two by Barbara Brown TaylorPosted: January 15, 2015
An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith
Barbara Brown Taylor
HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009), 244 pages
Kindle Edition $1.99, Amazon paperback $11.90
Learning to Walk in the Dark
Barbara Brown Taylor
HarperOne (April 8, 2014), 213 pages
Kindle Edition $14.99, Amazon Hardcover $21.06
Kindle edition purchased during a HarperOne sale for $1.99
I have long been a big fan of Barbara Brown Taylor. I have been reading her books since I first became part of the Episcopal Church. She was for many years an Episcopal priest in a small town in Georgia. She was particularly known for her preaching. Her first several books were collections of her sermons, and they were all very useful to me as I became part of the liturgical tradition. Eventually she left the priesthood to become a professor in a small college in Georgia. She documents her journey in Leaving Church. One of the many factors that caused her to leave was the fact that her preaching was so renowned that busloads of homiletic aficionados crowded out members of her congregation on Sunday mornings.
An Altar in the World and Learning to Walk in the Dark follow Leaving Church. Taylor’s earlier books revolve around Biblical themes and images. This is to be expected, since Episcopal sermons are based on the lectionary, the assigned scripture readings for the week. These two books are very much autobiographical.
An Altar in the World focuses on finding God outside the four walls of the church. Several passages in the book fall into the category of TMI – too much information. I did not need to read all of the details about her horse riding accident or the death of her father. Still there is much in this book that resonates with me. Taylor writes:
In my life so far, I have been a babysitter, an Avon lady, a cashier, a cheese-packer, a horseback riding instructor, a nursing unit clerk, a cocktail waitress, a secretary, a newspaper reporter, an editor, a fund-raiser, a special events coordinator, a teacher of creative writing, a hospital chaplain, a pastor, a preacher, and a college professor—and those are just the jobs that I have been paid for.
That makes me feel better about my varied work career as an adult. Taylor admits that she is not terribly good at prayer, something I totally understand. She also spends a good deal of time discussing the modern Jewish practice of Sabbath. She writes, “One thing I wish were mine is a proper Friday evening Shabbat service, beginning with the lighting of two candles when three stars can be counted in the darkening sky.” I relate big time. But that’s a topic for another blog entry.
Learning to Walk in the Dark is about what the title suggests. The darkness, as you might surmise, is both physical and metaphorical. Taylor writes about how darkness is almost universally portrayed as a negative. She points out that this negative perspective applies to every single reference to darkness in the Bible. She tells us that there is much to learn from the dark. She writes that the night is more nuanced than the day in that the sun is the sun, but the moon has phases. Each chapter in the book is based on one of the phases of the moon.
With these two books my appreciation for Barbara Brown Taylor continues.