated reading an excerpt from Church After to my daughter. The relatability and comfort of Anna Mitchell Hall set this work apart, particularly when quoting church members at a progressive church after hearing their pastor was resigning with the line, “In my opinion, I was like, ‘Okay, may the force be with you.’...” You're never going to engage a reader if they can't see beyond the pages to the human writing on them, not even in a book where a heart is open to receive a message that is literally given in good faith. Hall has some excellent anecdotal stories and uses real situations to assess what works and what doesn't, and the proactive steps that really do need to be taken. The idea is working WITH a congregation through periods of change instead of deciding how you will simply shepherd them, and providing an appendix worksheet to facilitate communal, mutual support. This is a wonderfully practical and insightful guide that is a necessary addition to the ministry bookshelf.