Roadmap to Reconciliation – Book Review

by Christine Sine

Andy Wade

roadmap-reconcileIf you’re serious about working toward healing and reconciliation in your family, neighborhood, organization, or larger community, In Roadmap to Reconciliation: Moving Communities into Unity, Wholeness, and Justice is a must-read. If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to unfold and re-fold one of those big paper maps, this roadmap will be a pleasant surprise. With clear, easily accessible directions, Brenda Salter McNeil lays out the different way-stations along the road as well as the places folks most often get lost or stuck.

Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God’s original intention for all creation to flourish. p.22

Each chapter contains inspiring stories, and probing questions, and a very helpful “Getting Practical” wrap-up for working through each stage on the pathway toward reconciliation. Salter McNeil not only provides a map, she helps you understand how to read it and apply it in your unique situation. I found this extremely useful as I explored my own history of reconciliation and thought about issues I currently face.


For example, and this seems so obvious to me now, there has to be an initial “catalytic event” that breaks one out of their (my) isolated views even to recognize the need for reconciliation. I can recall many times of working at bringing people together, only to be frustrated by folks who were too comfortable with the way things were and saw no need to change. Without some kind of personal event to shake up the status quo, any discussion of reconciliation was moot; there was no obvious issue to reconcile! While there are times when just opening the discussion can become that needed catalytic event, many times we have to just recognize that, for this person or organization the time is not now.

This is one of the reasons movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline Opposition are so important; many of the accepted norms of society continue to go on unquestioned until something big shakes up the status quo. While these protests may first appear in opposition to reconciliation, they actually provide that essential first step for people to move out of their comfort zones and hear stories from an injured party. These kinds of protests can become that catalytic event for many, which opens the way toward dialogue about the need for healing and reconciliation.

[The identification phase] …is a process of deconstructing our limited definitions of ourselves and reconstructing a new identity together, based on who God says we are – fearfully and wonderfully made, ambassadors of Christ, ministers of reconciliation and one new community through Jesus Christ.  78

The section “Planning for Action” was an aha moment for me. Salter McNeil pointed out that, “I usually get fired when people or groups enter into this, the preparation phase”. The reason isn’t what you might expect; at this point people are feeling comfortable with each other. It appears the crisis has been solved and reconciliation is complete. I think this is also where many of us from the dominant culture who have mentally traveled the road to reconciliation think to ourselves, “Well, I get it now. I’ve sent in my check and written those petitions, it’s time to move on. Whew, I’m glad that’s over.”

I know for me the problem comes when I’ve intellectually worked through a problem and figure that since “I get it” now, the work is done. The reality, as Salter McNeil points out, is that now the real work begins. Now it’s time to rebuild systems and structures together so that we don’t easily slip back into the broken way things were. She refers to this “second-order change” as “deciding to do things significantly or fundamentally different from how they have been done before.” 85.

Those who truly desire real and lasting change can’t simply change the physical make-up of a group, (transactional change). Instead, the underlying assumptions must be changed (transformational change). She continues:

Once you cross that line from transactional to transformational change, you begin to more fully understand that this is going to cost you something! It’s what the preparation phase is all about – successfully making that transition from short-term connections to building a long-term community of reconciliation.

This book is short, a mere 130 pages, but it’s packed with critical insights and logical steps to move intentionally from division to lasting change. If you want to begin the truly transformative process of reconciliation, this book’s for you!

This post is part of our October Living Into the Shalom of God series.

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