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Recovering Abundance: Twelve Practices for Small-Town Leaders invites readers to live a new story–to join a movement of renewal for small towns and rural communities.
Andy Stanton-Henry provides twelve civic-spiritual practices, rooted in Jesus’s miracle among the multitude, that rural and small-town leaders can use to renew their congregations and communities. Each chapter explores how one practice was demonstrated in the story, has been embodied in small-town and rural leaders and communities, and can be applied today.
Through these twelve practices, Stanton-Henry helps readers tune in to an alternative story, one he discovered in his own rural Ohio community. Yes, he saw the commonly lamented decline and devastation that have brought suffering to rural Americans and that seem to foster resentment and despair.
However, as he dug deeper into the stories of his neighbors, he began to notice that small towns and rural regions are working. They are working to build inclusive, thriving, local economies, to weave a welcoming social fabric in their region, to cocreate a positive future–following the practices he explores in this book.
Recovering Abundance is a new story about the agency and creativity of what Stanton-Henry calls “ordinary leaders,” not a story about scarcity and deprivation but one of abundance and generosity.
“As a former country-church pastor, I wish I would have had this book when I was starting out. It’s packed with practical wisdom and tools to be a faithful leader in parts of our country too long neglected.” —J. Brent Bill, Ploughshares Farm; author of Hope and Witness in Dangerous Times
“Stanton-Henry digs beyond stereotypes to reveal the complexity and agency of ordinary leaders across rural America. This wonderful book is full of entertaining stories and grounded in biblical wisdom. Readers will draw inspiration and energy from it.” —Michael T. Snarr, Wilmington College; author of Faithful Witness in a Fractured World
“The work of the moment is to stay in relationship with our communities and one another. Recovering Abundance is a prayer and a guide for that journey.” —Whitney Kimball Coe, Center for Rural Strategies
For a shorter and direct published resource from my seminary research, check out The Torah of Place
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Many people assume that the best scholarship and social engagement are taking place in urban centers. The only hope for the simple folk in rural regions is if they will receive the enlightened instructions from urban universities and seminaries. It is rarely considered that people in rural America have unique insights that can expand and enrich the practice of theological reflection and ethical discernment. This little book provides an alternative view, one in which people in rural places have a privileged position in theological construction because the shape of their lives is closer to the original authors and audiences of the Bible.
The book interacts with ecological and agrarians thinkers, as well as the author’s own spiritual journey, to invite readers into a fresh and full practice of theological reflection on God, family, nature, agriculture, and more. The writing is rich but accessible; you can easily finish it in one sitting but the insights will keep you thinking and deepening your practice. Of particular interest is the author’s original concept of the “Torah of place.” The glossary at the end is helpful for those who are less theologically inclined.
“Unexpected gem of a book. Andrew Henry makes the case that rural folks have been underrepresented in theological discussions, which not only dishonors rural people but impoverishes our theology. Draws on the work of Wendell Berry, Michael Pollan, Ellen Davis, and others. Recommended for people who are passionate about rural communities, creation care, and the theology of place.” –John Pattison, co-author of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus
I was guest on my friend Brent Walsh’s podcast, Out Of Your Shell. It was a great conversation about transition, discernment, and the dynamics of committing to stability of place.
My initial doctoral work focused on the isolation and loneliness among rural clergy and resources for alleviating that experience and nurturing friendship. The PDF below provides a summary of those gleanings.