The Power of One BookOne Book programs are a hot trend among local libraries these days. When everyone in a community reads the same book at the same time, this shared experience can foster dialogue, spark ideas, and increase involvement. Could such a program work for congregations?

That was the thought at the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ in 2005. The conference is made up of 227 congregations in central Pennsylvania that work together in mission and structure. The book chosen to launch their program was < The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church by Diana Butler Bass.

Says Rev. Dr. Marja Coons-Torn , Conference Minister, “What captivated us about The Practicing Congregation was the hopefulness of the book. So much of what we’re always told is that the church is dying. Diana Butler Bass points out that this isn’t true. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are many churches across the country doing great things in an intentional way by focusing on Christian practices.”

More than 200 copies of The Practicing Congregation were read by pastors and lay people in small groups throughout Penn Central Conference. “The book was very well received,” says Coons-Torn. “It has made people feel hopeful and positive about their roles in the church.”

Author Diana Butler Bass made a further impact when she gave the Harwick Lecture through Lancaster Theological Seminary, attended by a variety of pastors and lay members primarily in central Pennsylvania. She spoke about the book and her involvement as director of the Project on Congregations of Intentional Practices.

This informal program will continue in 2006 with another Alban book selection, Difficult Conversations: Taking Risks, Acting with Integrity by Katie Day.

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