The Practicing Church by Diana Butler Bass is a helpful book for two reasons: 1) It offers a different story from the decline narrative that has dominated (and, unfortunately, continues to have strength) conversation about the mainline church for the past several decades. 2) It paints a picture of a model for mainline church redevelopment.

The central concept of Bass’ book is what she calls ” retraditioning.”. It is a process of creatively reappriopriating distinctively Christian practices such as prayer, Holy Communion, hospitality, Scripture study, healing, social justice, liturgical art, and so on. I find this concept compelling for. postmodern context that values creative juxtaposition and for an urban mainline context where churches are treasure houses of historic architectures, symbols, artworks, and traditions.

As an example, this summer Beneficent Church will be worshipping in the Round Top Center, which was originally built as the church’s chapel. in subsequent years the pews and organ were removed, a stage was built, and the Round Top Center was used as a parish hall. In order to reappropriatw the Center as worship space, we moved the historic deacons benches from the balcony of the meetinghouse into the Center. In doing so, we are creatively reclaiming and retraditioning powerful symbols.