Today I have a review of Greenhouses of Hope: Congregations Growing Young Leaders Who Will Change the World edited by Dori Grinenko Baker, a collection of essays depicting various special – and powerful – ministries in congregations that might give one hope in up-and-coming young leadership. You can also read, rate, and comment on my review at Amazon.
Dori Grinenko Baker has cobbled together a selection of essays on Christian congregations that have freed themselves “to experiment with both newly imagined and time-honored ways of following the path of Jesus,” a phenomenon she gives the name “Greenhouses of Hope. (2) Thus, each chapter is an essay from someone in each congregation’s community who can write from such an experience and offer insight into how their context came about, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and how others might be inspired to try something similar. In a way, it’s a collection of examples of ways to do meaningful ministry, as if each writer offers, “This worked for us and there might be inspiration here for you” and invites the reader to come and see.
The faith communities explored here are all very different than the traditional-style Christian congregations I grew up in and readers must be open to learning about contexts and cultures outside of their own. In fact, Chapter 2 describes precisely this situation in “Staying Awake: When God moments echo in community” as as United Methodist Church must reconcile the demographics of persons within its doors with the different demographics of those immediately outside to understand how unity might occur in healthy, powerful ways through ministries such as mission trips (spoiler alert: it totally does!). Persons who are interested in congregations seeking to be LGBT allies may be interested in Chapter 6, “Calling Amid Conflict: What happens to the vocations of youth when congregations fight?” I also found it helpful to review a set of processing questions at the end of each essay to more pointedly reflect on what I just read so I might apply it better to my own context. If a group was reading this book together, I can see how these questions could help spur excellent dialogue.
Close readers will be able to get something out of each essay though obviously people will find some essays more appealing than others. I personally connected best with Chapter 3: Mozying, exploring how young persons mentor even younger persons in a Korean Presbyterian Church in a style similar to an older sibling; “mozies” is in fact Korean for older siblings and writer Sinal Chung explores ways to empower young people to give this sort of care a try. (58) The other essay which most appealed to me is about an interfaith congregation in Berkley, California that began (and still maintains) in UCC roots yet embraced “convivencia,” a practice of living in a mixed multitude of multi-religions and cultures which enhances everyone’s story. (85). This essay has a wonderful piece on what it is to have gifts noticed, named, and nurtured within a faith community that is worth consideration by any paid or volunteer church staff person. (91-92)
Finally, the sixteen page bibliography at the end of the collection will help you get lost in a world of excellent cited sources for more reading. Thank you for reading. thelifemosaic