Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Leaving Church

One of the highlights of last week's trip to Washington, D.C. was Sunday morning worship at St. John's Lafayette Square. The small yellow church across from the White House is known as the church of the presidents, but we were not hoping for a brush with power. We came to hear the "really real" voice of Barbara Brown Taylor.
Barbara Taylor has been an Episcopal priest since 1984. Her most recent book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, reflects on the 15 years she spent in parish ministry and her decision to leave it. She is quick to say that she has found a different kind of ministry in teaching, writing, and speaking, but she has also found a different kind of faith. That story, told beautifully in Leaving Church, is very much worth reading.
"If it is true that God exceeds all our efforts to contain God," Taylor writes, "then is it too big a stretch to declare that dumbfoundedness is what all Christians have most in common? Or that coming together to confess all that we do not know is at least as sacred an activity as declaring what we think we do know?" Observing that "the poets began drifting away from churches as the jurists grew louder and more insistent," she writes that she "wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything."
Leaving Church is one person's story, but it is a story through which we see ourselves, others, and the gracious presence of God more clearly. Taylor writes, "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."

(photo credit: Don Chambers, www.barbarabrowntaylor.com)