I started hearing about this book during my first year of seminary. Everyone was talking about Barbara Brown Taylor's new memoir, Leaving Church. I bought it that first year, but like so many other books, it collected dust on a shelf until a few months ago.
I'm not sure why I picked it up. Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic for my seminary days. Although they are just over a year behind me, I sometimes feel like it's been ages since I've "mastered" the divine (as if that is ever possible). I missed thinking and talking about faith and the church like I used to, and so I was drawn to Taylor's book.
First of all, she is a gifted wordsmith. Well-known for expertly crafted sermons, Taylor's skill as a writer is profound. I experienced her gift with words from the first moment I opened the book. These words swept me up and surrounded me throughout the journey of Taylor's life. She creates such vivid images that I was transported beside her as I read her story. Taylor takes you along to the places she visits in a way that few writers can accomplish.
In addition to the elegant writing, Leaving Faith content is compelling as well. Taylor starts with a narrative explaining the many twists and turns she encountered as a child and young adult in search of an authentic faith. After much searching (and trial and error), she finds a home in the Episcopal Church and eventually becomes an ordained priest. After serving as an associate in thriving church, Taylor longs to serve a tiny church nestled in the North Georgia mountains. Only that church already has a beloved priest, and Taylor believes her dream to be impossible. But eventually her dream comes true, and she is called to that very church and begins to serve in what she believes to be her dream job.
A few years pass, and Taylor is miserable and must face the reality that she is mentally, physically, and spiritually depleted. She makes the difficult and courageous decision to leave both her beloved church, and church ministry all together. Stepping away from her dream is beyond challenging, but she ends up finding a new calling that continues to inspire and fulfill her.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in faith journeys, or is perhaps exploring religion, spirituality, and faith. Taylor's journey is compelling, and helped me to think about my own faith in new ways.
This book also has a lot to say, even to those of you who are not religious or spiritual. It is a phenomenal exploration of what it takes to walk away from something that you thought you wanted. I learned so much from the process that she describes and she makes such a difficult decision.
I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading some more of her memoirs. I have two others, and there is a new one that looks fantastic!!
Image from the author's website.