A Brief Review of Restorative Commons:
Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes.
Lindsay Campbell and Anne Wiesen, editors.
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(Print version or PDF e-book)
Reviewed by Chris Smith.
On one hand, Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-Being Through Urban Landscapes is the proceedings of the Meristem 2007 Forum and is published as “General Technical Report” of the US Forest Service. But wait, before you write this book off, allow me to add that this book is typical of neither conference proceedings nor government technical reports. Printed in full color, laid out with an edgy design and illustrated throughout with a host of photographs, Restorative Commonsis not only a beautiful book but also is written in a very engaging style and draws its readers into a conversation about how the landscape of cities can be redeemed. Considering that we are called to be people marked by God’s shalom (health and wholeness) and considering the scriptural image that we are given of the New Jerusalem – in which all has been reconciled – as a city lined with trees (Rev. 22), this book promises to be of great interest to urban Christians. Restorative Commons starts with three diverse essays that offer the “theory” behind this vision of restored urban landscapes. Don’t let the term “theory” fool you, however, as these pieces are written in plain language and frame the conversation from the perspectives of history, psychology and urban planning. The next section includes two “thought pieces” which again are engaging and serve to introduce the areas of green building and green infrastructure (landscaping, gardens, etc.) respectively. The latter half of the book is narrative and serves to flesh out through stories and interviews the ideology offered in the first half of the book. The interviews with practitioners, albeit brief, are perhaps the highlight of the book. This book is a fabulous resource for seeding the imagination of urban churches who desire to seek the shalom of the particular places in which they find themselves. From starting community gardens to promoting green buildings to participating in conversations about how public spaces should be planned and used, this book is an excellent resource for introducing these conversations and for making a case from the place of ecological health and well-being that such endeavors are well worth our attention and energy. And if this book were cake, the icing would be its price tag; it is being made available for free in both printed format and PDF e-book thanks to our federal tax dollars hard at work. Click here to get your free copy today, and if you are part of an urban church I plead with you to read this book, get others in your congregation to read and discuss it, prayerfully seeking how your church community can engage more deeply in God’s redemptive work in your city!
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com