Yup, we’ve got that one

And more than one million more. Become a member today and read free for two weeks.

Read free for two weeks

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.

The eBook includes a special excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor's Learning to Walk in the Dark.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061748332
List price: $10.99
Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
Availability for Leaving Church
With a 30 day free trial you can read online for free
  1. This book can be read on up to 6 mobile devices.
Clear rating

At first Barbra Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church seems like a memoir of where she lost her conviction to be in ministry. The book recounts her early days of discovering God outside of the church, her first exposures to church, her entry into seminary, and her eventual call to the Episcopal Church. It becomes clear early in her ministry however that serving as a priest for the Episcopal Church was not a healthy way for her to live. She describes the frustrations she found in both her urban Atlanta church where she served as one priest amongst several on staff, and her difficulty in the more rural setting of northern Georgia where she became the sole priest of a small church with a growing congregation. Perhaps Taylor’s biggest failure was the more successful her ministry became, the less connected she felt to God.After five and a half years in rural Georgia she eventually found her priestly calling was not to a church but to the university. She didn’t renounce her ordination; rather she simply changed the focus of her ministry. In her description of life in parish ministry it seems clear that she entered a church completely ready to take care of her congregation but wholly unprepared to take care of herself. At one point Taylor describes what her Sabbath day entailed and it becomes clear that she knew the word but had never learned how to put it into practice.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most prominent female American authors of books about religion. Over the course of her now dozen books (and probably counting), she has gained many fans for her engaging writing, particularly how she reveals herself in each of her books, many of which are sermons or about preaching.In "Leaving Church," she recounts how she came to accept the call to her final parish as priest, and how she decided to leave the pulpit to become a full-time college professor. Subtitled, "A Memoir of Faith," it has two main sections, "Finding" and "Losing," with an extended epilogue called "Keeping."This is an interesting book as it allows a glimpse at the personal side of being a parish priest -- the joys and the headaches. It also serves as a biography of faith in how Brown Taylor explores the transition of her faith from her vocational responsibilities to something she seems to be seeking for again in the second half of the book.As a pastor, I appreciate the open way in which Brown Taylor invites people to imagine faith seeking, looking for the hand of God in many forms, in many contexts, and in many ways -- including outside of formal worship services. It is also helpful for a gifted author to describe a bit of how the stresses of serving as a religious leader can sometimes become an obstacle to personal faith.However, I was mostly disappointed with this book. Time and again, I had the sneaking suspicion that much of the story was being consciously left out. I can understand the need for anonymity and for protecting the privacy of others, so I understand that many stories probably could not be told at all, for fear that they would betray a confidence. Granting this, though, the book still seemed overly disingenuous -- that Brown Taylor was not protecting the privacy of others as much as she was protecting -- or maybe even avoiding -- herself.Perhaps others who are not pastors will appreciate the book more, and probably they are Brown Taylor's intended audience. From colleagues and others, I have heard of many who have found "Leaving Church" to be wonderful. Sadly, I found it otherwise.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read a lot of memoirs these days. In fact they are probably my favorite literary genre. Maybe I should have been warned by Taylor's subtitle - not simply "a memoir," but "a memoir of faith." Because this is not a memoir in the usual sense. There is precious little of Taylor's childhood, youth or young adulthood - no real concrete stories and examples from her life. Too much of this book remains caught in the abstraction of ideas and beliefs, with not nearly enough examples. The people who show up in the book remain undeveloped vague outlines. And I have a hard time identifying with Brown's spiritual "quest," if that is what it is. I don't think it's because she's a woman either. What few facts that do emerge about her life outside this "quest" do not really serve to make her a sympathetic character. Daughter of a psychotherapist, sister of a lawyer, wife of an engineer - all these tidbits add up to what appears to have been a life of privilege and ease, and continued to be even after her ordination, as she speaks of her Saab and Audi and how they didn't fit into her rural community, and goes on at some length about everything she "wanted" in her custom-built home outside of town (in lieu of a parsonage near her church). What comes through in Barbara Brown Taylor's book is a story of a driven overachiever, who in fact drives herself into a near nervous breakdown, which finally causes her to leave her church and the active