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Sabbath in the City: Sustaining Urban Pastoral Excellence Paperback – October 14, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Bryan P. Stone is E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts and co-founder and Director of the Center for Practical Theology. He is the author of several books, including Compassionate Ministry: Theological Foundations, Faith and Film: Theological Themes at the Cinema, and Evangelism after Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness.

Claire E. Wolfteich is Associate Professor of Practical Theology and Spiritual Formation and Co-Director of the Center for Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology, Boston, Massachuesetts. She is also Director of the Pastoral and Spiritual Formation Program at BU. She is the author of American Catholics through the Twentieth Century: Spirituality, Lay Experience, and Public Life, Navigating New Terrain: Work and Women's Spiritual Lives, and Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (October 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 066423349X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664233495
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #524,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Bryan P. Stone and Claire E. Wolfteich wrote this short yet compelling book on “what constitutes pastoral excellence in the urban context” and “what sustains it." The authors use results from their project, “Sustaining Urban Pastoral Excellence,” which piloted a program of rest and renewal for 96 urban pastors across the country. According to Stone and Wolfteich, there are four primary activities or modes of being that make up pastoral excellence (which they also refer to as “virtue”):

1. The cultivation of holy, life-giving friendships, particularly with other pastors;
2. Regular Sabbath practices of rest that allow for acts of both creation and liberation;
3. A renewal of the spirit through disciplines like prayer, reading Scripture, and silence;
4. Study and reflection on the theology and practice of ministry (the authors tie this in with the above activity, renewal of the spirit).

While the authors note that pastoral excellence thus constituted is applicable to other, non-urban settings, they emphasize the uniqueness of the urban context and how it can challenge and fatigue urban pastors. They describe the city as “a place of distractions, busyness, and frenzied activity." In contradistinction to more affluent suburban parishes, the urban church is likely to function as a full-service institution that addresses the variegated needs of the city in which it resides. The authors follow the group of 96 participants and show how the four practices listed above helped them to cultivate and sustain pastoral excellence.

Reading the book was itself an act of refreshment. Two aspects were most helpful to me:

First, the authors highlight the importance to pastors of cultivating holy, God-focused friendships.
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