A friend had this book lying around her apartment a few months ago, and I'd started reading it, but hadn't thought about it much until a couple of days ago, at which point I bought it and read it with the voraciousness it deserved.
The gist of the book is contained in the full title: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
. Barbara Brown Taylor authored it, and I have come to expect a very high quality of writing from her. She is still officially an Episcopal priest, but rather than serving a church as its priest, has found her vocation in teaching religious studies (and being the dept. chair of religion and philosophy) at Piedmont College in Georgia. She's known in Christian theological circles as an excellent preacher and writer.
It was slightly embarrassing to find myself breaking down in the middle of Barnes & Noble over passages such as this:
So of course when it came time to decide what to do with my life, I decided to go to seminary. What else do you do when you are in love with God? Even if ordination is the farthest thing from your mind, even if you cannot find a church big enough to hold all that you know to be true about God, what do you do with this strange attraction but go where other people go when they feel it too? [....] In my own time and place, I was not aware of so many options. When I put my strong sense of the Divine Presence together with my irresistible urge to help hurt things, seminary kept coming up as the next stop on my map. If I was drawn to God, then surely that meant I was drawn to religion, and if I was drawn to religion, then surely that meant I should go to seminary. (Taylor, Barbara Brown. Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2006; 27-28.
The rest is much like that: the story of a woman who feels both called and trapped, and eventually liberated into greater faith that takes her while still ordained, outside of the parish.
It is my suspicion that many people, people who try to be good church people or are on the fringes, find themselves in this place. There are those of us who find many social justice activities distinctly lacking in specific spirituality, but eventually find deep inauthenticity in church life. The patriarchal, hierarchical structures of church that provide such comfort for many threaten to choke the spiritual lives of some church people.
One sees in Taylor's book a movement from acceptance of these structures as a kind of natural order, to a drawing away from them out of deep spiritual necessity, and the wondering of what could possibly come afterward.