Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church
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Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. / 2017 / Paperback

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Stock No: WW874139


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Product Description

When Granby Presbyterian's search committee and pastor-without-a-congregation Jonas McAnn connect through letters, something sparks between them. The result? Jonas continues to write to his congregation even after he becomes Granby's pastor. This 7-year collection of missives reveals what it means for a minister and a church to do the slow work of ministry in community. Paperback.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 160
Vendor: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Publication Date: 2017
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0802874134
ISBN-13: 9780802874139

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Publisher's Description

Jonas McAnn is a weary pastor without a congregation, trapped in a dead-end insurance job. Granby Presbyterian is a weary congregation without a pastor, overwhelmed by the prospect of finding someone who actually wants to be a pastor—not a manager, coach, or CEO.

When Granby's pastoral search committee and Jonas connect through handwritten letters passed back and forth, something sparks between them—something so real and refreshing that even after Jonas and his family move to Granby, he continues the regular practice of writing letters to his congregation.

Spanning seven years of his ministry at Granby Presbyterian, Jonas's letters ruminate on everything from fly-fishing to the Nicene Creed. They reveal the earthy spirituality woven into the joys and sorrows of the people of Granby, the community of the church, and Jonas's own unfolding story.

Readers will discover what it means for a pastor and a church to do the slow work of ministry in community—anchored by a common place and buoyed by a life of faith that is meaningful, rooted, and true.

Author Bio

Winn Collier is a pastor, columnist, and author of several books, including Holy Curiosity. With his wife, Miska, a spiritual director, and two sons, Collier lives in Virginia, where he serves the good people of All Souls Charlottesville. Collier holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, focused on the intersection of religion and literary fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Eugene H. Peterson
— author of The Message and The Contemplative Pastor
"This book is a tour de force—an angle on understanding the life of both congregation and pastor that exceeds anything I have ever read. No directions, no programs, just an immersion into what really takes place in the life of a congregation and a pastor. Winn Collier’s writing is alive."

Seth Haines
author of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith
"There are some stories so well written, so layered with meaning, so humble and true, that they should be read, reread, and reread again. Winn Collier has written that kind of story. The honesty in these pages would work a sort of sobriety into us—pastors and parishioners alike—if we’d let it."

Robert Benson
— author of Punching Holes in the Dark
"Collier writes strong and true, happy and sad, funny and wise, heavy and light. I never fail to read anything that he writes. If you are a lover of words and wisdom on the printed page, you should read him too. This book is a fine place to start."

Corban Addison
— author of A Walk across the Sun
"Winn Collier here reminds us what pastoral ministry is really about—not capital campaigns, satellite campuses, growth metrics, or spine-tingling sermons, but love of Jesus, love of neighbor, love of creation, love of everything beautiful, good, and true in the world."

Mandy Smith
— pastor, author of The Vulnerable Pastor: How Human Limitations Empower Our Ministry
"This is ultimately a love letter to the church not just for what she can be but for what she already is."

A. J. Swoboda
— pastor, professor, author of The Dusty Ones: Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith
"Shatters all of our idolatrous addictions to big and growing and oversized franchised Christianities. Faithfulness absolutely must become the church’s new big. What Collier pens here is nothing short of miraculous. These letters demand to be read."

Karen Wright Marsh
— author of Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith
"In the venerable epistolary tradition of Saint Paul and François Fénelon, Winn Collier brings us glowing spiritual letters for today, wholehearted meditations on friendship, grief, hope, doubt—and faith in a loving God who is near. Love Big, Be Well is a beautiful book for strugglers and seekers, written by a compassionate pastor we come to love."

Deidra Riggs
— author of Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are
"Love Big, Be Well is a welcome mat, a handwritten invitation, a gigantic wrap-around porch, a warm night filled with fireflies. There may not be a surefire formula for living a wide-open, hope-filled life, but this collection of earnest words comes very close."

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  1. Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Bundle of Letters on the Church's Doorstep
    December 7, 2017
    Michele Morin
    Warren, Maine
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    When a pastoral search goes well, everyone wins. Last year when a soft-spoken lobsterman rose to his feet and challenged us at Spruce Head Community to seek a shepherd who would lead us and love us, we began praying and seeking to that end. The seeking and the finding has united us, and we are blessed to have welcomed a godly man and woman who are living small-town life alongside us, all the while holding forth the Word of Truth.

    Winn Collier is also a small-town pastor, but with Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church, hes wearing his fiction-writers hat. Nonetheless, his heart for ministry comes shining through along with a clear-eyed affection for Christs body, communicated through the character of Pastor Jonas McAnn.

    The pastoral search committee of Granby Presbyterian Church had grown tired of searching, weary of interviews, and fed up with the pretense when Amy Quitman, resident of Rural Route 28, took matters into her own capable handwriting and penned a letter that wrapped itself around one question:

    Do you actually want to be our pastor?

