By Andy Stanton-Henry. Fortress Press, 2022. 280 pages. $22/paperback; $19.99/eBook.
Andy Stanton-Henry in Recovering Abundance: Twelve Practices for Small-Town Leaders has written a healing love story of and for rural America, a love story that if carried out in urban and suburban America could bring healing there as well.
The author comes by his love of the rural United States honestly, as a “returner” to the small-town world of his youth. In his years away, he discovered Quakerism at a Friends college in Kansas. He then entered more fully into a Quaker way of life at Earlham School of Religion in Indiana, a way that he now brings to his work as a Quaker minister and writer in Tennessee.
Recovering Abundance is written around the gospel story of Jesus and the multiplying of the loaves and the fishes, as it appears in Mark 6:30–44. Each part of this passage serves as an introduction to one of the 12 practices of abundance that make up this book. For example, the first practice, Retreat, grows out of the opening part of the story, when Jesus says to his disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31 NIV). Stanton-Henry then fills the chapter with smaller and larger ways small-town leaders can and need to refresh and renew themselves.
Each chapter brings more depth and life to the realities and possibilities of rural life, with many takes on practices, such as Discernment, Imagination, Organizing, and Generosity. By book’s end, the common notion of rural America as a deficient, politically polarized backwater is washed away in a vision of communal blessing, solidarity, creativity, and joy. It makes you want to move there, if you haven’t already, to be at the growing edge of a more hopeful America.
In the gospel story, Jesus takes the apparent scarcity of a few loaves and fishes, blesses them, and allows them to grow into a feast in the living truth and ever-present power of spiritual abundance. Andy Stanton-Henry’s story blesses the seeming poverty of small-town America and witnesses its actual and potential wealth unfolding. May we come to see what he sees, and foster what he fosters.
Ken Jacobsen has lived, served, and taught in Quaker schools and communities for many years. He seeks to share the life of the Spirit from his lakeside home in Wisconsin, and in retreats at Friends Center in Barnesville, Ohio, and in other Friends settings. Ken is a member of Stillwater Meeting in Barnesville, Ohio (Ohio Yearly Meeting).