Emily M.D. Scott
Convergent Books, 256 pages
Reviewed by Cyndi Wunder
This book is multilayered. It is a book about a unique church plant, and it is a book about personal transformation and growth. St. Lydia’s in New York has captured the imaginations of church nerds across the U.S.
St. Lydia’s is a dinner church in Brooklyn, and is unique among church plants. The experience of being church together begins by gathering in the kitchen and cooking a shared meal. The worship service occurs around the table, in and through the sharing of bread and cup. There is a graceful simplicity to this church that welcomes all people from all stations in New York to sit, to eat together and to share life together.
We learn in this book that St. Lydia’s is a response to deep yearning for genuine community, for simplicity and connection, for spiritual as well as physical nourishment. It is not a step-by-step guide to setting up your own church plant or dinner church. There are certainly some insights that are of benefit to the would-be dinner church or church plant, but this book is more. This book speaks to the depth of longing for an experience of the divine in the midst of a very secular society. It speaks to creating a spacious community where all people can find their particular space.
This book is worth reading if only for the beautiful writing that Emily Scott employs. Her gift with words and her ability to create and communicate a vision is truly beautiful. She elegantly communicates the way relationships formed and shaped her ministry and, more importantly, how they touched and transformed her heart. “For All Who Hunger” is more than a book about a church plant’s innovative ministry, it is a book about becoming, about personal transformation. Scott delicately rides the line between over-exposure and transparency as she discusses her struggle to become a fully engaged, lively, no-part-of-me-left-behind Christian.
Scott is aware that she is not crafting a literal, step-by-step autobiography of a church plant; she is curating a beautiful memory of a grace-filled era of her life with love and kindness. She treats this time with kindness and grace, letting bygones be released. All the while, she holds tightly to the goodness and beauty of her time at St. Lydia’s. She explores her own doubts and the hunger that called her into ministry even though some part of her was happier behind the scenes. She explores her mistakes, her hopes and her dreams, and how, even as some failed to materialize, something of value consistently did.
“For All Who Hunger” is a must-read not only for those who are concerned about the future of the church, but also for those who are exhausted and need a reminder of why they began this in the first place. It is a hope-filled, gently enthusiastic, uplifting story. It is an honest examination of the ways in which we, as a people, are broken and suffering, and how we are changed and healed by coming together as church, as community, as grace in action.
Cyndi Wunder is pastor of Lodi Presbyterian Church in Lodi, Wisconsin. She is a former drug and alcohol counselor, burlesque fan and equine enthusiast.