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Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-Town Church

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  279 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Jonas McAnn is a weary pastor without a congregation, trapped in a dead-end insurance job. Granby Presbyterian is a weary congregation without a pastor, overwhelmed by the prospect of finding someone who actually wants to be a pastor—not a manager, coach, or CEO.

When Granby's pastoral search committee and Jonas connect through handwritten letters passed back and forth, so
Paperback, 176 pages
Published October 27th 2017 by Eerdmans
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Sep 11, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of fictional letters from a pastor to his fictional small-town congregation is a lovely read, full of reminders of what real community looks like on the ground. It reminded me strikingly of Jan Karon's series of novels set in small-town Mitford, with the wisdom and love of real people in a real place and the love of a pastor for his flock. This celebration of ordinary life lived in community--in both Karon's Mitford and Collier's Granby--is wholly attractive.

So why only 3 stars?
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Winn was our pastor back in our college days and this book made me miss him and that little church all over again. Lately, my struggles with faith and church leave me feeling lonely, but Winn’s words helped me feel less so.
I loved this line: “What if we thought of ourselves in simpler terms: friends together in the Kingdom of God.”
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for anyone who's ever been on a vestry, a parish council, or a pastoral search committee! Funny and moving. ...more
Cyndi Tefft
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A truly enjoyable and relatable easy read.
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't at all hesitant about this book because I love Collier's wisdom and words. . . and I'm a small-town church-goer myself. But when I saw it was letters, I did pause . . . so glad that didn't stop me. The book is honest and real because it's about a pastor and the people in his church . . . and the hard, beautiful parts of their lives together.

In every way, this book was a balm, a respite, a hand to help me up. I cannot recommend it enough.
Jason Kanz
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-read, 2017, 2020, 2021
If it weren't for the high praise offered by John Blase, author of The Jubilee, one of my favorite collections of poetry, I am not sure I would have happened upon this remarkable book. Love Big Be Well (2017) by Winn Collier is such a warm and welcome gift. About two-thirds of the way through it, I wrote inside the front cover, "this whole book is a benediction."

Love Big Be Well offers a unique premise. A disenchanted man, Jonas McAnn, responds to a handwritten letter from a pastoral search com
Aug 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2017
Here's what I hope:
I hope that Winn Collier will bring us back to this church, by writing us a novel set right here, with the people who received these letters. The letters hold big and important ideas - but I'd love to see the stories all fleshed out. I want to know more about this "small town church." 😊 Collier has the skill to do it!
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Summary: Letters written through the seasons of the church year by Jonas McAnn to the people of Granby Presbyterian Church on the varying facets of believing and living as a church, the warmth of friendship and the dark nights of doubt, each ending with the words "love big, be well."

It is still early in the year, but I think this book is going to end up on my "best of 2018" list. Perhaps it is because I resonate with so much here, and because it is written so well. 

A disillusioned pastor making
May 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021
“It’s essential to find good people whose love for their little nook of the world leaves you wanting to love your own little nook better.”

“I trust God gives us wisdom, but sometimes this wisdom comes as a slow drip, not a sudden knowing. Sometimes we only get one meager taste at a time, and we have to sit and wait for more. I’m learning to be more comfortable in the waiting.”

“Are we willing to be together, to stay together and love one another, even when we don’t know what to say—or when whateve
Oct 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice little book on the everyday-ness of being a pastor where everyone knows everybody. What I liked most about the book was the realism and down-to-earth stories conveyed by the author. It is written as fiction but could just as easily be true.
What I didn’t like was the format: each chapter was a “letter” written from the pastor to the congregants. Sometimes that format works but I felt like it could have been written differently and still told the same story.
May 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read! Winn is captivating & honest. This book was a quick read and left me underlining and highlighting so many quotes I am eager to take with me. Definitely recommend to anyone who may be struggling with the concept of church. He addresses the church’s values and what the people should be doing to love people well. I’m encouraged and charged after finishing this book.
Anastasia Tuckness
recommended in the Banner
Michele Morin
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Bundle of Letters on the Church's Doorstep

When a pastoral search goes well, everyone wins. Last year when a soft-spoken lobsterman rose to his feet and challenged us at Spruce Head Community to seek a shepherd who would lead us and love us, we began praying and seeking to that end. The seeking and the finding has united us, and we are blessed to have welcomed a godly man and woman who are living small-town life alongside us, all the while holding forth the Word of Truth.

