What an oddly enjoyable book. I am sure you have heard, never judge a book by it’s cover, but I did. In a good way. I mean, come on, what an odd title – The Pickled Priest and the Perishing Parish. I thought to myself, either this guy Hal West is either uber creative or he’s just mad at the state of the church and trying to sneak in judgment through creativity. First impressions had me leaning towards the later. For those that know me, I am man enough to admit defeat and say I was wrong, and boy was I wrong.

Hal West in The Pickled Priests and the Perishing Parish is like traveling with a older, wiser, and humorous mentor who has watched and participated (and at times shunned) the radical changing trends of the church through a life of faithfulness. Nevertheless, when many boomer-aged pastors are looking for the greener pasture of a ninth hole fairway, West feels his time to truly make an impact is now. Not only is this a solid read for pastors who are just now coming into their own  and needing advice on what church was in the past by a true practitioner, but it is also a wonderful read for boomer age pastors to realize the value they still can add to the church. West is truly the humorous and whimsical Gandalf for the hobbit-like pastors who need guidance on their journey and for the elders who still need to stick around to share the wisdom of the past so we all do not make the same mistakes previous church leaders have made.

Before we go too far, one important note, Hal West is not a priest and has not ever lived in a parish. He utilizes this terminology because of the power it elicits for spiritual guidance and the longevity inherent within.  Pastors are to be the long term, spiritual leaders of their community. With modern pastors moving and changing jobs so often, no wonder little to no impact has been made over the last decade or more. Being the constant figure in the community someone can go for spiritual insight and reprieve from a world gone wrong, this is the message many boomer pastors can pass down to their proteges. Instead of lamenting the rise of the young, rock-star, self centered pastor, those who have pastored faithfully for years can pass on wisdom only found in the truly faithful – those on whom we build our legacy.

The overall message is one all spiritual leaders must face – to get past our “pickled” perspective, regardless of tenure perspectives to approach the transformation of the church with an open mind as to proved spiritual vision and restoration to the modern church and to the souls they serve regularly. West does the best I have seen from a boomer leader through humor and through poignant experiences that qualify him to be a coach and consultant to other boomer leaders and especially to the rising generation of spiritual leaders.

I highly recommend this book to two major groups – boomer age pastors and young pastors. Truly the book does such an amazing job speaking to the issues of older leaders fighting change and younger leaders feeling like everything must change. There is a middle ground that is often ignored, but not by West. I also recommend this book to anyone who feels that their aging pastor has become too “pickled” to change and transition which can be hurting the overall health and growth of the church. West understands how they feel and where they are coming from and his book can offer needed advice to change for the betterment of their spiritual journey as well as the church they love and serve.

The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish is a humour, heartfelt read by a pastor with a huge, humble heart for his contemporaries and the next generation of rising spiritual leaders. Younger pastors need the wisdom of the experienced pastor and seasoned pastors need to hear out the new perspectives the next generation brings so that everyone can reach their full redemptive potential in the communities they serve.

This book is a wonderful primer for such a timely, needed conversation!

West, Hal. The Pickled Priest and the Pershing Parish: Boomer Pastors Bouncing Back. Nashville: Westbow Press, 2016. 130pp. $15.00.

*I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.