Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor

Can books be a message from the beyond, from the Divine, or tell you something you didn’t know you needed to know? At different times in my life I have rejected books only to return to them eagerly later. My Gran read Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and as a teen, I could not understand why. When I inherited her volumes, I began to understand that AML had a lot to say to women of her era, especially to women who wanted to write.

When my children were small, I checked out Madeleine L’Engle’s Circle of Quiet from the library-twice, and never read it. What was the draw? Years later, I tried it again because I had learned to love memoir and thought sure this one by a writer should be good. Oh, it was! I began to read everything MLE wrote. Before I had read too much of her though, we were on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. DH and kids moaned when I saw a bookstore; I love to mill around in local stories. There on a shelf, with not another single book even near, sat MLE’s Walking on Water. I took it home and have read it so many times, each time I was in a different space of my life but always found a tidbit to hold about creativity and the Divine.

So when I was in Barnes and Nobles last and was buying books marked Buy Two, Get One Free I wondered what my third choice would be. I was tired and grabbed Barbara Taylor’s Leaving Church, a Memoir of Faith. I had never heard of the book or the author, but I decided quickly to give the short memoir a chance. As I started to read, I realize that this Episcopalian priest had had a change of heart and had lost herself. Then I remembered I had just read Dilemma by Father Cutie, a Catholic priest and Down the Spiral Staircase, a memoir by an ex-nun named Karen Armstrong . What was going on with this pattern? I had not recognized I was reading a pattern.

I am not an Episcopalian, but Barbara Taylor’s book is good for anyone of faith. She writes well and the reader is quickly engaged in her story. The first half of the book deals with her becoming a priest, how she found the most perfect little church in Georgia, and then how she burned out. The second half of the book deals with how she recreates her life and becomes what she calls fully human.

Some lines I marked:

“…so immersed in the life of the Church…forgot the life of faith was not always the same thing.’

“…that faith in God has both a center and an edge and each is necessary for the soul’s health.”

“…life springs from death. Not the last but all the little deaths along the way.”

“With sundown on the Sabbath, I stopped seeing the dust balls, the bills, and the laundry. They are still there but they lose their power over me.”

If you are a pastor, priest or married to one, I think you would find this book beneficial. Hum, even if you are not, it might help you understand the pressures that burn out the clergy.

Have you ever felt like a book fell into your path when you weren't looking for it?

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Personally, I'm in a "memoir mode" right now. I've put a hold on "Leaving Church". It sounds interesting to me. I think I've read both of those L'Engle books, but it's been long enough ago I think I need to revisit them. Thanks for the tip off!