How to be in place

books-parishThe New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches Are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community

Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen
InterVarsity Press

Paul Sparks, Tim Soerens and Dwight J. Friesen’s compelling book invites us to rethink how powerful the gospel can be when it takes root in the context of a place.

This is not a new idea – in some ways, as old as the apostle Paul – yet never has it had such direct relevance to a culture as to our age of urbanization. Today, we are seeing a movement from transience to rootedness: the church must respond. What could church look like where it takes responsibility for the geographical place it is rooted in?

The New Parish teaches that the gospel and the work of theology must be rooted in “place.” Our context and community help us know who God is and how the kingdom of God is at work. Rather than seeing the church as a haven from the culture, they want to see the church grounded in that very culture in order to see redemption in our neighbourhoods and in ourselves.

The book is organized in response to three questions.

“Why do we need a New Parish?” Radical individualism and living above place has fragmented the Western church, the authors argue.

“What is the New Parish?” The new parish is different from the one of Christendom. The authors define the new parish as faithful presence with God and one another in the place we live.

“How do we practice the New Parish?” Here, they share stories and give practical example that will help spark your imagination. Where are you connecting with the neighbourhood? When you go to your coffee shop, gym, community centre and grocery store, are you existing or engaging? What are the needs expressed?

If we are buying time until the next church activity, we have missed the invitation of the new parish, the call to faithful presence in the places we live.

As someone who is doing church as parish, I have found this book a very helpful guide in practically answering what a church could look like as it is lived in community. What I also appreciate is the authors do not gloss over the challenges presented and the hard work involved in developing a New Parish. They acknowledge the journey is complex, the transition is difficult, and experienced guides are few.

This is a resource that will definitely be a textbook for those wanting to embrace a localized view of church in years to come.

—Dave Harder is pastor at The Journey, Ottawa. He blogs at

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