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The Last Pastor

Faithfully Steering a Closing Church

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Westminster John Knox Press
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Gail Cafferata was heartbroken when the church she pastored voted to close its doors. It may have been the right decision, but it led to a million questions in her mind about her call, leadership, and future. She began to think that other pastors who close churches perhaps go through this same experience.

This led her to conduct a sociological study of over 130 pastors in five historically established denominations (Episcopal, Lutheran, United Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ) who were called to serve churches that closed. This book tells the results of that study, which consisted of many interviews, and the hard-won lessons learned by these courageous pastors.

The Last Pastor not only tells the story of the challenging situation of what happens when a church closes, but also offers readers the experience of grace and growth through their willingness to faithfully steer their own journey along with hers.

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Gail Cafferata received her PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago and then went on to serve for twenty- two years as a medical sociologist in universities; the National Center for Health Services Research; Children’s Hospital, Boston; and other nonprofits, writing over twenty-five academic and government publications. In 1997 she received her MDiv from Episcopal Divinity School and served a Northern California congregation for nine years before it closed. Cafferata currently serves as a Visiting Researcher at Boston University School of Theology.

The Last Pastor
Faithfully Steerin...
by Westminster John Knox Press
Gail Cafferata
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Sale Price $16.25
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“Gail Cafferata helps us understand the complexity of deciding when and how to conclude a ministry. She does so with sensitivity to the spiritual and practical dimensions of the decision to close a church that is informed both by extensive research and personal experience.”
—William McKinney, President Emeritus, Pacific School of Religion (United Church of Christ)


“This is the book I wish I’d had years ago when my first call found me leading a church through closing. Cafferata writes with empathy, wisdom, and grace about the challenges and costs clergy experience closing congregations. Using stories and insights from her and other clergy’s experiences, she affirms God’s presence and helps to navigate the journey. She also suggests ways that judicatories and colleagues can be supportive.”

—Lucy Kolin, Bridge Pastor, Sierra Pacific Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

“Gail Cafferata brings together the rigorous research of a professional sociologist, the experience of a devoted pastor who herself had to close a church, and the deep insight of a theologian in this significant book written for church leaders having to close churches. Artistically woven together, drawing from many pastors’ experiences, the book takes one on a voyage into the death and resurrection that are at the heart of the Christian experience. Strongly recommended for all who have any responsibility for congregations struggling with viability and for those who support or teach them.”

William S. Stafford, Dean Emeritus of The School of Theology, Sewanee (Episcopal Church)

“Congregations—like the faithful who comprise them—are born, mature, decline and die. And yet, preparing for the death of a congregation has been an unpleasant and therefore a largely unexamined process. Rev. Cafferata breaks the silence and gives voice to pastors who have shepherded their flocks through church decline and closing. She brings both personal and professional care to understanding the unique role of pastoring a dying congregation.”

—John L. Odom, presbyter for Community Life, the Presbytery of Mid-Kentucky, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 

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List Price: $25.00
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