Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith    -     By: Barbara Brown Taylor
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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

HarperOne / 2007 / Paperback

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Product Description

Barbara Brown Taylor describes in rich detail her lifelong love of God, and her struggles as she has exhausted herself trying to teach others as she moved through different parishes. Reflecting back on her 20-year career as an Episcopal priest, Taylor acknowledges that she is still a priest at heart, and outlines her strong sense of morals, motivations, and beliefs. She details how her own personal views on life and religion conflicted with that of the church majority, and how her love for God and zeal for her faith was able to keep her going through the rough patches in her life. Barbara Brown Taylor, softcover, 251 pages.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 272
Vendor: HarperOne
Publication Date: 2007
Dimensions: 8.00 X 5.31 (inches)
ISBN: 0060872632
ISBN-13: 9780060872632
Availability: In Stock

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Publisher's Description

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.

Author Bio

Barbara Brown Taylor's last book, An Altar in the World, was a New York Times bestseller that received the Silver Nautilus Award in 2012. Her first memoir, Leaving Church, received an Author of the Year Award from the Georgia Writers Association and won the Theologos Award for Best General Interest Book of 2006. Taylor spent fifteen years in parish ministry before becoming the Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College, where she has taught world religions since 1998. She lives on a working farm in rural north Georgia with her husband, Ed.

Editorial Reviews

I cannot overstate how liberating and transforming I have found Leaving Church to be.”
“This memoir [...] is full of surprises[...] In her renewal is our own.”
“I love this book . . . . Her beautiful, absorbing memoir will bless countless readers...”
“Such is the power of Brown Taylor’s prose...and her humanity that this story becomes one of hope.”
“An Episcopal priest renowned for her eloquent sermons turns her talents to memoir...”
“Lovely . . . revealing . . . poignant. . . . I found in Taylor’s narrative a companionable voice...”
“A wonderfully gifted Christian writer and speaker.”
“This new memoir is among the summer’s best books...”
“Taylor is a better writer than LaMott and a better theologian than Norris. ...she is the best there is.”
“Taylor describes doubt, faith and vocation, their limits, and how the church both blesses and muddies the waters.”
“A fiercely honest and gracious book about our primary vocation to be human.”
Leaving Church is a canticle of praise to creator and creation.”
“A finely crafted memoir . . . a rich evocation of her lifelong love affair with God.”
“Told with insight, humor and compassion.”
“A beautifully crafted memoir . . . . There is a refreshing honesty . . . a slice of courage in a world that too often refuses to admit its vulnerability. . . . Leaving Church does not bash the church. It is a love story about letting go and learning to live with the mystery of what may happen next.”
“...Taylor at her best, writing about congregational moments with such artistic grace and wit that we see them afresh”
“Even without the collar, Barbara Brown Taylor is one of our most important spiritual writers today.”

Product Reviews

4.4 Stars Out Of 5
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  1. EVLytle
    Florida
    Gender: male
    2 Stars Out Of 5
    Shallow waters
    March 2, 2013
    EVLytle
    Florida
    Gender: male
    Quality: 1
    Value: 2
    Meets Expectations: 2
    I attended an Episcopal church for about a year and concluded that the liturgical ("bells and smells") churches are not my cup of tea, even though I accept that many people feel right at home in them. It hit me one day when attending Episcopal worship: this is a religion of showing up, or literally "going through the motions." The Christian life is a Sunday thing, plus weddings, funerals, and ordinations. For me, that isn't enough. The rituals and the general "prettiness" of that sort of church have nothing at all to do with loving God or loving our neighbor, so I left for greener pastures.

    So I read this book as someone who knew the Episcopal scene and found it lacking, meaning I was prepared to sympathize with the author. After all, how could anyone find any satisfaction in going through the same rituals Sunday after Sunday, cultivating a religion of prettiness, politeness, gestures? Apparently she did not, so, thankfully, she left her position as priestess - something I applaud, as I applaud any person leaving the ministry if the call of God is not there. If only all the other uncalled clergy would make that step!

