The La Casa building in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, Photo by author, October 2019

What You Sow Is a Bare Seed: A Countercultural Christian Community during Five Decades of Change (Wipf & Stock, August 2023) is a group biography that tells the stories of ordinary but extraordinary people of faith who were engaged in movements for renewal in the church and justice in broader society. People such as Dora Koundakjian Johnson, an Armenian-Lebanese linguistics scholar and activist, and Doug Huron, an attorney who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case for women’s rights. They were among those who came together as the ecumenical Community of Christ in Washington, DC

Intentionally planted in the inner city in 1965—a time when many churches were leaving—the Community attracted people disillusioned with religion. The Community “distinguished itself from the more-organized church without rejecting it,” one former member says. 

Over five decades, members forged a close-knit community, with Catholics and Protestants, evangelicals and Episcopalians, Mennonites and Methodists joining their lives and receiving the Eucharist each week around the same table. 

They believed that helping each other identify their gifts and vocation was a compelling way to shape their collective ministry beyond themselves. It was also primarily led from the pews—or rather, folding chairs—with ordained pastors and priests playing a guiding role. 

When the Community of Christ ceased worshiping together in 2016, it transferred its building to a partner in mission, La Clínica del Pueblo. Above the front door, the sign still says La Casa, a name that has endured from its time as a restaurant through its four decades as a worship and public gathering space, now to a Health and Action Center.

Socially active churches today can better understand the present and move into the future by learning about the movements that shaped Christians in past decades. 

What You Sow Is a Bare Seed interweaves crucial moments and ideas from that history as they intersected with compelling people who influenced the wider church and world.