Sunday, December 7, 2014

Book release: A Living Alternative

From Toledo, IA

Over the past year, a group of Anabaptist-minded folks, mostly culled from the ranks of the MennoNerds, collaborated on a book project. I was honored to be part of that project and now our book is out! Check it out on Amazon...
A Living Alternative: Anabaptist Christianity in a Post-Christendom World

My chapter will sound familiar to anyone who's read my blog posts over the past two years. It's called "Seeking the Peace of the Farm Town: Anabaptist Mission and Ministry in the Rural Midwest." In fact, the chapter is collected and edited from blog posts and sermons that I wrote over the first year of living back in rural Iowa. As I say at the start of the chapter:
Don't let the subtitle fool you: I am not a seasoned expert on Anabaptist mission and ministry in the rural Midwest. This is not a reflection written after many years of experience, trial and error, and critical assessment. I will not be offering advice, sage-like or otherwise. Rather, this piece is best thought of as being in the genre of theological memoir, and constitutes a kind of “preliminary field notes” document. It is memoir in that it sketches the story of how my family and I ended up in the small farm town of Toledo, Iowa, where we have been taking root for the past year. It is theological in that our mindset and practices, before and throughout our time here, have emerged out of a place of intense and sometimes (often?) painful spiritual discernment.

Words coming to life

As I read back over my chapter, which I wrote a year ago, I'm struck that conditions on the ground here in Toledo have already changed, which always happens for folks involved in the publishing process. As soon as you commit words to the page and let the editing and publishing process run its course, the world keeps on moving, and not only does your life go on moving, but the words you committed to the page start to take on a life of their own as soon as they are taken up and read by others. So I'm excited to see what life these words of mine have.

I'm also eager to read all the other collaborators' chapters! While I've seen chapter titles and abstracts for each, I haven't read anyone else's full chapters. We have quite a wide assortment of contributors, so it will no doubt be a very interesting read.

So I'm thankful to all my fellow authors on this project, who are: AO Green, Benjamin L. Corey, Chris Lenshyn, Chris Nickels, Christopher Gorton, Deborah-Ruth Ferber, Donald R. Clymer, Drew Hart, Hannah Heinzekehr, Joanna Harader, Justin Hiebert, Micael Grenholm, Robert Martin, Ryan Robinson, Sam Wilcock, Steve Kimes, Tyler M. Tully, William Loewen, and Jamie Arpin-Ricci. The amazing design work is thanks to Eddie Gonzalez. And thanks to our publisher, Collette Henry of Ettelloc Publishing, for taking a chance on us.

Though my name has appeared in a few published books in the past few years, this is my first time being published, so it's very exciting. Thanks again to all who made this project a reality, and all the hard creative and theological work that went into it.

Publishing in the digital age

This book was organized entirely through a Facebook group. At first I was skeptical that this was going to work well, but amazingly it did. It allowed a widely scattered group of folks to effectively communicate and organize the project. And over the course of a year, I've grown to really appreciate the folks in that Facebook group, my fellow authors, the editors, and the designer - all very talented and passionate folks. I'm kind of sad that this group will dissolve at some point, because we did have an "us-ness" about us. Though I've never met most of these folks face-to-face, they are all sisters and brothers in Christ and we've worked together on something dear to us, so what started out as being "friends" on Facebook has turned into a kind of friendship not needing those scare quotes.

And now we turn to the next phase of publishing in the digital age: social media marketing. So while I have all kind of philosophical qualms with advertising in general, I do live on planet earth in its current configuration. So I'll try not to be too obnoxious about it, but I will be talking about the book in various social media venues, because that's what helps get the word out and people to pick it up and read it. And I hope people do just that, because I think we've done something good here for the church.

On that, I'll just say thanks again. Now go read it! (I will too...) :)

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