Pryfogle Co-Authors Book on Laity Movement
May 1, 2009
Cary, N.C., May 1, 2009 – Daniel Pryfogle, principal and creative director of leadership and communications consultancy Signal Hill, is co-author of a new book on the global movement that captured the imagination of 20th-century Christians by boldly declaring that every believer is a minister beyond the walls of the church.
Long before any talk of the “emerging church,” before the “purpose-driven life” entered church lingo, before “vocation” became a consideration not just for clergy but for all Christians, the ministry of the laity movement inspired people to view their work in the world as the work of the church.
Among the movement’s advocates was an unlikely prophet, a former English schoolmaster named Mark Gibbs, and his unusual partner, Vesper Society, a small network of Christian leaders who sought to use their gifts in business and management for the betterment of the world. From 1970-1986, Gibbs and Vesper Society played a pivotal role in the laity movement. Their inspirational story is the subject of a new book, Faith in the World: Mark Gibbs and Vesper Society, Being God’s Lively People.
Co-authored by Pryfogle, Nelvin Vos, Emeritus Professor of English at Muhlenberg College, and Melvin George, former president of St. Olaf College, Faith in the World provides a unique perspective on the laity movement, one of the most important developments in 20th century church history, by recounting Gibbs and Vesper Society’s shared journey.
A blend of biography and historical analysis, Faith in the World offers a compelling story that will engage clergy and laity alike. Richard Mouw, well-known author and president of Fuller Theological Seminary, finds in Faith in the World a story worth remembering and a message relevant for today.
“I am deeply grateful for this book. It tells a story that must be preserved. For me it is a very personal story, about a man and a movement that profoundly shaped my thinking about what it means to be the laos, the people of God,” Mouw says. “But it also contains an urgent challenge to the church at large, one that is too easily forgotten when we get bogged down in ‘churchy’ affairs: that the goal of all that we do as church is to nurture and equip all of God’s people for serving the Lord in the complexities of our daily lives.”
In the course of their 16-year relationship and beyond, Mark Gibbs and Vesper Society profoundly shaped the worldwide movement for the ministry of the laity. Partners in an era of institutional church decline, Gibbs and the Society said renewal would be found in reflection and action upon the calling of all Christians: to be the body of Christ in daily life amid the economic, political, and cultural structures of the world.
An Anglican, Gibbs’ writing inspired thousands and influenced clergy and laity across the globe. Co-author of God’s Frozen People and God’s Lively People, his provocative perspective challenged church hierarchy and prompted laypeople to claim their ministries in secular life.
Gibbs met the leaders of Vesper Society several years after the founding of the innovative nonprofit group by two Lutheran businessmen. Through the mid-1980s, the Society owned two San Francisco Bay Area hospitals, which it used as a laboratory to work out issues of ministry in daily life and to launch new initiatives. After the sale of the hospitals in 1984, the Society became a private operating foundation, whose mission to promote social justice continues today.
Gibbs and the Society facilitated groundbreaking conversations on pressing social and ethical issues with church, academic, business and political leaders. And the conversations sparked significant projects around the globe.
“This was a provocative partnership. Gibbs and the Society’s leaders were not interested in playing church,” Pryfogle says. “They did not want to simply maintain the institution of the church as faithful laypeople who show up for worship, give their offerings, and serve on the finance committee. They wanted to change the world. They wanted to be the church in the world.”
Although the book is largely historical, its message is timely, Pryfogle says. “While the traditional structures of the church fracture and decay, people of faith are increasingly asking questions about the meaning of their work and the purpose of their lives. Faith in the World is an inspiring story of how a small group of leaders pursued these same questions with passion and faithfulness,” he says.
The first full-length book published by Vesper Society, Faith in the World is available for purchase at www.amazon.com. Further details on the book plus selected essays by Mark Gibbs are available at www.vesper.org.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Faith in the World is co-authored by Daniel Pryfogle, a journalist and principal of The Signal Hill Company, a leadership and communications consultancy; Nelvin Vos, Emeritus Professor of English at Muhlenberg College and author of Seven Days A Week: Faith in Action; and Melvin George, a retired professor of mathematics and former administrator in several higher education institutions, including president of St. Olaf College and interim president of the University of Missouri System. Vos and George have both chaired Vesper Society’s board; Pryfogle has consulted with the Society since 2004.
ABOUT VESPER SOCIETY
Founded in 1965, Vesper Society is a faith-based private operating foundation that envisions a compassionate world that protects human dignity and enhances human potential. The Society’s mission is to promote social justice locally and globally by addressing critical social issues, including the provision of health services for the underserved. Learn more about Vesper Society at www.vesper.org.
ABOUT SIGNAL HILL
Signal Hill is a leadership and communications consultancy that outfits organizations for adventures in story. Founded in 1999, Signal Hill uses narrative-based practices to help leaders draw upon the power of their stories and multimedia approaches to get the stories out. Learn more about Signal Hill at www.signalhillspot.com.