Guest / Limited Access /
Why We Need Small Towns
Scott Speese / Flickr

The New York Times released a documentary film this summer that captures a place and its people. The film features residents from a wide range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds and jobs. Their disparate stories are knitted together by their affection for their city. In many ways, the film captures a love of place and holistic mission that has captivated many evangelicals as of late. There's one major difference: The place is McDowell County, West Virginia, population 21,729.

The residents of McDowell County remind an American church intent on doing and being more that sometimes, the best life is given to quiet, simplicity, and smallness. It's a lesson that also appears in a marvelous recent book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. Part memoir, part biography, part meditation, Little Way is the story of journalist Rod Dreher's younger sister, Ruthie, who at age 40 was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Watching her community rally around her, Dreher awakens to the beauty of life in a small town. More than that, it alerts him to his fixation on big cities and their big dreams and big projects, and how he has disdained the ordinary pleasures of life in his hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana. Dreher writes of his sister's home and how it shaped her affections:

The love that had sustained Ruthie through her cancer, and that now surrounded and upheld her family, came from somewhere. Like Ruthie, my mother and father had cultivated it, in this little patch of ground, all their lives. They had no grand gestures of philanthropy or goodness to their name, but rather they were always faithful in small things.

Dreher notes that his way of life—as an accomplished editor and religion columnist—had ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueTo Tame the World
Subscriber Access Only To Tame the World
What terrifies us about reality pushes us toward its Creator.
RecommendedThe Theology of Donald Trump
The Theology of Donald Trump
Four words that reveal what his followers really believe.
TrendingDied: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy
Died: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy
Jerry B. Jenkins: 'Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul.'
Editor's PickWhat the Magic Kingdom Reminds Us About the Eternal Kingdom
What the Magic Kingdom Reminds Us About the Eternal Kingdom
The happiest place isn't on earth...yet.
Christianity Today
Why We Need Small Towns
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.