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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Paperback – Bargain Price, April 10, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. A widely acclaimed preacher, Taylor draws on her homiletical skills in this finely crafted memoir with a simple plot: an Episcopal priest exhausts her inner resources, first in an urban church and then in a small country parish; she changes jobs, struggles and finds renewal. Such a synopsis, however, does not do justice to Taylor's literary style in this rich evocation of her lifelong love affair with God. "When I think of my first cathedral," she writes, "I am back in a field behind my parents' house in Kansas, with every stalk of prairie grass lit up from within." Drawn to the church, she compulsively overworks: "I had such a strong instinct for rescue that my breasts fairly leaked when I came across those in need of rescuing." Though she has found new employment, she realizes she is still a priest: "I miss being a lightning rod, conducting all that heat and light not only from heaven to earth but also from person to person." Current and former clergy will relate to her comical and sometimes touching descriptions of parish life, while memoir buffs will savor her journey as she identifies her core beliefs, sets boundaries and learns to relish her "blessed swath" of the world. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Episcopal priest Taylor, a respected and beloved preacher, ended a 20-year career when, after much reflection, she left the church. She had expected to spend the rest of her life writing sermons and leading worship. Instead, she now teaches full time at a college in Georgia. With its three indicatively titled sections--"Finding," "Losing," "Keeping"--Leaving Church aims to explain her compulsion to leave the familiar behind. When she was first ordained and for years thereafter, she felt certain about the fundamentals of her own faith and what it meant to be Christian. But she slowly realized that she was conflicted, internally and with the church, in large part because of church-inclusiveness controversies, including gay and lesbian issues. She laments that while ostensibly protecting the integrity of scripture and church doctrine, people can trample the rights of others. She discovered that change isn't easy. Sometimes, even getting dressed in the morning seems an insurmountable challenge. Ultimately, Taylor's is a luminous portrait of faith not lost but questioned, refound, and regained. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Like so many of us who bring our idealistic notions into church with high expectations of both serving God and experiencing God, a popped church balloon can send us plummeting to the ground. The ground is very hard and for many of us we end up splattered everywhere and it takes a long time to put Humpty Dumpty back together again--and then we're not the same--what with those cracks all over!
When I left my church, I had no idea that others had left. I had know idea that Christians had similar "exit" experiences of betrayal, hurt and grief when leaving their churches. The damages done when leaving a church does not seem to be about religion, but more about leaving a conviction in God. We feel betrayed by God. We question how it was even possible to be led down this path? Is it God's fault? Is it our fault?
For the author, she literally had to decide what to do the day "after" she left her clergy position with her church, whereas for some the realization they've left might take a long time.
Barbara Brown Taylor went through actual physical withdrawals, finding herself on the floor with horrible headaches. It seemed she started pulling herself together by remembering the Sabbath and making time for a personal relationship with God, rather than all the doing for everyone else. Her healing came through nature and by opening her mind to other religions, weighing them against her own, and finding peace somewhere in the middle.
The author found it hard to go to other churches, and her the transition from leader to follower was unsettling. For me, just attending a Christian church felt like betrayal on the highest order! I'd jumped off the jet and onto the bullcart! Oh what we can do to our spiritual lives.
Like the author, I couldn't find spiritual or emotional support. Local Christian Pastors had no experience to counsel me, and for Barbara she'd been the counselor!
Our differences part here, as Barbara went off looking for the meaning behind other religions and embraced them, while I had been down those "many roads," and had settled onto the Road to Damascus.
She wrote a moving story of her father's decline and death from cancer, another subject that I'm very familiar with, and she made this astute observation while watching him die and wondering about his relationship with God: "All I found out was how helpless love can be, with nothing left to do but suffer alongside with the beloved."
I highly recommend this book to affirm that the loss of a church can be devastating but the return to spiritual health entirely possible.
She pushes back on what many would identify as historic, orthodox Christianity on several points. She invites the reader to join her spiritual pilgrimage with great sincerity and honesty. She learned much that many agenda-driven Christians need to know and experience. This is not a book about stylized structured Christian theology. She does not fit into the filters of reformed, Protestant, Catholic, or categorized schools of thought. Her framing of church history is a bit too broadminded for some readers as she discusses conflict of thought about truth in the ancient Christian church. This book is ultimately a journal of her growth process and is a refreshing read.
Episcopalians like to do spiritual autobiographies, and this is a great one. Of course, it doesn't have a beginning, middle, and conclusion. The journey keeps changing as she pursues it.
Author Taylor writes lush, delightful, descriptive prose, evoking the rural environment, sights, sounds, smells, and ever-recurring conflicts. It's hard to put this book down. At the same time, it leaves too much unsaid. What really happened in the small country church that led to her abrupt resignation? She gives hints and allusions. One senses the parish was relieved to see her go. What is clear is that she is still searching, growing and learning. Should you go out and buy this book? It depends. If you're looking for definite answers, certainty, and biblical literalism, you won't like it. If you're comfortable with ambiguity, uncertainty, mystery, and inner conflict, this may be just the book you've been searching for. I certainly enjoyed it and recommend it. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
Most recent customer reviews
Good to have a "conversation" with the author. It is not a topic often discussed in my circles