THIS IS THE CHURCH by Sarah Raymond Cunningham


Age Range: 3 - 6
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The familiar finger rhyme that begins “This is the church” is extended to explore a broad variety of places of Christian worship.

A child of color serves as guide through this ecumenical survey that’s conducted in rhyming couplets loosely modeled on its inspiration. Starting with a megachurch that holds 10,000, the cheery narrator moves on to a tiny stone church in what looks like the British countryside, a Bible-study group in a private home, a circle of worshipers at a campfire, and people praying in secret in an “underground” church (literal-minded children will need some guidance here, as the two silhouettes pray framed by a ground-floor window). The absence of non-Christian religious symbols combines with abundant crosses throughout to imply that even the most informal-looking groups are Christian. Exclaiming that “the church follows God’s people wherever they go!” the child emphasizes that church is wherever believers are, including readers among that number in the final couplet: “On this day, the church welcomes you, / You’re part of God’s people, you’re the church too!” Oddly, the church doesn’t seem to be in any obviously non-Western setting despite Christianity’s worldwide reach. The illustrations depict a wide range of churchgoers, including people of many races, sizes, and ages as well as people with visible disabilities and of varied gender presentation. Notably, there are no readily discernible same-sex couples, undercutting the book’s broad message of inclusion.

Though mostly successful in the delivery of its core concept, this book falls short of true inclusivity. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 28th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5064-4532-8
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Beaming Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2019