priesthood. While I do not doubt the sincerity of her quest for her true vocation and place in God's world, I do wonder about her motives. She became more likeable - more human - in the final section of the book, after she had left the priesthood, when she talks about her crisis of faith and things like her fears of inadequacy and the death of her father. Having said all of this, I still have to say that I'm glad I read the book, which has left me with much to think about in regard to my own role in the Church (Catholic in my case)and my relationship with God and my place in His world. I also think that Taylor is a person I'd like to know, but these 200-plus pages have not given me that opportunity. A memoir of faith? Perhaps. A "memoir"? No. - Tim Bazzett, author of Reed City Boyread more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a great book. "...how we treat one another is the best expression of our beliefs.."read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I just finished reading this book and I liked it quite a bit. I've read Taylor's essays for years in the Christian Century, so I thought I would appreciate the book, but I wasn't prepared for how clearly it mirrored my own history, feelings, responses and longings for church and faith. I am not a clergywoman, but my journey in and out of Faith has been similar. I am the daughter of a minister and a friend to several other ministers and I think Taylor adequately captures the spiritual heaviness and loneliness associated with the job. She also reminds all Believers that, in the words of Bruce Cockburn, "God is bigger than an ideology," but she manages to do this without the usual airy fairy Baby Boomer new age language (sorry, Boomers). Always grounded, her words carry great weight. In the words of my current pastor, "Leaving Church kicked my ass." Yeah.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
While to a certain extent, Ms. Taylor's failures are more successful than any of my achievements, she still conveys her sense of desperation as she sought to be a spiritual leader while still taking care of her own spiritual needs. God must definitely still love her, since she fell into a nice college teaching job and didn't have to move away from her lovely home. But I did find this book encouraging as I am in the process of leaving my lay job at a church and seeking career paths that do not leave me feeling spiritually depleted.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was given this book as a gift because I had left church, but not my faith. If I thought that was tough, I cannot imagine being ordained and leaving church. But, this book had many insights that I may not have considered.Throughout the book, as Brown's career as a priest seems to get better and better, her relationship with God seems to be put on the back burner. Talk about a conflict! She does not exactly see eye to eye with some of the elders and other officials at the small church where she preaches. This opens her eyes to the fact that what she may think is a good thing for the church, it may not be that good after all. After leaving the stress of preaching, she takes some time to get to know herself and God better. I loved this part of the book, because I could really relate to it. The word choice and sentence structure was amazing and kept the book moving quickly. My favorite sentence is where Brown was describiong her relationship with God, that she in bed, she would "peck him on the check, and roll over to sleep." I think the message is key to this day and age. In our fast-paced lives, it is hard to stop and detach from that world and look at the world God created. It is even harder to take the time to actually have a conversation with Him. But, if one takes to time and effort, it is worth the while.I would recommend this book to any, but especially to those who seem to have lost their connection with God.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The story of an Episcopalian preacher who found she had to leave her church to find God. Very powerful story, emotionally moving, with the honesty of Anne Lamott and the beautiful writing of all great novelists.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Hello, my name is Barbara and I'm a workaholic priest. From outside, it's not hard to see why this renowned preacher and committed clergyperson felt it necessary to leave parish ministry. I hope her memoir will be helpful to other clergy such as my daughter and her roommate, seminarians, whose book, which I read while visiting them this was.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Engaging look behind the collar at the life of a parish priest and the struggles to be/remain human in a position that automatically elevates a person to a much higher place. This book gave me so much to think about in my own life - I think her feelings of overload, exhaustion and burnout within a "job" are universal. I can think of many who have those very same feelings - teachers, supervisors, mothers, etc. -- you become "disconnected" if you fail to take time for yourself. Taylor clearly began to see her role as a "job" rather than a calling or a lifestyle and I applaud her decision to step down and reevaluate her own spirituality and ultimately find her true calling and use her gift to spread God's word through her eloquent writing. For me, the main theme of this book was to take time to find God (and passion) in everything - God is NOT just within the four walls of a building - God is everywhere and is constantly sending us reminders of that -- my favorite line: when stopped by the state trooper for speeding, her