The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor (thoughts)
I have read and loved Barbara Brown Taylor’s two wide audience books, An Altar in the World (which I read twice in two years and I’m not usually a consecutive rereader) and Leaving Church, but I wasn’t quite sure about The Preaching Life. I thought it was just a collection of sermons, and I assumed the target audience was other Episcopal priests. But I decided to give it a go anyway. And I am so glad that I did.
It’s actually a combination of memoir (the first half) and sermons (the second), with the first half focusing on Brown Taylor’s calling to the priesthood and life after ordination. While some of the same ground is covered in her later books (the ones I mentioned above), I didn’t care: her writing is so luminous the subject almost wouldn’t matter, and it’s always interesting to see the same story approached form a slightly different angle. Not to mention, most of it was new-to-me material (this book was actually published earlier). I savoured every page of it, and by the time I got to the sermons I was looking forward to seeing what they were like. It turns out, reading sermons is like reading a collection of mini-essays. Quite enjoyable, and they had the humanity, beauty, and page-turning tone of Brown Taylor’s other writing. I loved every one of them, and I find her writing such a gift.
While looking the title up on the publisher’s website to add the link to my books read page, I discovered that she’s actually published several other collections of sermons! My library doesn’t have them, but they’re available via ILL, so I’m thrilled to have even more of her writing to savour. I suspect that anyone who loves excellent writing and spiritual reflection will very much enjoy her books, including The Preaching Life. She’s a progressive Christian, so she writes about faith with an open-minded tone that I think will appeal even to non Christians (especially those fall into the “spiritual but not religious” category). And for someone like me, hesitantly getting back into organised religion (I found a progressive Episcopal church here in town) and of a definite liberal bent, her books are a Godsend. No pun intended. ;)