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on April 11, 2003
As the daughter of a retired Episcopal priest and a "cradle Episcopalian," I was glad to see the term "Protestant" jettisoned along the way during my spiritual development in the Episcopal Church (when it was called the Protestant Episcopal Church until my late adolesence.) While not leaning to the "high church" (Roman Catholic format) of some Episcopal parishes, my father wasn't "low church," (Protestant) either--which to me is nearly synonomous with "evangelical". I saw him as one who leaned more toward the "catholic" side of the Episcopal church than the "protestant." He served in areas (i.e. towns and cities) very much influenced by protestant religious majorities, as well as where Roman Catholicism was the predominant religion, but retained his views throughout. He wore a clerical collar, not a coat and tie, at work. In some towns, my father was also my primary Episcopal priest, which can give an interesting perspective, as any clergy child can tell. Relocating to various areas of the country with him gave me a wide view of the Episcopal Church, including my father's attendance at an Episcopal seminary when I was an elementary school child. I was looking for a similar broad view in Bass' book, and it seems she rebelled for a very long time against anything but Evangelical worship practices which I found frustrating about her book. But to each his/her own in terms of what they like or don't like about the Episcopal Church. I miss the 1928 prayebook liturgy now as a forty-something year old, though I initially liked the modern language of the current prayerbook. Looking at the modern language now makes me miss the beautiful Elizabethan/Shakespearean language of the former liturgy.
Bass' book was an OK overview of how broad the spectrum individual congregations of the Episcopal Church can be, but I'd recommend Nora Gallagher's two books over this one.
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on May 14, 2002
I commend Diana Butler Bass for sharing the story of her own transformation and growth in the context of growth and change in the Episcopal Church. My sense is that the hearts of many will sing as they read words that they feel they might themselves have written.
My purpose is to set the record straight for I was there in relationships and in places where she was not. I took this book from the shelf at our local bookstore because of the title, Strength for the Journey. I first heard and then used those words as curate and then associate at All Saints, Pasadena where every Sunday without fail George Regas would proclaim, "Wherever you find yourself on your journey of faith, you are welcome." George Regas was carrying on the long standing tradition of welcoming and empowering a diverse and gifted household of faith. Ed Bacon has gracefully and effectively continued to do so. So also, did Gethin Hughes carry on according to his gifts the ministry of nourishing and empowering the household of faith called All Saints by the Sea after the retirement of George Hall. But the changes Diana describes did not come out of the air. They came from seeds planted in those very eras which Diana criticizes. The eras when George Regas and George Hall served.
Diana never met "George and Sally" and has no idea of the breadth of their ministry to others not only those who attended All Saints but those in the community beyond who simply were in need. I know because I am blessed to be their daughter as well as an Episcopal priest. A recent obituary of George Hall features a photograph in which he is holding one of the more than 1,000 babies he baptized. Not one of those babies was baptized on one of the "tony" estates the author describes. I quote from that same obituary, "Although (the Reverend George Hall) was officially rector at All Saints by the Sea for 32 years, his ministry, community involvement and love for his fellow men and women led him into many other activities and organizations in Santa Barbara and the surrounding area. The list is staggering: He was on the founding boards of the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation, the Children's Home Society, the Alcohol Information Services...Casa Nuestra, etc..He always worked to help the homeless and those who battled drug and alcohol abuse, and he supported education at all levels..." He and his wife, Sally, walked the walk. I remember George Hall proclaiming at the end of services, "Go forth and be the Church."
The more than 400 people who gathered to celebrate George Hall's life were far more diverse in age, economic status, race and religion than one might expect if one only read about him through Diana Butler Bass's book. But she never knew him. I pray that we all might continue to be blessed by the God who teaches and transforms us from generation to generation.
The Reverend Frances Hall Kieschnick
Palo Alto, California
May 2002
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on February 27, 2002
Having journeyed thorugh my own myriad religious background and experiences, I found this book in a way reflecting my own story. But more than that, the author sets the personal story in the context of a community of faith's story - and further extends the story into the context of American culture and political system. She exhibits a breath of knowledge of the various tensions at work within in the church, which is never far away from being what it is:"in the world."
I was facinated with her personal story of moving from an evangelical - fairly rigid religious orientation as a teenager and college student - to confronting the questions and paradoxes that life brings. In the midst of that honesty with her own life she allows us to listen to her own struggle with faith questions, which are truly interwoven into life decisions and choices.
There seems to be a dialogue that forms with the reader as the author becomes open to her changing religious reference points: where the rites, riuals, forms, textures, tastes, smells and sounds of spiritual life become alive within a community of people. The hunger for spiritual nurishment is never quite satiated...but as the author indicates in her title: she is given strength for the journey.
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on February 8, 2002
This is a dangerous book to start reading, unless you have some time on your hands. I couldn't put it down! I've never encountered a book quite like this. The author weaves together many different strands that make up a single, powerful story.
On one level she tells the story of her own spiritual development that covers everything from being brought up as a Methodist, to becoming "born again" in high school, and then an Episcopalian (!). If the story stopped there, it would be enough because the writing is so engaging and humorous.
