Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"Leaving Church"

Over at Revgalblogpals they have started a Book Club with the first book being Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. In April we will be reading and discussing Christianity for the Rest of Us by Diana Butler Bass, and in May the book will be Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I bought all three books, but had not had time to read the book by Barbara Brown Taylor until last night. The discussion that was going on about the book led me to just go ahead and read it once the kids were asleep. I would have kept reading it except my eyes gave out and my brain quit. I did get to chapter 8. I have read other books of hers. I like her sermons a lot. They have been inspiring to me. I have heard her preach and teach at the Festival of Homiletics, and marveled at her ability to put the sermon together the way she does, and her way with words. But as I have read her sermons, I realized they would not work at the churches I have served. I have realized her style is not my style and that's okay. I have gained a lot from her book The Preaching Life.

Several things stand out to me in this latest book. She talks about her becoming a Priest and moving on to a church of her own as "natural course of things," and "I wanted it." I don't know about becoming a Priest, not being Anglican, but I do know that becoming a Pastor was not "the natural course" of things for me, nor did "I want it." But every body's call, direction in ministry, and following God's will is different than mine. But it makes me uncomfortable her saying it was the natural course. And I get uncomfortable hearing her say she wanted it, and not saying this is what I understood God wanting for my life, my ministry. I don't know, that may just be traditions, and language differences.

She also talks about the long, full days at her first church with no reference to days off, and losing herself there. And then she falls into the same pattern at the second church. That scares me reading that, no wonder she lost herself, burned out, was overloaded and then made the decision to leave the church. I can't say I have been perfect about getting my day off, but pretty close. And I can tell you my husband lets me know when I don't, and so do the kids. And I have been fortunate to have served in churches that cared whether I took care of myself or not and got my day off. Most recently my DS told me, that because I was serving a needy congregation to be sure to take breaks from it, get away and do something different. And I have.

The other thing I hear as I read the book is a somewhat romantic, naive view of the church and of the Priesthood. She did not grow up going to church and had very little idea of what the church could really be like. Having grownup in church, my father and mother being very involved, I have had an idea of what churches can be like, what preachers can be like, the good and bad. I have had to struggle through discovering what this appointive itinerant system is like. And each church is different and so I have had to learn the ins and outs of them.

I think I am going to stop now, because I have work to do, and I don't want to over load the reader. I'll post more later. I have enjoyed reading the book so far. By the way you can go to the revgalblogpals associate store at Amazon and order the books I have mentioned.


mompriest said...

I think most of us who have discerned a call in the Anglican way would tend to agree with you, Abi, about it being a call to follow God's desire for us. Some folks consider it "natural" because they feel so certain that that is how God has made them, to be "priest" or minister, or whatever the term. I've had colleagues tell me they are priest first, before wife, mother, woman...I never felt that way...(and maybe it's because I was 40 when ordained and already long married with kids). I haven't read this book, yet, although I tried. The first chapter just hit a little too close to home for me, but I would say, in general, that the way she articulates discerning a call is atypical for most of us in the priesthood of Episcopal Church.

And, yes good self care is so important. How can you care for others if you aren't nurished and cared for yourself? The well cannot be dry....

Quotidian Grace said...

I also thought the book showed a surprising naivte. Your point about her lack of church upbringing contributing to that is something I hadn't considered and is well taken.