Keeping the Covenant

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Front Cover for Keeping The Covenant

Keeping the Covenant

Taking Parish to the Next Level

Thomas P. Sweetser brings more than three decades of work with parishes all over the country to this groundbreaking resource on revitalizing and strengthening the spirit and community of the local congregation. An effective, enjoyable, step-by-step approach for lay people and leaders.

How can you help take your parish to the next level?
What are the most effective ways for staff and councils to work together?
How do we create a vision and reach our goals as a parish community?

A parish offers an opportunity for an experience of God in our relationships with others. Through activities with the congregation we share a sense of being a gathered body and a healthy parish avails us of a spiritual communion that is different from solitary devotion. Sweetser explores the importance of the parish and suggests ways any person can bring new energy to the flock.

Structured to help parishes understand weaknesses and develop goals, Keeping the Covenant offers hands-on tools for enriching and supporting the church community.

Reviews and endorsements

"An insightful commentary on a wide spectrum of parish life, including mission, structures, planning, decision making, help for pastors, staffs and councils, ideas related to stewardship, accountability, and coping with changes. Ideas stem from Sweetser’s 34 years of work with parishes throughout the country and also from his experience with the Parish Assessment and Renewal (PAR) process offered through the Parish Evaluation Project."
National Jesuit News


The author of seven books on parish life, Fr. Thomas Sweetser is a familiar name to those involved in parish renewal. In his new book, Keeping the Covenant, Fr. Sweetser offers a practical workbook that deals with fundamental issues as well as specific challenges different churches face.

“Why have a parish at all?" asks Fr. Sweetser. “Why not enter into a covenant with God on your own and leave it at that? The parish is such a hassle; so much work and so little to show for it.”

The reason for a parish, he explains, is that it’s “the place where the expression of our deepest longings is made manifest in communal prayer and worship, in faith enrichment and development, in outreach to the poor and needy, in the call to just and moral behavior.” Creating that inspiring Christian community is the challenge for pastor, staff and lay leaders.

Fr. Sweetser’s practical guide is based on his 34 years of work with parishes around the country and also from his experience with the Parish Assessment and Renewal process offered through the Parish Evaluation Project. He focuses on a variety of parish dynamics, including mission, planning, decision-making, ideas related to stewardship and accountability.

—Rich Heffern, National Catholic Reporter

“There is simply nothing else like it! Keeping the Covenant is hands down the best contemporary resource for pastoral leadership in today’s church. It is eminently practical, clear, and wise—and captures Thomas Sweetser’s breadth of experience and depth of wisdom. I hope all who read this remarkable book will pass it on to the pastoral leaders of their parish. This book should be required reading for all seminarians, lay ecclesial ministers, and pastors.”
Donald Cozzens, author of Faith That Dares to Speak and Freeing Celibacy


Keeping the Covenant is grounded in a vision and overflowing with practical strategies for enfleshing it in parish life. One aspect of the vision is captured in the subtitle: taking parish to the next level. The deeper dimension is communicated through the image of the covenantal relationship between God and the parish community, a relationship made visible in the ways that ownership of the parish is shared by pastor, staff, leaders, and people. Sweetser is realistic about the varied patterns and dynamics of parishes (multiethnic, merged, of varied size), and the ways of expanding leadership. To nurture a vision, including vision of the possible, this book is an invaluable resource.”
Zeni Fox, Ph.D., Seton Hall University, author of New Ecclesial Ministry: Lay Professionals Serving the Church


“Fr. Sweetser challenges the intentional or ‘successful’ parish to go to a higher level. By understanding the notion of covenant, we begin to understand the sacred trust that is the parish.”
Donna L. Ciangio, O.P., Church Leadership Consultation (from the foreword)

Paperback / 288 pages
Dimensions: 6 x 9 1/4