But the story doesn't stop there---it keeps on going. She also tells true stories of all the different churches she attended, the inside politics, the everyday drama of community life. The stories come off as honest, both the good and the bad, but the book is never vindictive. She doesn't have an axe to grind, which is refreshing when it comes to organized religion.
But again, the story doesn't even stop there. She puts all of this, her personal story and the congregational stories, into the larger social and historical context of religious trends in America.
This is a stunning achievement. But again, be forewarned: once you start reading you won't be able to put it down. It's that good!
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on February 7, 2002
Diana Butler Bass gives us a gem of a book that will help each of us on our own faith journey and spiritual struggle. The writing is clear and intelligent, the narrative is often gripping, and I think her book's basic structure, captured perfectly in her subtitle, is brilliant: She describes her story not just as the progress of some solitary pilgrim but as a faithful person embedded in a series of different churches and religious communities. This approach allows the reader to simultaneously learn about the author's own personal faith journey as she lives in different parts of the country and moves through her educational and professional development, but it also illuminates the "dark spots" in our churches, the all-too-human sides of our congregations and the regular folk who fill them on Sundays.
I'd like to call this book a "page-turner" because of its fascinating topic and fine writing, but the fact is that many pages had such provocative ideas that I often found myself getting lost in thought--about not only the author's faith journey but my own, about the author's faith communities in conservative and mainline Protestant churches as well as the different churches I've worshipped in, and about the triumphs and pains that marked the author's life as well as those that have comprised my own. This is superb autobiography: While laying bare the author's singular life it illuminates more universal lessons, and consequently allows the reader to see oneself in the pages.
This is a mature, serious book and I think readers will find that both their hearts and their minds will be deeply engaged. In addition, though, the reader will be sometimes enraged. The author's story is ultimately uplifting, marked by the typical spiritual ebbs and flows of the mature life of faith, but her journey is affected by the petty politics and small sins of many folks around her, from an unsupportive husband who puts obstacles his wife's faith journey to some clergy and church-goers who, um, do not exactly seem able to walk with Christ and to love what is just and kind. The author lets us in on how she balanced and integrated the good and the bad, the sacred and the profane, in her own spiritual growth.
Read this book and get some strength for your own journey.
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on February 5, 2002
As a late twenty-something student of both counseling and religion, I have often found books on spirituality--especially first person accounts--to hover precipitously on the boundary between vacuous platitude and careless self-indulgence. This book is different. Its pages are both insightful and engaging, and its story about the potential of mainline religion is one that hopefully more will feel called to share.
Bass manages to embed a keen analysis of the state of mainline religion in the engrossing story of her own faith journey--a journey that was never just her own, but one always linked to those of others. To mainline believers struggling to find their place in contemporary society, Bass shows that serious faith need not be dogmatic and that critical faith can be nutured within communities grounded in the richness of the Christian tradition.
To those looking for strength for their journey, Bass is a spiritual friend worth getting to know.
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on October 28, 2003
Diana Butler Bass has done a wonderful job of describing her faith journey. It is witty, intelligently written, well documented, and compelling. It probably helps to be an Episcopalian to enjoy it and to see one's self in parts of the book. Bass is a churchgoer. Always has been. Always will be. I understand where she is coming from. However, her education and experience at eight different parish churches from Massachusetts to California makes very entertaining reading as well as giving the reader much to reflect on and ponder. There is nothing flip about this book. It is serious stuff and it is also uplifting. Her path in the church does not mirror mine, but that just makes the twists and turns in her faith life more interesting. It also explains why the Episcopal Church can be so frustrating to many and misunderstood by others. It is a journey worth reading about and who knows, you may find strength for yours there also.
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on April 23, 2002
Spiritual autobiography in the best sense, this rather spare account continually is a continual surprise and a quiet delight, avoiding cliche and the temptation to be too personally confessional. The itinerary inverts the tale common to the post-war generation; the author's early conversion to dogmatic religion and to ritualism gradually yields, against her will, to a more flexible and at the same time more rigorous faith, quite different from the caricature of 'liberalism' inculcated by dogmatic churches. It is full of insight into the interaction between the personal seeker and the social realities of a church-going life, and a remarkable courtesy for the conservative Christians whose company she ultimately departs. The balance between deep feeling and deep reflection is fully achieved, and the story of this 20th century Pilgrim is moving as it is compelling.
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on October 30, 2003
Diana Butler Bass is a church goer. Always has been. Always will be. However her faith journey has been long and sometimes difficult. This is a very personal and compelling recounting of one woman's travels in the faith and also an interesting and thought provoking discourse on the condition of the Episcopal Church. Her church attendance has spanned the country. From Massachusetts to California and several places in between. She brings to the recounting of it, not only her description of her faith journey, but a scholar's understanding of the dynamics of the Faith. It is personal, it is uplifting and it is instructive. This is a wonderful book to read and reread.
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on February 19, 2002
This is a wonderful book, artfully conceived and well written. Her description of her journey through several churches and denominations should speak to many baby boomers. I have wrestled with many of the same issues, and gained a greater understanding of my own spiritual journey, both negative and positive elements of it, with the help of Bass's scholarly perspective as well as her insightful analysis of her own trials and tribulations in embracing various elements of faith. I really recommend this book to any spiritual seeker, Christian and non.
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