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Reflections on Renewal: Lay Ecclesial Ministry and the Church (review)
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Reflections on Renewal: Lay Ecclesial Ministry and the Church. By Donna Eschenauer & Harold Daly Horell. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2011. 216 pp. $19.95.

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The thirteen essays in Reflections on Renewal: Lay Ecclesial Ministry and the Church edited by Eschenauer and Horell, provide a wide and deep perspective on pastoral life today. Inspired by the 2005 Bishop’s document “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord,” Part One addresses the historical, theological, and collaborative development of lay ecclesial ministry, and Part Two delves into current and future concerns. Written by a panoply of ministerial messengers, non-ordained and ordained, practitioners and academics, religious educators and volunteer, pastoral counselors and bishops, there is momentum and continuity from one chapter to the next. Each essay is followed by reflection questions suitable for pastoral theology studies as well as parish round tables. [End Page 76]

The universal call to holiness, intrinsic to baptism and embraced by the faithful during the age of aggiornamento, spurred many church volunteers rooted in parish life to become professional lay ecclesial ministers, a term diverse in meaning, understanding, and acceptance. Credit is given to the Spirit for the fast growth of and commitment to lay ministry, yet with growth came worrisome concerns the authors address, including: the lay ecclesial minister’s position in the church organizational chart; the multiplicity and interrelatedness of ministries; what financial, educational, and emotional support is needed; the unique identities and interdependence of the ordained and non-ordained minister; and the spiritual, practical, and theological formation of the authorized professional lay ecclesial minister. Each essay demonstrates the complexities of ministry as well as its common universal themes. A plea is made for precise language that “reflects our ecclesiology, our perception of church, its ministerial nature, its political design and its mission in the world.” Several essayists advocate for intercultural sensitivity and a formation that is considerate of underrepresented ethnicities, especially Hispanic, given the changing demographics of the American church. An “individualistic model of ministry” is challenged and a relational model based on a Trinitarian theology is advocated.

The title of the text is rather tired. More grievous is the pairing of Lay Ecclesial Ministry with the conjunction “and” instead of the proposition “in” thus portraying a ministry that trails instead of one that co-pilots. The text is, however, prophetic and serves as an intelligent witness to God’s action in all the baptized. It provides a comprehensive but unfinished theology of lay ecclesial ministry that excites, informs, and encourages one to stay engaged during these troubled times. [End Page 77]

Kathleen Overturf
Villanova University
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