“I really felt called to reach out to people like me, people who had been turned off by the church but were really spiritually hungry,” says Rev. N. Graham Standish of Calvin Presbyterian Church in a recent article by Ann Rodgers in the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch, “Church Attributes Recent Growth to a Commitment to Prayer.”

The article tells the story of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and its prayer shawl ministry, representative of the congregation’s intense commitment to prayer. Rev. N. Graham Standish is the author of the just-released Becoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power, in which he tells how Calvin became a church “open to God at its core.” Standish reveals how other congregations can too, not by copying what Calvin Presbyterian did, but by creating a culture of prayer in their own communities.

Calvin’s commitment to prayer and spirituality came to the attention of Diana Butler Bass and her project on Congregations of Intentional Practice. She was impressed by the way prayer permeates the congregation’s life, by for example, turning all its business meetings into spiritual formation groups for discerning God’s will. Bass selected it as one of ten congregations for her research into ways mainline churches are finding new vitality through engagement with ancient Christian practices. Her recently published book on this research, The Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church, describes how ideological differences fade when a congregation intentionally focuses on Christian practices.

Leading emergent church author Brian McLaren states that Becoming a Blessed Church“presents a vision that is accessible to and legitimate for churches across the spectrum because it gets beyond old polarities—evangelical, mainline, traditional, contemporary—and leads to a better, richer, more fruitful path.”


Featured Resources

AL302_SMBecoming a Blessed Church: Forming a Church of Spiritual Purpose, Presence, and Power by N. Graham Standish

“What I have noticed in almost all thriving congregations is that what makes the difference is the extent to which the community is open to God at its core.”

This is a guide to creating a church that is open at its foundations to God’s purpose, presence, and power. Pastor Graham Standish shares the story of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and its journey to become a spiritually deep congregation, one that is inwardly and outwardly healthy spiritually, psychologically, physically, and relationally. Becoming a Blessed Church will help you discern God’s purpose and the path God is calling your congregation to walk.

AL295_SMThe Practicing Congregation: Imagining a New Old Church by Diana Butler Bass

The conventional wisdom about mainline Protestantism maintains that it is a dying tradition, irrelevant to a postmodern society, unresponsive to change, and increasingly disconnected from its core faith tenets. In her provocative new book, historian and researcher Diana Butler Bass argues that there are signs that mainline Protestant churches are indeed changing, finding a new vitality intentionally grounded in Christian practices and laying the groundwork for a new type of congregation.