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A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit Hardcover – April 14, 2008

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"Tattered and Mended"
The art of healing the wounded soul. See more by Cynthia Ruchti.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ordained women pose a revolutionary challenge to traditional Christian beliefs about God and male-female relationships. Virulent and ingrained discrimination against these pioneers thrives in many Christian denominations. So argues Sentilles (Taught by America), a former aspirant to ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church. After interviewing Protestant (and, to a much lesser extent, Catholic) women of diverse denominations, races, ages and ordination status, Sentilles contends that sexism is woven through Christian practice, distorting everything from worship to creeds to human relationships. Fueled by empathy and appreciation for the women whose stories she narrates, deep disillusionment with the established church and a search for meaning in the wreckage of her own vocational discernment process, the volume is alternately sobering, deeply disturbing and hopeful. It is unclear, however, whether the writer bothered to converse with those who might have challenged the inevitably one-sided perspective of the women she portrays as victims. The book is also marred by the author's polemical tone and personal agenda, which often make it read more like a crusade than an analysis. (Apr.)
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Review

PRAISE FOR TAUGHT BY AMERICA
 
"This is a poignant, touching memoir from a natural-born teacher. The education of Sarah Sentilles is something we can all learn from."—Geoffrey Canada, author of Fist Stick Knife Gun

"Hauntingly eloquent."—Janie Victoria Ward, author of The Skin We're In
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 14, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151013926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151013920
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,320,617 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on May 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sarah Sentilles set out to be an Episcopal priest, attending Harvard Divinity School, and seeking ordination in that denomination. She found the ordination process difficult, because she did not conform to some rather narrow expectations of what a priest should be. She blamed herself for not being good enough, and so great was her pain, she completely withdrew from the Church.

In A Church of Her Own, Sarah Sentilles studied in depth a problem that she sees to be of major importance in organized religion. She found that although more and more women are entering divinity schools and the ordination process, these same women are leaving the Church in even larger numbers. She wanted to find out how and why called and committed Christian women were becoming so discouraged and disillusioned in a very short time. [inset as quotation] "...I realized that the brightest, most creative women I knew were having trouble. Either they struggled through the ordination process like I did, or, once ordained and working in churches, they were silenced, humiliated, and abused. These women--women who were faithful, who brought the house down when they preached, who had dedicated their lives to serving God--were being driven out of churches or were leaving the ministry altogether." (p. 3)

When I read this, I became very defensive and wondered if I wanted to read further. Having been in churches with female pastors and counting several as friends, my experience seemed the opposite of Sentilles'. Surely she exaggerated. But I read on--and as I read, I became persuaded. I also became angry and disillusioned. If churches can treat people like that, what hope is there for the world?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
IMHO, the name of this review should have been the title of this book... as I read through the first 3/4 of this book, I was struck by two things: how well-written it was, and how bitter the author was about her experience with trying to serve in the church.

Turns out, writing the book was healing for her. In the final pages, she comes to realize her interviews with the women for this book have washed over her soul and made her long to be accepted or requested by a congregation. Her bitterness turns to grief. I was sorry she hadn't spent more time on this discovery, less on all the negative aspects of women in ministry. (I do know women who are serving, loving it, but have also had frustrations. That seems rather typical, I think.)

This was not the kind of book I was expecting when I bought it. Often I wondered how young this author was--her contemporaries were women in their 20s. And, I'm sure it is hard to receive respect when one is a woman, that young, and as some of her friends did, look and act so contemporary that some might have thought they still belonged on a college campus.

Still, she is a fabulous writer (or she has a fantastic editor, or both). She's obviously done tons of research that's invaluable. For years I struggled to find something contemporary on the shelf about women in the ministry... so a book like this was/is sorely needed.

The slant is overtly liberal and gives ample space to the disenfranchised (gay/lesbian/transgendered/etc.). I did feel much compassion for, and learned more about those who are frustrated because the traditional church will not ordain them, yet God is calling them to serve in some meaningful way.

I totally "get" the inclusive language she talks about.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christina Wright on June 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was so excited when I saw that this book was published that I immediately got it, read it, and started recommending it to friends. As a young child, my first minister was a female, and I was unaware of any particular issues for women clergy. It seemed natural to see a woman preach every Sunday and lead my small church. As I became more involved in my denomination and eventually went to Harvard Divinity School, the stories I began hearing were appauling. I am so thankful that Sarah Sentilles has gathered these stories both to make the church aware of what it is doing and to support and encourage those of us who are attempting to follow our vocation in ministry but are hitting so many walls based on our gender (and sexual orientation).

This book was a fantastic read as I began my ordination process and helped me further articulate my own call and claim my own ways of being in ministry. It also helped me consider the role of the institution church and ordination in ways that even divinity school had not previously asked of me. It offered me the support I needed as I was making some important decisions regarding my ordination. I have chosen to continue towards ordination but with a new understanding of what it means and how I define it.

I strongly recommend this book to other young women who are attempting to follow their call to ministry as well as any who hope to make the church a more relevant, creative, just, and inviting place.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Coluccio on January 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Do you go to church? Have you ever been to church? Are you a woman or know someone who is? Then A Church of Her Own is a must read. In fact the ostensible premise of the book is much smaller than its scope. While presented as if it were simply about women clergy, on a deeper level what this book really addresses are questions of how religions foster the growth of whole people - whether they celebrate and challenge the real lives and experiences of congregants and leaders or whether they supress and oppress them.

Told in blog style vignettes, the stories in this book are easy to read, easy to relate to - whether you "know" these people or not, they have interesting stories to tell and stories that are important for all people who care about religion to read. While the author's primary experience is with the Episcopal Church, she includes stories from other faiths, and two of her later chapters are her most powerful - when she writes about Catholic women and about transgendered clergy.

This book should be a primer for anyone who cares about what under-30-year olds want out of church. There are many important messages here about what younger generations crave spiritually and are turning to church for, and then often leave the church because they aren't getting.

Agree with her choices, her conclusions, relate to her experiences - or not, this book is important to read and think about.
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