Circle of Hope

A Pulitzer Prize winner's intimate portrait of a church, its radical mission, and its riveting crisis.

"The revolution I wanted to be part of was in the church."

Americans have been leaving their churches. Some drift away. Some stay home. And some have been searching for--and finding--more authentic ways to find and follow Jesus.

This is the story of one such "radical outpost of Jesus followers" dedicated to service, the Sermon on the Mount, and working toward justice for all in this life, not just salvation for some in the next. Part of a little-known yet influential movement at the edge of American evangelicalism, Philadelphia's Circle of Hope grew for forty years, planted four congregations, and then found itself in crisis.

The story that follows is an American allegory full of questions with urgent relevance for so many of us, not just the faithful: How do we commit to one another and our better selves in a fracturing world? Where does power live? Can it be shared? How do we make "the least of these" welcome?

Building on years of deep reporting, the Pulitzer Prize winner Eliza Griswold has crafted an intimate, immersive, tenderhearted portrait of a community, as well as a riveting chronicle of its transformation, bearing witness to the ways a deeply committed membership and their team of devoted pastors are striving toward change that might help their church survive. Through generational rifts, an increasingly politicized religious landscape, a pandemic that prevented gathering to worship, and a rise in foundation-shaking activism, Circle of Hope tells a propulsive, layered story of what we do to stay true to our beliefs. It is a soaring, searing examination of what it means for us to love, to grow, and to disagree.

Publication Date: 
August 6, 2024