    However, I did not enjoy this book. I share the author's fascination with nature, but her constant descriptions of nature become tiresome after awhile, as if her goal is to get us to admire her writing, not to admire nature itself. I hope this won't sound unkind, but the author seems extremely self-absorbed. Obviously a personal memoir like this has to focus some on the author, but as I waded through the dense prose, it occurred to me that God plays almost no role in her universe, she is fascinated by herself and her reactions to the beauties of nature, and if God is there at all, he is the Deists' God - hovering in the background, the Creator (maybe), but not too involved in the present world. Frankly, since she was one of the first women to be ordained by the Episcopalians, I can't help but think that the novelty of that was one of the main attractions of her "call" to the priesthood, the excitement of being part of that "first wave" of priestesses, which has long ago worn off, given that there are now more women than men in Episc seminaries.

    While I attended an Episcopal church, one thing I was painfully aware of was that, even though most of the people in my congregation were very well-educated and well-read, very few of them read the Bible or religious books. You may be aware that the Episcs' three-year lectionary mandates Old and New Testament readings for every worship service, so if you attend worship and pay attention, you can't help but be exposed to a lot of the Bible. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to "take" with most Episcopalians, and it didn't surprise me at all when the survey done by the Association of Religion Data Archives showed that very few Episcopalians read the Bible outside of church. Having been reared in a church that put a LOT of emphasis on reading the Bible for oneself, I had trouble understanding the neglect of the Bible. For the Episcopalians, it's "there," an essential part of worship, but seems to have no more actual influence than the candles, incense, and robes. As I read this book, it struck me that the author didn't have a very high opinion of the Bible, that she clearly values it less than her own experiences. Not surprisingly for someone who has a low opinion of the Bible, she has little use for some of the core doctrines of Christianity - original sin, the atonement, etc. But as she revealed her attitude toward the Bible and doctrine, I found myself thinking, "Thank you SO much for leaving the ministry!" And it hit me: No wonder this denomination is in such decline. She found no spiritual satisfaction in this church built on rituals and prettiness and a general disdain for the Bible and doctrine - many others in the mainline churches are equally dissatisfied. The efforts to inject some zing into those churches by becoming the religious wing of political liberalism are not paying off in terms of numbers. I think the author left her church for the obvious reason: God isn't there. Maybe if she had studied the Bible more closely she would have seen that this goes all the way back to the Old Testament, where God mocks "the noise of your solemn assemblies."
  2. Lillian MacDonald
    Leduc, Alberta
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    October 3, 2009
    Lillian MacDonald
    Leduc, Alberta
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: female
    I could not put this book down. The Christian journey is a winding one, with unexpected disappointments and joys along the way. The author has succeeded in recording this unique journey (unique for each of us)in a very credible way. Her story will not appeal to those who see things in black and white, but those who have also experienced life in shades and color will no doubt react as I did - "Yes!!" It has also spoken to the problem of the modern church and why so many of us are disconnecting from it. The only negative was that I would have spent the extra on the hardcover version to pass along to friends.
  3. David Swearengin
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    July 22, 2009
    David Swearengin
    A must read for anyone who has ever been discouraged in their walk with te Lord.He is always there!
  4. Krista Mournet
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    April 1, 2008
    Krista Mournet
    Theres a lot of spiritual salad out there. Thankfully, this offering is not in that group. From the moment you crack open the cover, it sings. Her story of earthy, fragrant devotion to God is refreshing and very alive. It breathes the living life of Christ and speaks from the still beating but wounded heart of the church. Thankfully, Taylor veers only briefly into the sordid realm of political hot button issues, and for good reason.With fifteen years in the pastoral crucible under her belt, and an evident love for all of us, Taylor comes across as someone you can trust. Her words in this precious memoir are nourishing, full of flavor and, like the vegetables in her Georgia garden, entirely organic.
  5. Deanna Wall
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    October 4, 2007
    Deanna Wall
    This is a class assignment for my School for Lay Ministry. Have not completed it yet but have really enjoyed what I have read so far.
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