Barbara Melosh’s story was a common one. A second-career seminarian, she arrived at her first pastorate brimming with enthusiasm and high hopes. The blue-collar congregation to which she’d been called had a glorious past but an uncertain future. Certain that she could turn around its slow yet undeniable slide into decline, Melosh inaugurated a number of church growth and outreach programs. Most of these efforts had little effect, and the ones that did seem to work soon suffered reverse outcomes and eventual demise. In the end, Melosh had to conclude that the members of the congregation liked their church the way it was and that she could not drag them into a future they did not want.
Yet while the congregation failed to change itself, Melosh notes, it succeeded in changing her. Simply put, it made her a pastor. At times heartbreaking and hilarious, Loving and Leaving a Church offers a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities of ministry in a mainline church.
This well-told story of real-life ministry in a small congregation moved me deeply. A pastor and a people come to life in these pages, as heartbreak and hope contend within the worship, the building, and the community they share. I heartily commend Loving and Leaving a Churchto anyone who cares about, and worries over, a community of faith that struggles to live as Christ's body in this time of challenge and change. Pastors who read this book will ponder anew the meaning of success and the contours of faithfulness--and parishioners will see with fresh eyes their own strong role in embodying God's presence in the particular places where God's people gather and serve. –Dorothy Bass, Valparaiso University
For anyone who loves the church--or is confounded by it--Barbara Melosh offers an unflinchingly honest account of how one little group of Saints and Sinners transformed a novice into a pastor. Melosh has the heart of a pastor and writes straight from that heart with great beauty and insight. Pastoral writing at its best! – Richard Lischer, Duke Divinity School, Author of Open Secrets: A Memoirof Faith and Discovery
“It seems to me — and this good story captures it — that learning to love and serve real people in a real congregation in a real place is most of what a pastor does. Sure, there are programs and worship services and classes and meetings, and it all matters. But this vocation of mediating God’s presence through affectionate solidarity with those God gives to you, being a pastor, is what congregations most need. It is touching, human work, which is why this book, even though some of it is out and out hilarious, is heartbreaking as well.” –Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Bookstore Owner