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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 30, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
On the other hand, Leaving Church is too limiting of a title for Taylor's new memoir. I hope that the phrase will not keep those in the pews, or even those who left the church long ago, from reading it. A quote from William Faulkner opens Part One of the book, and would do well to open every memoir: "The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself."
The simple facts are these: Baptized Catholic, she wanders in and out of a few Protestant denominations. Drawn to a life of divine importance during high school in the sixties, she attends Yale Divinity School in the seventies on a scholarship; is among the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church USA a few years later; serves a large church in Atlanta (All Saints') for a decade as one of several clergy; seeks and finds a rural parish to lead on her own (Grace-Calvary in Clarkesville, GA); and after several years, quits, exhausted, taking a job teaching religion to college undergraduates.Read more ›
Then came a long stretch where I no longer snapped up her books -- until this recent "memoir of faith." It is clear that Barbara Brown Taylor has changed, and she shares those changes in this elegantly written book.
As she took this reader through her own journey from large urban parish to teaching (with a stop in a small country parish), she examines her interior life and her need for control. In a very moving passage, she describes her first Sunday in the pew instead of leading worship. Her candor in describing her desire to still be at the center of attention is something that speaks to anyone who has surrendered the spotlight, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
Yet, as I read the section dealing with her life in her small country parish, I couldn't help but experience a disconnect. Her descriptions of feeling overburdened and of overcompensation leave out a very key part of why that might have happened. At the same time that she is pastoring this church, she is also spending a lot of time elsewhere as a guest preacher, member of the College of Preachers, and retreat leader. Yet there is no mention of the possibility that steady travel and multiple responsibilities might have played a role in both her feelings of burnout and some difficult relationships with parishioners. Memoir, by its very name, is naturally selective, and a memoirist has the right to pick and choose what to leave in and what to leave out.Read more ›
On the other hand, I had some issues with this book. As someone who is also ordained (United Methodist), I know firsthand the pressures that one faces in parish ministry. There's never enough time, there's always a need, and "compassion fatigue," as Taylor puts it, is a real-world possibility. For me, however, ministry is first and foremost about calling--that God is somehow involved in choosing us for this work. That doesn't make us special or spiritually pedestal-worthy (as one of my seminary professors once put it, "When God calls you to ministry, he isn't doing you a favor."). Taylor's story as I read it seems to involve more of a drift toward ministry as a helping profession where baby birds and wounded souls can be healed by clergy touch. I'm not always sure that that's a healthy vision of ministry, especially when its the only one. The call to lead, to be prophetic, to teach, to handle the tough stuff, and to be the called out representative of God is hard work and being faithful to the task is less about being a "helper" and more about being an "equipper." Setting healthy boundaries and revisiting our call frequently are two of the essential tasks of clergy if we're going to stick with God's call on us for the long haul. Ultimately, ministry isn't about us--it's about what God does through us.
The other thing that I had in the back of mind as I read was the fact that Barbara could leave parish ministry with minimal disruption to her life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As one searching for what is next, Barbara Brown Taylor opens her heart with vulnerability and insight. Her years of study and ministry intertwine to offer light to the searcher.Published 12 days ago by Patti P
This book helped me through a very difficult time in my life. Whether it was because I was going through a difficult time or because the book truly is that amazing (I suspect it to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
I have not read it all yet. It sounds very interesting. All's well with this purchase.Published 2 months ago by Jackie
Beautifully written account of Ms. Brown's spiritual journey. She is also an excellent public speaker and a gorgeous woman!Published 2 months ago by Walter R. Mead
This book is about Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, and her search for herself and her identity. She begins her search as a young girl, eventually winding up in the Episcopal church,... Read morePublished 2 months ago by A. Sutton
Spoiler alert: We can't actually leave church. God doesn't grant wishes or magically solve our problems. But God will not let us go.Published 3 months ago by Emalie
Excellent book. We have a group of clergy and lay people who had a wonderful discussion using this book.Published 4 months ago by Diane Jean Sloan
Originally borrowed this from the library, but there were many parts I wanted to remember and underline for future reference.Published 4 months ago by Richardlor