Winn Collier is also a
Tim Otto
Oct 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This small book contains a big hope: that in a compromised church—authenticity, humility, and love can still triumph. The book is a series of letters from a pastor and his congregation. Quaint idea, right? Who writes letters anymore? But letters are the perfect medium for this book’s message. Putting pen to paper calls for attentiveness, patience, simplicity, and a focused love that is missing in current church culture. Jonas, the pastor, gives his congregation all these things and his congregat ...more
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is, hands down, my favorite book about church, people, love, living life well and true, community, belonging . . . you name it. I read a lot of non-fiction, good books, finely written books, some of them written by friends of mine. Not one of them comes as whisker close to truth as does this fictional compilation of letters. Maybe it’s because our church was going through its own search for a new pastor at the time I received this slender tome. Whatever the reason(s), this one struck a nerv ...more
Lynn Pechuekonis
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier made my heart happy, and I highly recommend it to readers who are hungry for a break from big church clichés and over-promising certainties.

The book’s premise is that a pastor returns to the ministry after some time away working a secular job and accepts a position with a small town congregation, the fictional Granby Presbyterian Church. The book is a series of occasional letters from Pastor Jonas to his flock over the course of six years as he gets to
Andrea Stoeckel
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“We may reject or neglect her, but the church stands witness to something larger than us, something tethered to our primitive memory, something that calls to us in times of distress, at the thresholds of life and death”.

Normally, I start a review with a quote that has effected a response deep within me. However, within this small book, I’ve been so affected by, I’ve been compelled to find memes of quotes from the theologians that Collier sprinkles throughout this book, and have shared these gems
Alex Joyner
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When Amy Quitman writes a letter to the unknown pastor that the Pastoral Search Committee hopes to call to their Presbyterian church in the small town of Granby, she includes an invitation that would set the hearts of potential candidates like me aflutter:

"We want theology, but we want the kind that will pierce our soul or prompt tears or leave us sitting in a calm silence, the kind that will put us smack-dab in the middle of the story, the kind that will work well with a bit of Billy Collins or
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm sure I enjoyed this book so much because I can insert myself right in with the mix of characters. Especially since our small town church in right in the middle of calling a pastor.
I noted and highlighted throughout the book but here are a few that stand out to me

When writing the initial letter the congregation asks "Or might we hope that our church could be a place where you'd settle in with us and love alongside us, cry with us and curse the darkness with us and remind us how much God's c
Katie Andraski
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Winn Collier’s Love Big Be Well is one of those rare novels that comforts the reader with hope. It opens with a former pastor responding to a letter from a church search committee that simply asks, “Will you love us? And will you teach us to love one another? Will you give us God—and all the mystery and possibility that entails? Will you preach with all the hope and wonder in your heart? Will you tell us, again and again, about ‘the love that will not let us go?’”

Jonas McAnn writes a heartfelt,
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just what the doctor ordered . . .
. . . if, that is, “the doctor” were diagnosing the state of the American Christian church experience. Only better. Better than a diagnosis. Better than a prescription. In Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small-town Church, Winn Collier draws us personally into the kind of church experience that perhaps few of us have known yet one for which most of us are longing.
By the time I finished this book, my soul was so thoroughly overwhelmed by its beauty, its truth, it
Neil Lettinga
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Winn Collier, Love Big, Be Well

Spoiler Alert: This collection of letters from an ordinary pastor in an ordinary small town Presbyterian church is a work of fiction.
I didn’t get the memo and found myself a bit miffed to discover that the pastor and members of the congregation – whom I quite gotten to like over the course of the book – existed only in the Winn Collier’s imagination, however much they may have been abetted by the real people in Collier’s life.

