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San Antonio, Texas
5 Stars Out Of 5
The Weight of Mercy - A Review
December 4, 2012
San Antonio, Texas
The Weight of Mercy: A Novice Pastor on the City Streets
Deb Richardson-Moore - Monarch Books - 2012 - ISBN: 978-0-85721-229-0
I wish I knew where to start. There's so much to say about this book and yet at times it can feel overwhelming. It feels this way because I am sure this is how Deb Richardson-Moore (referred to as Pastor Deb) felt during the season of life that gave birth to this book. This book details a journey. A sobering journey traveled down a necessary road for all who claim to follow Jesus.
Let me start with a couple sentence synopsis. This book details some of the history of Triune Mercy Center and let's us know how Deb Richardson-Moore's life was turned upside down by becoming its pastor. She also gives us a glimpse of the enlarging of her faith by having to walk though good times and bad. She leads us through her call to do this ministry without engaging in deep theological wrangling on non-important issues. She stays focused on her view of ministry to the stranger and how it has impacted her ministry at Triune Mercy Center.
Strengths of this book:
First, the stories are compelling. Most of us find ourselves caught between accurate theology and the way the world works out in front of us. We get comfortable in our understanding of God being one way. Maybe God is conservative. Maybe a democrat. Maybe an amazing worship music session or the best sermon ever heard. Too often God wants us to be his hands and feet. Yet, we choose not to be. Pastor Deb's choice to serve God contradicts traditional wisdom and proves bold choices impact more lives in more ways than we can imagine.
Second, the humility shown by Pastor Deb in her writing of this book serves to draw the reader into a close relationship. As a first time pastor two years into a church plant, I identified with emotions she expresses. I also know the heartache created when people don't stick around or choose not to grow in their walk with God. Deb has an amazing way of bring people into the middle of the story and not boring them with it. Too often these kinds of books plod along to a point of no resolution. Deb's resolves in the fact we must be involved in God's work so let's get to it and do it well.
I only have one weakness to list. I think it exists in all books whose mission is to tell grand sweeping stories. I felt there were several rabbit trails we begin following only to be cutoff and not followed later on. You just begin to get invested in someone's story and then there is no resolution of the rabbit trail. This statement probably says more about human nature than it does Deb's writing style. We don't often know the outcome of the story here on earth. We confuse names or parts of stories. One day we will know completely. Just not today.
What this book is and is not:
I want to let you know what this book is not. I think sometimes we expect a book to be all things and it just can't be so we walk away from it dismayed. This book is not a missive on female pastors. It is not an indictment on denominations. It is not a theology of ministry to the poor. It doesn't over quote scriptures in an attempt to guilt rich Christians into giving.
This book serves as an honest examination of how to ministry in the poorest of places and not lose who you are in Christ. Deb investigates how to minister to problems, such as drug abuse and homelessness, without enabling the behaviors. She struggles as all pastors do and yet somehow her stories raises the reader up without engaging in despair, hopelessness and helplessness. Deb brings us to the place of hard choice between following Christ and enabling our fellow-man.
I highly recommend you read this book. It took me a couple of days of intense reading to finish. Time well spent.
You can get more information on Deb or her ministry by clicking on the links.
You have just finished reading "The Weight of Mercy - Book Review" written for Processofbecoming.net. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher Lion Hudson and Kregel Publications through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
"The Weight of Mercy" by Deb Richardson-Moore is her story of her first seven years in full-time ministry--seven years in the unique pastorate at the Triune Mercy Center. Originally, this center was a traditional church. Over time, however, it developed into a ministry to the homeless of its community. When Richardson-Moore became its pastor, though, she began to realize that simply providing free food and clothing for people may not be the best way to minister to them. Her book outlines her thought processes over problems she identifies, issues she encounters, opportunities she takes hold of, and developments within the ministry that worked well and, sometimes, not so well.
As one would expect, ministry at the Triune Mercy Center was challenging for Richardson-Moore and her staff. By the end of one month, she determined she'd commit to just one year--and wondered if she'd make that. She did, however, and found herself staying for much longer than that.
Though I didn't always see eye-to-eye with Richardson-Moore, I liked where we landed, author and reader, by the end of the book. She opened my eyes to often unconsidered complications and consequences within this kind of ministry while showing some of the great good that can be done. We do the best we can for those God brings into our lives, then leave the outcome in His faithful hands. We may not be perfect, but our God is always at work in all people's hearts.
I thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy of this insightful book for my honest review.
Deb decided to become a pastor after a career in journalism. She graduated from seminary in May of 2005 but found that women were not easily accepted in the pulpits of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (of South Carolina).
She had come to know of Triune through her job of newspaper reporting. Once a thriving UMC congregation, it had been dissolved and then taken on as a satellite by a church close by. Triune's pastor was leaving and Deb found out the board would consider a nonMethodist. She was hired the end of June.
Triune was a church and ministry that welcomed the outcast, the broken, the hurting, and the marginalized of Greenville, South Carolina. Deb came to realize that the street population of the city was mostly drug addicts, alcoholics, and the mentally ill. "I was in over my head, and I knew it," she writes. "I prayed earnestly for my footing." (42)
She thought she would leave after a year or so. She saw many people using the system, selling groceries they received for alcohol or crack. The church was broken into. There were outbursts at the free meal. There was even a fight during a church service.
She struggled with showing the love of Christ - was she enabling bad behavior? How could she minister to the forty percent of the people they saw who had mental illnesses? Even the other sixty percent had grave mental health issues.
She would get discouraged. Should they be trying to reach a segment of the population more amenable to transformation?
She thought she would leave...but she stayed. In August of 2012, she celebrated her seventh anniversary at Triune Mercy Center. There are now 57 churches who partner in the ministry.
Deb writes, "More than two years into the ministry, I finally grasped that Triune ministered not only to the homeless and economically underprivileged. Fully half of its ministry was to more affluent Christians, helping them to live out Jesus' commands to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, welcome the stranger. _ Triune was a place where they could come face to face with people they might not otherwise meet, people they might deem too frightening, too different, too 'unclean.' _ Day after day after day, as we put one foot in front of the other and invited others to do the same, we provided a route for cross-bearing." (219-220)
Triune's mission statement: "to share Christ's love while meeting physical needs and providing life-changing opportunities to the disadvantaged." (125)
Today Triune's ministry is strong. "I never thought I'd day this," she writes, "but Triune has become a place of fun and creativity, healing and laughter. It has become a place of joy. _ Not always, of course. By definition, a whole lot of hurt still walks through our doors. But along with accessing drug rehab or employment assistance, hurting folks may sit down to write a song or paint a canvas and talk to someone who was in the same predicament six months earlier. 'Hang in there,' they're likely to hear. 'You're welcome in this place.'" (282)
What an encouraging book. If you have any interest at all in ministry to the needy, and every Christian should, you must read this book. Deb's is a story of hope as she and the others at Triune show the love of Jesus to the needy.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.