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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faithby Barbara Brown Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
By now I expected to be a seasoned parish minister, wearing black clergy shirts grown gray from frequent washing. I expected to love the children who hung on my legs after Sunday morning services until they grew up and had children of their own. I even expected to be buried wearing the same red vestments in which I was ordained.
Today those vestments are hanging in the sacristy of an Anglican church in Kenya, my church pension is frozen, and I am as likely to spend Sunday mornings with friendly Quakers, Presbyterians, or Congregationalists as I am with the Episcopalians who remain my closest kin. Some-times I even keep the Sabbath with a cup of steaming Assam tea on my front porch, watching towhees vie for the highest perch in the poplar tree while God watches me. These days I earn my living teaching school, not leading worship, and while I still dream of opening a small restaurant in Clarkesville or volunteering at an eye clinic in Nepal, there is no guarantee that I will not run off with the circus before I am through. This is not the life I planned, or the life I recommend to others. But it is the life that has turned out to be mine, and the central revelation in it for me — that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human — seems important enough to witness to on paper. This book is my attempt to do that.
After nine years serving on the staff of a big urban church in Atlanta, Barbara Brown Taylor arrives in rural Clarkesville, Georgia (population 1,500), following her dream to become the pastor of her own small congregation. The adjustment from city life to country dweller is something of a shock — Taylor is one of the only professional women in the community — but small-town life offers many of its own unique joys. Taylor has five successful years that see significant growth in the church she serves, but ultimately she finds herself experiencing "compassion fatigue" and wonders what exactly God has called her to do. She realizes that in order to keep her faith she may have to leave.
Taylor describes a rich spiritual journey in which God has given her more questions than answers. As she becomes part of the flock instead of the shepherd, she describes her poignant and sincere struggle to regain her footing in the world without her defining collar. Taylor's realization that this may in fact be God's surprising path for her leads her to a refreshing search to find Him in new places. Leaving Church will remind even the most skeptical among us that life is about both disappointment and hope — and ultimately, renewal.
“This beautiful book is rich with wit and humanness and honesty and loving detail….I cannot overstate how liberating and transforming I have found Leaving Church to be.” —Frederick Buechner, author of Beyond Words
“This is an astonishing book. . . . Taylor is a better writer than LaMott and a better theologian than Norris. In a word, she is the best there is.” —Living Church
Barbara Brown Taylor, once hailed as one of Americas most effective and beloved preachers, eloquently tells the moving and delightful story of her search to find an authentic way of being Christian—even when it meant giving up her pulpit.
About the Author
Barbara Brown Taylor was named one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Baylor University. Ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1983, she became rector of Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church in Clarkesville in 1992. She resigned from her parish to accept an endowed chair in religion at Piedmont College. A frequent guest preacher and teacher at churches and universities across the country, she is also adjunct professor of Christian spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary. An editor-at-large and columnist for The Christian Century, Taylor is the author of more than ten books. She lives on a working farm in rural Habersham County, Georgia, with her husband, Ed.
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