Leaving Church

Leaving Church

A Memoir of Faith

By Barbara Brown Taylor

HarperOne, Hardcover, 9780060771744, 256pp.

Publication Date: June 1, 2006


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.

About the Author

Barbara Brown Taylor's last book, Leaving Church, was met with widespread critical acclaim including the New York Times, USA Today, NPR's Fresh Air, and others. Taylor spent fifteen years in parish ministry and was named one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world by Baylor University in 1996. She became a professor of religion at Piedmont College in 1998 and also teaches spirituality at Columbia Theological Seminary. Still a priest in the Episcopal church, Taylor has traveled the world in pursuit of sacred wisdom, finding most of what she needed in her backyard. She lives on a working farm in rural north Georgia with her husband, Ed.

Praise For Leaving Church

“A beautifully crafted memoir . . . . There is a refreshing honesty . . . a slice of courage in a world that too often refuses to admit its vulnerability. . . . Leaving Church does not bash the church. It is a love story about letting go and learning to live with the mystery of what may happen next.”
-San Diego Tribune

“Such is the power of Brown Taylor’s prose...and her humanity that this story becomes one of hope.”
-Columbus Dispatch

“Told with insight, humor and compassion.”
-The Columbus Post Dispatch

“An Episcopal priest renowned for her eloquent sermons turns her talents to memoir...”
-Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Lovely . . . revealing . . . poignant. . . . I found in Taylor’s narrative a companionable voice...”
-Garret Keizer in Books & Culture

“This new memoir is among the summer’s best books...”
-Detroit Free Press

“A wonderfully gifted Christian writer and speaker.”
-Kansas City Star

“Even without the collar, Barbara Brown Taylor is one of our most important spiritual writers today.”

“I love this book . . . . Her beautiful, absorbing memoir will bless countless readers...”
-Lauren Winner, The Dallas Morning News

“Taylor is a better writer than LaMott and a better theologian than Norris. ...she is the best there is.”
-Living Church

I cannot overstate how liberating and transforming I have found Leaving Church to be.”
-Frederick Buechner, author of Beyond Words

“Leaving Church is a canticle of praise to creator and creation.”
-Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking and Booking Passage

“...Taylor at her best, writing about congregational moments with such artistic grace and wit that we see them afresh”
-Christian Century

“This memoir [...] is full of surprises[...] In her renewal is our own.”
-Peter J. Gomes, Harvard University

“A finely crafted memoir . . . a rich evocation of her lifelong love affair with God.”
-Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Taylor describes doubt, faith and vocation, their limits, and how the church both blesses and muddies the waters.”
-Nora Gallagher, author of Practicing Resurrection and the forthcoming novel TK

“A fiercely honest and gracious book about our primary vocation to be human.”
-Alan Jones, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, and author of Reimagining Christianity