What's Tony Thinking

Our Little Book


It’s been a good week for our new little book, Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (And Not So Young) Ministers. It was excerpted in the “Books Worth Reading” newsletter of The Christian Century, for “this week’s quote.”

And Richard Topping, the Principal of Vancouver School of Theology had some nice things to say about it in a Facebook post. Here’s Topping:

“‘Would you write us some letters with your advice about a bunch of things we are trying to figure out?’

“This request from two United Church of Christ colleagues, including his daughter, are the genesis of this wise, humourous and theologically astute book by Tony Robinson.

“I loved: (1) the interaction with Ron Heifetz throughout the book – ‘Leadership is disappointing people at a rate they can stand;’ (2) the centrality of joy and delight for ministry that antimates Robinson; (3) the clever turns of phrase and aphorisms that, proverb like, convey wisdom – ‘God is other people’ to ‘God is other, people’ – and, most of all; (4) that his hope for the church is rooted in scripture and God and God’s real agency in the church and the world.

“‘We can be instruments of God’s resurrection power. But it isn’t all up to us. If we think it is all on us, it will crush us.'”

“‘One thing I notice in many churches that might be described as “stuck” is that the church itself has become the primary focus . . . When ‘our church’ has become the focus you are likely to hear people talking a lot about their particular church and how wonderful (great/important/unique/special) it is.’

“‘But what I notice about churches where there is greater vitality is that the focus is less on the church itself and more on God (Jesus, Holy Spirit). In such churches the church is not an end in itself, but a means to a larger end. The church has a sense of purpose or mission bigger than its own survival. It has a lively sense that God has called it to this venture and that God is with them in it.’

“‘It is about God’s renewing, healing, liberating, and transforming work in people’s lives and in the world. And it is about us participating in God’s mission in the world.'”

Meanwhile, there have been some very generous, not to mention, extremely well-written reviews at the book’s Amazon page, which you can access by clicking on the link at right. One of my favorites was written by a friend and fellow pastor, Mike Bennett, who leveraged his interest in single-malt Scotch to good effect. Here’s an excerpt from that one:

“In the world of fine single malt scotch whisky, barley malt is distilled into a spirit. That spirit is then aged in wooden casks. The process of distilling is based on fairly standard procedures dictated by the science of distillation. The magic of the aging process depends heavily on the quality of the wood in the casks (a scarce resource) and the care taken and attention paid to the aging process. When it is done well, the result is an almost mystical interaction between the distillate and the wood resulting in complex flavors and tasting experiences.

“In the world to theology and ministry, the basic ingredients are taught in seminaries and divinity schools—Biblical knowledge, theological reflection, human psychology, and the history of the Christian tradition. The magic happens when that “distillate” is aged in exceptional “casks” of intellect, insight, and experience. In this short book, USEFUL WISDOM: LETTERS TO YOUNG (AND NOT SO YOUNG) MINISTERS, Anthony B. Robinson has crafted a gift to his church and profession of subtle complexity and lasting value.

“Like a good scotch, this book is best enjoyed in small portions that can be pondered and experienced in relation to one’s own experience and education. Originally developed as letters to two rookie pastors (one of them his own daughter), the book covers a lot of territory. As a retired pastor myself, I’m definitely in the “Not So Young” category, but I found something to savor with each taste. Twenty six brief chapters are divided into six parts: Some Basics, How Do I Live with this Job?, Shop Craft, Tough Stuff, The Future of the Church, and The Church of the Future . . .”

My deepest thanks to all who have taken the time to post a review/ comments whether at the Amazon page, on Facebook or some other site.


Categories: Uncategorized