New and Noteworthy

New Maps

The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church, by Diana Butler Bass, gets beyond the tired picture of mainline Protestant churches as stodgy, declining, and paralyzed by liberal-conservative divides. Many mainline churches have rejected that vision and, in fact, are flourishing and finding new ways to be faithful, Bass reports. She weaves first-person interviews, research, and thoughtfulness into this encouraging book. The Alban Institute.

Older and Wiser

Breaking Free: Women of Spirit at Midlife and Beyond, edited by Marilyn Sewell, is a collection of 27 personal essays from women who are contemplating the second half of their lives. Terry Tempest Williams, Germaine Greer, Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou, and others write honestly and dazzlingly about loss, illness, and the unexpected pleasures of aging. Yes, there are drawbacks to getting older, but they pale in comparison to its gifts. Beacon Press.

The Morally Relevant Jesus

For 15 years, Harvard theology professor Harvey Cox taught a wildly popular course to undergraduates called "Jesus and the Moral Life." In it, as well as in his lively book When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today, Cox considers the New Testament stories about Jesus, and those Jesus told, and shows how they can inform moral choices today. Cox writes warmly and intelligently about the thorny business of making moral decisions. Houghton Mifflin.

Seeking a Culture of Life

When Thomas Merton finished Peace in the Post-Christian Era in 1962, he was told it was not the "right kind of work for a monk." His abbot forbade him from writing further about war and peace, and the book went unpublished-until now. Substitute "terrorists" for "communists" and his passionate essays on moral passivity, war and justice, and Christians and national defense are eerily, but not surprisingly, current. Orbis Books.

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