    Formalized by four signatures, the letter went forth to all future candidates.

    In a half-hearted search of his own, Jonas McAnn saw in the letter a reason to reply with his own epistle, and finally, to leave behind his safe and predictable life in an insurance company cubicle, and to risk following his heart back into the trenches of pastoral ministry.

    What follows is a bundle of letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock, randomly spaced and warmly personal. They have landed on my doorstep as well with their revelation of one side of a spacious conversation between a man who knows he was not called into the pastorate to fix anything or anybody and a group of people who have committed themselves to contributing disruptive input to each others lives.

    With engaging characters and a page-turning narrative arc, Love Big, Be Well is a satisfying read for the story alone. Shades of John Ames of Gilead and Tim Kavanagh of Mitford made me hope for a sequel to follow Jonass return from sabbatical and future ministry at Granby Pres. However, at the risk of being banished to Wendell Berrys desert island of exile for finding a subtext where none was intended, I will share that I came away with valuable insights not in the form of a treatise on ministry, but rather more like thoughts overheard from a corner table at Stus Mud.

    Thoughts on Calling

    Jonas came to life in Granby with the settled conviction that he was committing himself to a web of relationships:

    So I committed my life to walking alongside people who I hoped to call friends. I committed to learning how to help people pray. I determined it would be my job to simply recount, over and again, that one beautiful story of how Love refused to tally the costs but came for us, came to be with us, came to heal us. . .

    Thoughts on the Role of a Pastor

    Jonas McAnn came from a long line of pastors and proudly owned his heritage as one who fulfilled a unique and valuable role in the community:

    to live with people (42);

    to pray with them;

    to ponder Scripture with them;

    to speak in good faith to other people who are trying very hard to listen in good faith (47);

    to receive the wisdom of God as a slow drip, not a sudden knowing, (60) and then to keep showing up where it will do the most good;

    to not take a position when that is the most honest response;

    to take cues from the farmer who tend farms small enough to know and love, using tools and methods they know and love, in the company of neighbors they know and love.

    Thoughts on the Role of the Church

    Amy ruefully described Granby Presbyterian to a friend and managed to capture every other church in the process:

    Unfortunately, if youre looking for people to disappoint you, we will provide the material. In spades.

    Even so, under Jonass leadership, the church was called away from a shiny and boisterous presence into a resourceful availability to clean up messes with the humble admission that the church is called to go first in admitting to our own messiness. This is why we need the church all the more . . . [for] the only thing worse than our failing to inhabit mercy and holiness would be our making no attempt at all.

    On a practical note, the pastoral/congregational relationship gets off to a good start when the body is there en masse to greet and unload the moving van. From that point forward, the liturgy of even the most non-liturgical band of worshipers is one of showing up, doing the work, being together.

    Thoughts on Love

    Pastor McAnns eponymous Big Love comes down to simply circling and staying near. It was Gods big love that called Granby Pres. member Don Brady into the kingdom and that carried him through the rigors of cancer treatment as he wisely concluded:

    Loves the main deal.

    Thoughts on Prayer

    When elderly Miss Nelson prayed over Dons cancer treatment, she reminded me that even when we do not know the will of God on a matter, theres nothing wrong with reminding Him of how much we love and need someone in our community.

    Given my own uneasy relationship with prayer, I collect wisdom to keep me in the game. Jonas related a homely parable on prayer from a fruitless fly fishing adventure with Luther that left him flat on fishing, but tutored him in the practice of prayer:

    Why would anyone torture themselves with this galling pastime?

    I like how youre just in it. Youre in the water, in the woods. Everythings happening around you.

    Ive concluded that my problem (aside from how I have no idea what Im doing on the river) is my focus on casting properly, on actually catching fish. Luther, however, comes to the river in a much different way. I like being in the water, he explained, with the breeze and the scent and the solitude. Even when I dont catch anything, I come back different than when I left.

    Jonas McAnn wrote letters to his congregation from a desire to pay attention and to help his people do likewise. He wanted to remind his readers that life together is good and it consists of shared stories shared experiences that call us toward the Light. For anyone who is committed to this calling over the long haul, Love Big, Be Well is a benediction, a reminder that ministry is shot through with blessing, and a celebration of the dignity of the slow work of ministry in community.

    //

    This book was provided by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
  2. Pilar Arsenec
    New Jersey
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    Simple Truth
    October 1, 2017
    Pilar Arsenec
    New Jersey
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    "Love Big Be Well" is a beautiful little book full of letters from a pastor named Jonas to his congregation.

    Winn Collier's writing is real, and full of wisdom. This book makes you ponder the simple truths of life, as well as living as a Christian, without being preachy.

    I honestly enjoyed this book, it was full of gems. If you want to read a book that makes you slow down and see life differently, I highly recommend you read this book.

    ***Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book by publisher in exchanged for an honest review.***
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