For The Someday Book

Book Review: Holy Places

Posted on: May 14, 2010

Holy Places: Making Sacred Space with Mission and Message, by Nancy DeMott, Tim Shapiro and Brent Bill, The Alban Institute, 2007, 257 pp.

My congregation is in the beginning phases of a building project, including a major renovation of our basement and upgrades of HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems. I am excited about this project, because I believe it will grow our faith, our mission, our ministry and equip us for the future. But I have never been a part of a church during a building project, and I have no idea how the process works.

Enter Holy Places. This book is a step-by-step guide to best practices for church building projects. The authors have studied a wide array of congregational building projects to gather best practices, key information and stories from real congregations about what went wrong and what went right. Holy Places provided me with an overview of the big picture of a building project, an introduction to key terms and elements of the process, and a perspective on my role as pastoral leader during this time.

One of the best parts of the book was the authors’ attention to the faith dynamics at work in a building project. They emphasize repeatedly that building projects are spiritual endeavors, fraught with all the risk and possibility of a spiritual pilgrimage. Construction and fundraising can seem like a distraction from the “real” ministry of the church, but if it is handled right, it is a time of deepening faith and spiritual growth.

No matter the size of the project or the congregation, Holy Places is a great introduction for any lay or clergy leader considering a building project. Unlike some books of best practices, it did not leave me overwhelmed with our church’s shortcomings or by the prospect of following such a rigorous plan. The steps they suggest are adaptable to each individual setting, and the stories even make the book enjoyable to read. After finishing the book, I feel like I can join my excitement over our building project with some basic knowledge about what to expect along this journey and how to shepherd my congregation through it, with the help of God.

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About Me

I am a full-time pastor in the United Church of Christ, mother of a young child (B.), married to an aspiring academic and curmudgeon (J.). I live by faith, intuition and intellect. I follow politics, football and the Boston Red Sox. I like to talk about progressive issues, theological concerns, church life, the impact of technology and media, pop culture and books.

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