friend received this admonition: "but what made you think that hurrying would help you find your way?" And then "What made any of us think that the place we are trying to reach is far, far ahead of us somewhere and that the only way to get there is to run until we drop? For Christians, at least part of the answer is that many of us have been taught to think of God's kingdom as something outside ourselves, for which we must search as a merchant who searches for the pearl of great price." Or as Simon and Garfunkel put it: slow down, you move too fast.....Her section on "tame worship" also made me stop and think of myself - and how I often only "show up" for service without the energy and passion that would make my worship meaningful to meI agree with one of the other reviews - there was no development of relationships with other people - esp. her husband. A couple of times I wondered if he was even still around. I can't imagine not including his role in her decision to walk away from Grace-Calvary and I was most curious about his relationship with the Native American worship.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Ordained minister in the Episcopal Church, the author takes you through her spiritual journey which includes resigning from the ministry after 20 years. The author uses experiences, honesty, and a warm heart to give you a picture of why she made the hardest decision of her life. She left the official ministry so she could start a new one. pg 226 "On the twentieth anniversary of my ordination, I would have to say that at least one of the things that almost killed me was becoming a professional holy person."read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor is a spiritual memoir I’ve been eager to read for some time as that category of memoir is my favorite. I wanted to love this book for many reasons. It’s ultimately about a woman’s relationship to God. Taylor, who was a minister for many years, leaves the church to become a professor of religion. Here, in this new vocation, she believes she is closer to God. It’s an utterly fascinating concept of a story. Unfortunately, the story itself and the way she tells it, to me, was unremarkable. There was nothing I found stirring or memorable in her story, not any revelatory passages of her passion for God, not her story of transition, not her writing style, which I found prosaic. The only aspect of the book I found poignant were her journal-style passages of the rustic-style life she adopts after moving to a new town and a new congregation. She builds her house herself on farmland, from the bottom up, no easy feat (think of plumbing, foundation, etc.) and is as familiar with the land and its animals as Annie Dillard was with Virginia’s Blue Ridge valley in her memoir Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Still, I have not given hope on this author. Maybe I simply didn’t connect to Leaving Church. Her other bestselling spiritual memoir An Altar in the World sits on my bookshelf. Soon enough, I’ll be turning its pages.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Read all reviews

Reviews

At first Barbra Brown Taylor’s book Leaving Church seems like a memoir of where she lost her conviction to be in ministry. The book recounts her early days of discovering God outside of the church, her first exposures to church, her entry into seminary, and her eventual call to the Episcopal Church. It becomes clear early in her ministry however that serving as a priest for the Episcopal Church was not a healthy way for her to live. She describes the frustrations she found in both her urban Atlanta church where she served as one priest amongst several on staff, and her difficulty in the more rural setting of northern Georgia where she became the sole priest of a small church with a growing congregation. Perhaps Taylor’s biggest failure was the more successful her ministry became, the less connected she felt to God.After five and a half years in rural Georgia she eventually found her priestly calling was not to a church but to the university. She didn’t renounce her ordination; rather she simply changed the focus of her ministry. In her description of life in parish ministry it seems clear that she entered a church completely ready to take care of her congregation but wholly unprepared to take care of herself. At one point Taylor describes what her Sabbath day entailed and it becomes clear that she knew the word but had never learned how to put it into practice.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Barbara Brown Taylor is one of the most prominent female American authors of books about religion. Over the course of her now dozen books (and probably counting), she has gained many fans for her engaging writing, particularly how she reveals herself in each of her books, many of which are sermons or about preaching.In "Leaving Church," she recounts how she came to accept the call to her final parish as priest, and how she decided to leave the pulpit to become a full-time college professor. Subtitled, "A Memoir of Faith," it has two main sections, "Finding" and "Losing," with an extended epilogue called "Keeping."This is an interesting book as it allows a glimpse at the personal side of being a parish priest -- the joys and the headaches. It also serves as a biography of faith in how Brown Taylor explores the transition of her faith from her vocational responsibilities to something she seems to be seeking for again in the second half of the book.As a pastor, I appreciate the open way in which Brown Taylor invites people to imagine faith seeking, looking for the hand of God in