This is quite a spare book. The lette
Deb Brammer
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I paid $12.99 for an ebook of this book because it offered something that is rare, a book about ministry in a small church during ordinary life. It came with impressive endorsements and seemed to have good things to say. I understood from the beginning that this was not Christian fiction in the normal sense, playing out a story scene by scene. Instead it is fiction in the style of Screwtape Letters, with a fictional character talking about life from his point of view. Collier makes some good poi ...more
Jodi Herlick
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In an era of self-help religious books, Winn Collier's writing is always refreshing. LOVE BIG. BE WELL. is a novel in the vein of C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters: letters written from a fictional character to another (in this case from a pastor to his congregation) that address various spiritual topics. If you're looking for a book with a gripping plot, this is probably not the book for you. However, the book intelligently explores issues applicable to churches, both to pastors and lay people. Th ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Love Big, Be Well is like an Impressionistic word-painting of life in a small town and the distinct role a church plays within that culture. Since I’m married to a small-town pastor, the idea of this book intrigued me. Winn Collier has a gentle prose style that teeters on the brink of poetry. He does a fantastic job capturing the ethos of ministry in a small-town church as only one can who has been there, done that, and he does it using a unique form of letter narrative.

Through a progression of
Jeff Zell
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fiction often bears truth. As I was reading this, I could think of several congregations that would write a letter similar to what Granby Presbyterian Church would write to pastoral candidates. They are a community of friends who want a pastor to help them grow in depth. In their rural area, growing in size probably isn't really going to happen.

And, I know several pastors who would respond favorably to such a letter. They want to pastor a congregation, not be a CEO or advertising agent or whate
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
(Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book for an honest review. )

Love Big, Be Well: Letters to a Small Town Church by author Winn Collier
Jonas McAnn is looking for a change for himself and his family. He has the heart and calling to pastor a church. There is a church congregation, Granby Presbyterian, who needs a pastor. A match of pastor and church is brought about through a series of letters between Jonas and the Granby Presbyterian Committee in charge of finding
Adam Tyler
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As a pastor, I read all sorts of books. Some are books of the trade - commentaries or leadership books that help me teach, preach, and serve my congregation well. Other books are sources of inspiration; I seek to be inspired by stories that challenge me and move my soul to action. And still other books are works that feed the spirit, strengthening me and encouraging me while engaging my mind and touch my heart. This last category is the type of book I most need, for it is the type of book that a ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Christian faith is not primarily an ethereal religion but a grit-and-grind, in-this-world undertaking." (Jonas McAnn to his congregation)

Love big, Be Well is an ode to the beauty of "grit-and-grind" ministry and Christian fellowship in a small town church with big hearts and big pains. It is a hymn to those who have seen beyond the veil of pastoral ambition to the beauty of devoting their lives to serving and loving in one place for the long haul--particularly those parts of America often forgo
Ashley Jones
Oct 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have the honor of personally knowing Winn from 15 years ago... He has always been gifted with words as a pastor, leader, and writer. Even knowing that, I was blown away by this book.

I must admit, I've grown weary of the "church" in America and have been wrestling with a lot of issues that require us to take a stand. Racism. LGBTQ. Abortion. Climate Change. Things that have been painted as black and white wrapped in politics, but are no such reality. This book has been such a gift to my heart
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Winn has written for periodicals such as Washington Post, Christian Century, Soul Journey, Christianity Today, In Touch, Campus Life, Leadership Journal, Radiant, Preaching Today and Clear & Seven. For six years, Winn was the Deeper Walk editor for Relevant Magazine. His first solo book, Restless Faith: Hanging on to a God Just out of Reach is a candid exploration into the perplexing, riveting and ...more

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