A wonderful collection of essays from a variety of distinguished practitioners chronicles the sometimes jolting and always challenging transition from seminary to pastoral ministry.

In a time when the attitudes of many mainline preachers and congregations toward Paul seem to range from indifferent to dismissive, Rutledge displays the power of Paul and his letter to the Romans and argues compellingly for their centrality to the church’s faith and proclamation.

A deep, excellent book that combines critical exegesis of 2 Corinthians with a theology of preaching. Knowles deplores the contemporary slippage into proclaiming ourselves and exhorts us instead to proclaim the power and mercy of God.

Waldman rescues from the culture wars the story of religion, Christianity and America’s founding. This balanced and readable book is especially important in a presidential election year.

Pastors and congregations trying to figure out where Generation X has gone will find Merritt’s book extremely helpful. Merritt writes from inside the Gen X postmodern experience and as a mainline pastor.

Though it certainly stands on its own merits, Reaching Out is an excellent companion to Merritt’s book. Baab tackles the subject of how congregations communicate their story and identity in the postmodern world of Web sites, blogs and projection screens.

I pair these two because they address the same audience and similar concerns. Hollies’s book is a collection of essays while Brown’s is a monograph. Both provide guidance and support for women in an especially challenging vocational location.

What in the world is up with adolescent boys in contemporary America? A team of authors does a wonderful job of exploring that world with its spiritual challenges and opportunities.

Sawyer appreciates the mysterious nature of both congregations and conflict. In conjunction with excellent case studies, he develops helpful keys for learning from conflict in congregations.

Cross-Shaped Leadership: On the Rough and Tumble of Parish Practice. By John A. Berntsen. (Alban Institute, 128 pp., $17.00 paperback.)

A rich, honest, practice-based reflection on ministry that keeps its center in the cross and helps readers find in the cross their own center for ministry.