many forms, in many contexts, and in many ways -- including outside of formal worship services. It is also helpful for a gifted author to describe a bit of how the stresses of serving as a religious leader can sometimes become an obstacle to personal faith.However, I was mostly disappointed with this book. Time and again, I had the sneaking suspicion that much of the story was being consciously left out. I can understand the need for anonymity and for protecting the privacy of others, so I understand that many stories probably could not be told at all, for fear that they would betray a confidence. Granting this, though, the book still seemed overly disingenuous -- that Brown Taylor was not protecting the privacy of others as much as she was protecting -- or maybe even avoiding -- herself.Perhaps others who are not pastors will appreciate the book more, and probably they are Brown Taylor's intended audience. From colleagues and others, I have heard of many who have found "Leaving Church" to be wonderful. Sadly, I found it otherwise.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I read a lot of memoirs these days. In fact they are probably my favorite literary genre. Maybe I should have been warned by Taylor's subtitle - not simply "a memoir," but "a memoir of faith." Because this is not a memoir in the usual sense. There is precious little of Taylor's childhood, youth or young adulthood - no real concrete stories and examples from her life. Too much of this book remains caught in the abstraction of ideas and beliefs, with not nearly enough examples. The people who show up in the book remain undeveloped vague outlines. And I have a hard time identifying with Brown's spiritual "quest," if that is what it is. I don't think it's because she's a woman either. What few facts that do emerge about her life outside this "quest" do not really serve to make her a sympathetic character. Daughter of a psychotherapist, sister of a lawyer, wife of an engineer - all these tidbits add up to what appears to have been a life of privilege and ease, and continued to be even after her ordination, as she speaks of her Saab and Audi and how they didn't fit into her rural community, and goes on at some length about everything she "wanted" in her custom-built home outside of town (in lieu of a parsonage near her church). What comes through in Barbara Brown Taylor's book is a story of a driven overachiever, who in fact drives herself into a near nervous breakdown, which finally causes her to leave her church and the active priesthood. While I do not doubt the sincerity of her quest for her true vocation and place in God's world, I do wonder about her motives. She became more likeable - more human - in the final section of the book, after she had left the priesthood, when she talks about her crisis of faith and things like her fears of inadequacy and the death of her father. Having said all of this, I still have to say that I'm glad I read the book, which has left me with much to think about in regard to my own role in the Church (Catholic in my case)and my relationship with God and my place in His world. I also think that Taylor is a person I'd like to know, but these 200-plus pages have not given me that opportunity. A memoir of faith? Perhaps. A "memoir"? No. - Tim Bazzett, author of Reed City Boy
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a great book. "...how we treat one another is the best expression of our beliefs.."
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I just finished reading this book and I liked it quite a bit. I've read Taylor's essays for years in the Christian Century, so I thought I would appreciate the book, but I wasn't prepared for how clearly it mirrored my own history, feelings, responses and longings for church and faith. I am not a clergywoman, but my journey in and out of Faith has been similar. I am the daughter of a minister and a friend to several other ministers and I think Taylor adequately captures the spiritual heaviness and loneliness associated with the job. She also reminds all Believers that, in the words of Bruce Cockburn, "God is bigger than an ideology," but she manages to do this without the usual airy fairy Baby Boomer new age language (sorry, Boomers). Always grounded, her words carry great weight. In the words of my current pastor, "Leaving Church kicked my ass." Yeah.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
While to a certain extent, Ms. Taylor's failures are more successful than any of my achievements, she still conveys her sense of desperation as she sought to be a spiritual leader while still taking care of her own spiritual needs. God must definitely still love her, since she fell into a nice college teaching job and didn't have to move away from her lovely home. But I did find this book encouraging as I am in the process of leaving my lay job at a church and seeking career paths that do not leave me feeling spiritually depleted.