I bought a book a month ago, started it, liked it but didn't finish it. This weekend I picked it up again and it was perfect timing. Just what I needed when I needed it. The book is called Leaving Church and it's written by Barbara Brown Taylor (who is a terrific human being, so I'm told by someone who has actually met her and who served an Episcopal church well for many years before finally "leaving church"). I'm so enamoured with the book that I'm going to offer up a few quotes from it and may even do that in more than one post. I'd love to hear what you think of what you see. Here go the first of the quotes:
"Before Christ Church, I thought that worship was something people cooked up by themselves. At Christ Church, I discovered worship that took place inside God's own heart. The divine pleasure was the pleasure of a mother with her baby at her breast."
"Being a priest seemed only slightly less dicey to me than being chief engineer at a nuclear plant. In both cases, one needed to know how to approach great power without loosing great danger and getting fried in the process."
"Yet even there I had some reservations about the whole setup. If the purpose of the church were to equip all God's people for ministry in the world -- as I was learning in seminary -- then what sense did it make to designate one of those people 'the minister' in a congregation? The minute you set someone apart like that, didn't you give everyone else license to say, 'Don't look at me -- she's the minister?
"In the same way, if the minister's job were to support church members as they engaged their vocations in the world, then what sense did it make to locate the person inside the four safe walls of a church? A mobile unit would have made more sense, like one of those libraries on wheels that goes wherever people need books. As strongly as I was being drawn to worship at Christ's Church, my heart remained in the world. I belonged amont the laity; not the clergy."
". . . being ordained is not about serving God perfectly but about serving God visibly, allowing other people to learn whatever they can from watching you rise and fall."
[on her consideration on being ordained] "As a layperson, you can serve God no matter what you do for a living, and you can reach out to people who will never set foot inside a church. Once you are ordained that is going to change. Every layer of responsibility you add is going to narrow your miistry, so think hard before you choose a smaller box."
"I know plenty of people who find God most reliably to books in buildings and even in other people. I have found God in all of these places too, but the most reliable meeting place for me has always been creation."
[on Celtic theology in which . . . } "God's 'big book' of creation is revered alongside God's 'little book' of sacred scipture."
"At least one of the purposes of church is to remind us that God has other children, easily as precious as we. Baptism and narcissism cancel each other out."
[quoting Arun Gandhi] "People of the Book risk putting the book above people."
"The whole purpose of the Bible, it seems to me, is to convince people to set the written word down in order to become living words in the world for God's sake. For me, this willing convesion of ink back to blood is the full substance of faith."
"My role and my soul were eating each other alive. I wanted out of the belief business and back into the beholding business."
"My quest to serve God in the church had exhausted my spirtual savings. My dedication to being good had cost me a fortune in being whole. My desire to do all things well had kept me from doing the one thing within my power to do, which was to discover what it meant to be fully human."