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Liturgical Press

Tilling the Church

Theology for an Unfinished Project

Richard Lennan

Tilling the Church SEE INSIDE
Tilling the Church

ISBN: 9780814667439, 6743

Details: 288 pgs, 6 x 9 x 3/4
Publication Date: 04/27/2022
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Tilling the Church is a theology for the pilgrim church. In this book, Richard Lennan shows how the ecclesial community looks toward the fullness of God’s reign but lives within the flux of history, the site of its relationship to the trinitarian God. In this way, God’s grace “tills” the church, constantly refreshing the tradition of faith and prompting the discipleship that embodies the gospel. Tilling the Church explores the possibilities for a more faithful, just, and creative church, one responsive to the movement of grace. Fruitful engagement with grace requires the church’s conversion, the ongoing formation of a community whose words and actions reflect the hope that grace engenders.

Richard Lennan is a priest of the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle (Australia) and holds a doctorate from the University of Innsbruck (Austria). He is currently professor of systematic theology in the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.

ISBN: 9780814667439, 6743

Details: 288 pgs, 6 x 9 x 3/4
Publication Date: 04/27/2022


"The fruit of Richard Lennan's thirty years of teaching, reflections, and ministry, Tilling the Church applies to the Catholic Church the much-needed rationale, imperative, and dynamics of tilling the earth. Responding to Pope Francis's call for 'ecological conversion,' Lennan explores the elements in the church that promote conversion: learning from both past accomplishments and failures, nourishing present signs of life, and being open to the possibilities in the unknowable future. Like a patient and experienced farmer, Lennan teaches us where, when, and how to plant the seeds of grace in the church-field, a task destined to remain an 'unfinished project' until the eschaton."
Peter C. Phan, The Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Thought, Georgetown University

"Viewing the church’s mystery through the lens of the mystery of divine grace and human freedom, Richard Lennan’s Tilling the Church opens up fresh perspectives on what ecclesial faithfulness to God requires. Continuity with the living Gospel demands creativity in passing on the faith in response to ever-new questions and challenges; the church must be always changing in order to maintain its identity. This stimulating book is a welcome reminder of the need for constant care in safeguarding the church’s full flourishing."
Ormond Rush, Australian Catholic University

"Richard Lennan employs the ‘homely’ agricultural metaphor ‘tilling’ to help us recognize how God’s gift of Grace works to 'till,' 'to cultivate' us as church––opens us pilgrim people not only to our past, but to a future of healing, creating, and community in history and coaxes us to care for the earth and for all God’s human creatures—believers or not."
M. Shawn Copeland, Professor Emerita, Boston College

"In the spirit of Pentecost and in the Vatican II tradition of aggiornamento, this book is a work of zeal and passion for the life of the church. It is an ecclesial breath of fresh air dedicated to encouraging the generativity of the church, the necessity of conversion, the art of faithfulness, the gift of communal discernment, and more. All the while, this book keeps readers’ feet firmly on the ground, mindful of the most difficult ecclesial challenges of this historical moment. Erudite throughout. Beautifully written. Laity, priests, and bishops who love the church will discover in this book ‘a pearl of great price.’"
Nancy Pineda-Madrid, T. Marie Chilton Chair of Catholic Theology, Loyola Marymount University

"Richard Lennan’s Tilling the Church is a mature, timely, and eloquent treatment of the current Catholic ecclesial moment . . . a 'must read' for all who are concerned for the health of the church and the quality of Catholic life into the future. Born of more than thirty years of praying, thinking, teaching, writing, and pastoral service, it weaves together a lucid synthesis of the key strains in post-conciliar ecclesiology and wider theology of Catholic life with a sustained constructive invitation to become discerning participants in the way of whole-church synodality for which Pope Francis calls. It is a book for our times, written with grace and love, and will be invaluable for students, teachers, pastors, and all interested laity alike."
Paul D. Murray, Durham University, UK

"Richard Lennan does not shy away from the crises facing the church. These issues and others call for a new theology of the church based on the historical manifestation of God’s grace in Christ and the Spirit. Lennan rises to this challenge with striking erudition and imagination. He describes the church as a Spirit-led community of faith and hope, grounded in a future-oriented past, conscious of itself as an unfinished project, and open to self-criticism in the service of the reign of God proclaimed by Jesus. He highlights the essential unity that exists between discipleship and apostolicity, change and tradition, preservation and innovation. Lennan is a creative theologian and a reliable guide in pointing to a number of different ways to address the multilayered challenges facing the Church. This book is essential reading for all who care about the reform and the future of the Catholic church in the twenty-first century."
Dermot A. Lane, Dublin City University

"Lennan’s theological endeavor, an expression of his own love for the Church, is for anyone who wants to see the Church thrive now and into the future."

"Lennan makes a persuasive case that the church has much to learn from the secular world, and vice-versa. In contrast to the often-triumphalist narratives emanating from both sides of the church-secularism debate, Tilling the Church approaches its task with studied humility. It is suitable for students of theology at an undergraduate level and work be a solid choice for graduate level students of ecclesiology."
Catholic Books Review

"This volume would be valuable in graduate-level theology and ministry courses that encourage students to ask what it means to assert that the church is both human and divine—both sinful and holy—as it proceeds on its pilgrim way through the third millennium."
Theological Studies

"This book provides a carefully argued, deeply inspiring, and badly needed vision of the church's nature and mission. Given the breadth and depth of its theological engagement, this book would be an excellent foundational text for any graduate or seminary class in ecclesiology. Recommended for anyone who wants to understand what it means to be called to discipleship in and through the church today."

"A significant achievement which describes how Catholic theology requires a Church that values tradition, faces present challenges and looks to the future with hope."
The Heythrop Journal