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I was given this book as a gift because I had left church, but not my faith. If I thought that was tough, I cannot imagine being ordained and leaving church. But, this book had many insights that I may not have considered.Throughout the book, as Brown's career as a priest seems to get better and better, her relationship with God seems to be put on the back burner. Talk about a conflict! She does not exactly see eye to eye with some of the elders and other officials at the small church where she preaches. This opens her eyes to the fact that what she may think is a good thing for the church, it may not be that good after all. After leaving the stress of preaching, she takes some time to get to know herself and God better. I loved this part of the book, because I could really relate to it. The word choice and sentence structure was amazing and kept the book moving quickly. My favorite sentence is where Brown was describiong her relationship with God, that she in bed, she would "peck him on the check, and roll over to sleep." I think the message is key to this day and age. In our fast-paced lives, it is hard to stop and detach from that world and look at the world God created. It is even harder to take the time to actually have a conversation with Him. But, if one takes to time and effort, it is worth the while.I would recommend this book to any, but especially to those who seem to have lost their connection with God.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The story of an Episcopalian preacher who found she had to leave her church to find God. Very powerful story, emotionally moving, with the honesty of Anne Lamott and the beautiful writing of all great novelists.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Hello, my name is Barbara and I'm a workaholic priest. From outside, it's not hard to see why this renowned preacher and committed clergyperson felt it necessary to leave parish ministry. I hope her memoir will be helpful to other clergy such as my daughter and her roommate, seminarians, whose book, which I read while visiting them this was.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Engaging look behind the collar at the life of a parish priest and the struggles to be/remain human in a position that automatically elevates a person to a much higher place. This book gave me so much to think about in my own life - I think her feelings of overload, exhaustion and burnout within a "job" are universal. I can think of many who have those very same feelings - teachers, supervisors, mothers, etc. -- you become "disconnected" if you fail to take time for yourself. Taylor clearly began to see her role as a "job" rather than a calling or a lifestyle and I applaud her decision to step down and reevaluate her own spirituality and ultimately find her true calling and use her gift to spread God's word through her eloquent writing. For me, the main theme of this book was to take time to find God (and passion) in everything - God is NOT just within the four walls of a building - God is everywhere and is constantly sending us reminders of that -- my favorite line: when stopped by the state trooper for speeding, her friend received this admonition: "but what made you think that hurrying would help you find your way?" And then "What made any of us think that the place we are trying to reach is far, far ahead of us somewhere and that the only way to get there is to run until we drop? For Christians, at least part of the answer is that many of us have been taught to think of God's kingdom as something outside ourselves, for which we must search as a merchant who searches for the pearl of great price." Or as Simon and Garfunkel put it: slow down, you move too fast.....Her section on "tame worship" also made me stop and think of myself - and how I often only "show up" for service without the energy and passion that would make my worship meaningful to meI agree with one of the other reviews - there was no development of relationships with other people - esp. her husband. A couple of times I wondered if he was even still around. I can't imagine not including his role in her decision to walk away from Grace-Calvary and I was most curious about his relationship with the Native American worship.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Ordained minister in the Episcopal Church, the author takes you through her spiritual journey which includes resigning from the ministry after 20 years. The author uses experiences, honesty, and a warm heart to give you a picture of why she made the hardest decision of her life. She left the official ministry so she could start a new one. pg 226 "On the twentieth anniversary of my ordination, I would have to say that at least one of the things that almost killed me was becoming a professional holy person."
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor is a spiritual memoir I’ve been eager to read for some time as that category of memoir is my favorite. I wanted to love this book for many reasons. It’s ultimately about a woman’s relationship to God. Taylor, who was a minister for many years, leaves the church to become a professor of religion. Here, in this new vocation, she believes she is closer to God. It’s an utterly fascinating concept of a story. Unfortunately, the story itself and the way she tells it, to me, was unremarkable. There was nothing I found stirring or memorable in her story, not any revelatory passages of her passion for God, not her story of transition, not her writing style, which I found prosaic. The only aspect of the book I found poignant were her journal-style passages of the rustic-style life she adopts after moving to a new town and a new congregation. She builds her house herself on farmland, from the bottom up, no easy feat (think of plumbing, foundation, etc.) and is as familiar with the land and its animals as Annie Dillard was with Virginia’s Blue Ridge valley in her memoir Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Still, I have not given hope on this author. Maybe I simply didn’t connect to Leaving Church. Her other bestselling spiritual memoir An Altar in the World sits on my bookshelf. Soon enough, I’ll be turning its pages.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Load more
scribd