EpiScope is the first blog in my RSS reader. Mostly so I can scroll through all the news reports as fast as humanly possible. Today, though, one caught my eye, and it was titled, Safe haven of church may not be good for you, minister says.
Which, of course, made me go, “Whadahuh?”
Clicking on the article, I discover it was published in Northwestern University’s college paper. Prestigious, yes, but kids, this ain’t the New York Times, and the writing style proves it. Halfway down the article, the author pretty much jumps from discussing Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor’s new book Leaving Church, to talking about churches– oh, I’m sorry, the one parish in the Diocese of Chicago that disassociated itself from the Episcopal Church. They didn’t leave church, they just took their church over to the corner so no one else could play with it, but it’s the same thing, right? Man, the press so totally doesn’t Get Religion (blog).
Anyway, done with the gristle, back to the meat. I’d heard some interviews with Rev. Brown Taylor, and had some sympathy for her situation and her need to leave. But it makes me wonder about her call to ministry.
No, I’m not saying that God didn’t call her to the priesthood. She is an excellent preacher, writer, and academic. Three skills which are pretty much useless in a parish setting. Parish priest is a uniquely broad skill set, and you know what? It’s not for everyone. The biggest trap to fall into is being so caring, wanting to help everyone, that the parish priest overloads herself, takes every failure as their own private burden. It’s a personality thing, not a bad one, but if left uncontrolled and not reined in, it’s what makes educators and teachers burn out so fast. And I applaud her for realising that and getting out.
Rev. Brown Taylor, though, says something that kind of irks me. I’ll quote from the article:
Many people attend regular services without feeling challenged by faith and many clergy are exhausted by their work, she said.
“I’ve heard from clergy, both men and women, who are living on air,” she said. “I’ve heard from laypeople relieved to think that they aren’t crazy after all for coming away from church so hungry when everyone else appears to be rubbing full bellies.”
Man, these people would never survive in the house of my ancestors. What do you do if you sit down to dinner, and nothing looks good, and your 12 cousins, 16 aunts and uncles, 4 grandparents, and assorted other filial relatives fall upon the banquet like locusts and strip a 30 pound turkey down to bones in 47 minutes flat?
You get off your butt and go to the refrigerator and rustle up something tasty, duh. You sure as spitting don’t sit there wondering why you’re hungry! And if there’s nothing in the fridge, then you gather up some adventurous cousins,
steal borrow the keys to Grandpa’s truck, and make a food run. AND THEN you come home and share!
I have no problem with people leaving church. It hurts, yeah, to see someone you love take off ’cause they aren’t finding what they need. And yeah, it’s kind of scary to leave a church because you need something else. But, as Rev. Brown Taylor has discovered, statistically there are people in the pews and even pulpits who are going through what you are, who have similar needs to you.
Please, if you’re hungry, leave! Go, see what’s out there that’s tasty! Then, bring it back and share it with your parish family. Some of us may still be hungry, too.
*BBL is shorthand for ‘Be Back Later’.