"In Souls in the Hands of a Tender God, Craig Rennebohm draws on thirty years of ministry on the streets of Seattle to bring us into the world of street people who live with a mental illness. As Rennebohm introduces us to his characters with gentle respect, he enables us to look past the presenting signs of illness to see the humanity we share with them, always present and always potentially accessible. Rennebohm teaches the ministry of companioning by example. His stories illustrate how he slowly builds trust with someone who presents an illness self that is withdrawn, terrified, or belligerent. He invites readers to experience the tender mercy of God as he leads us to identify with the fear, anger, and vulnerability of people we ordinarily keep at a safe distance. We receive in his stories the blessing of God for the weakest, most vulnerable parts within ourselves.
I commend the book to anyone seeking to understand a loved one with a mental illness and to all who are involved in ministry among people who are homeless, mentally ill, or otherwise deeply vulnerable. Beyond these audiences, I believe the book has much to offer readers seeking to understand how God is present in a disturbing and broken world. I join with the authors in their hope that these stories will help demystify mental illness and encourage efforts to build communities of openness, understanding, and care, with active participation and leadership from local congregations. "
– By Christine Guth, in Connections, newsletter of the Anabaptist Disabilities Network, March 2010.
"... Caregivers in every psychiatric or other medical service in which the diseases treated are severe and chronic should read this book. It is worth the struggle of confronting the questions about God and suffering. But it is equally important to grasp the potential significance of every act of kindness we perform in the business of caring for those who have lost their minds, for even a brief moment. This text adds dignity to the practices of all the professionals and paraprofessionals who are charged with facilitating the recovery of psychiatric patients, especially those patients who struggle with the additional jeopardy of homelessness."
– Excerpt from the review by Ezra E.H. Griffith, M.D., for The American Journal of Psychiatry 166:240241, February 2009.
"Rennebohmís journal is as God-intimate and moving as it is informative and practical. He offers a harvest of study and insight in understanding serious brain illness, the pilgrimage of healing, and the importance of companionship throughout the journey of suffering. His tender words refresh our definition of faith as we discern the gentleness of God who creates room for us to be present with one another."
– Excerpt from the review by Rev. Dee Brauninger for the UCC Disabilities Ministries, May 2009.
"Souls offers a refreshing contact point for psychology and religion. While psychology is appropriately silent on the existence of God or the veracity of theological assertions about God, it can study and, perhaps, estimate the practical effects of various theological perspectives. Souls will inspire theists and strengthen their convictions that the homeless are known and loved by the creator of the universe. ... However, souls can help even nontheists to usefully appropriate theological language, for example, by offering a counterpoint to dangerous theologies that opponents of affordable housing or expansion of homeless services might employ."
– Excerpt from a review by James Zahniser in PsycCritiques, the American Psychological Associations review of books, Vol. 53 (December 24, 2008).
"For decades Rennebohm, a Protestant pastor, has walked the streets of Seattle, making contact with mentally ill homeless people and slowly drawing them into "circles of care" so they can find safe housing, receive medical and psychological help, and rejoin the human community. In this collaboration with Paul, Rennebohm interweaves themes of the Spirit working in desperate lives, the unshakable dignity of human souls and the necessity of companionship for healing as he vividly portrays the lost people he encounters. Always recognizing that medical treatment of mental illness is an essential part of the movement toward spiritual wholeness, Rennebohm is also sensitive to the vulnerability of the mentally ill to disordered religious ideas. The book's title, a response to Jonathan Edwards's famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," reflects Rennebohm's approach of gentle compassion toward people others reject. His call to find a better path leads him to Europe to study community-based approaches to treating mental illness and to initiate these in Seattle. As well as a guide to how others can help be healing presences to the mentally ill, this hopeful book is a meditation on faith in a broken world."
– Starred review in Publishers Weekly, March 10, 2008
"Having come from a long career in both religion and the mental health field, I was surprised and delighted to discover a perspective new to me that melds the two in an inspiring and instructive way. Rennebohm makes clear that there is a long history to the beliefs and methods he presents in this important book. ... I recommend this book particularly to professionals in the mental health field, to those who have struggled with mental/emotional problems, and to those who have mentally disturbed family members or friends. Your understanding and patience will be rewarded."
– Excerpt from the review by Dean Watt for The Center for Progressive Christianity, July 2008.
"Craig Rennebohm provides a refreshing look at compassion and caring for Seattles outcasts in Souls in the Hands of a Tender God ... Rennebohm, a Seattle native, describes a personal journey from struggling with depression to attending the Chicago Theological Seminary and the Pacific School of Religion, to, finally, his experience dealing with mentally ill homeless people through his Pilgrim Church parish on Capitol Hill. Through it all, he learns that understanding and helping homeless mentally ill people involves reaching out and communicating with them that institutions are not the solution, as he had been taught. ... Rennebohm writes about the nature of self, faith as an odyssey, and everyone's need for a companion to guide them through life. I'm not convinced faith is a journey, but this work was inspiring nonetheless. "
– Excerpt from Faith and mental illness on Seattles streets,, by Louisa Gaylord, in Crosscut.com, July 15, 2008.
"I just finished an uncorrected proof of Craig Rennebohm's Souls in the Hand of a Tender God, his profound account of a life of relational mental health ministry to the homeless. I can't remember the last time I've been so moved and inspired. This is the sort of book you want to share. A book that can change lives. Perhaps the world. ... Rennebohm describes the communal process of finding wholeness. Deep listening. Nonjudgmental presence. Shared humanity. And the tender work of nurturing the path of spirit toward wellness."
– From the beginning of "Soul Tender," at Apesmas Lament, the personal blog of Tim Harris, editor of Real Change, Seattles weekly street newspaper, March 5, 2008. Read the entire blog entry, which includes a moving testimony to Craig Rennebohms work on the streets.
... a tender and touching book ... In the United States, persons with brain disorders account for a large proportion of the homeless population. Craig Rennebohm approaches his task of helping these souls from a religious perspective, but he is always aware of the need for skilled medical treatment, the physical necessities of home and security, and the social need for companionship and understanding. Souls in the Hands of a Tender God does more than just tell inspiring stories. It points to workable models of community mental health care, and it challenges churches, non-profit organizations and governments to take steps toward caring effectively and compassionately for those in our midst who are suffering and marginalized. A must read for all homeless health workers!
– Newsletter of the European Network of Homeless Health Workers, No. 6 (Summer 2008).
... inspiring and instructive stories of healing for the homeless that would be an excellent introduction for a church or agency called to minister to the homeless.
– SZ Magazine, posted online June 18, 2010.