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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  4,591 Ratings  ·  448 Reviews
“This beautiful book is rich with wit and humanness and honesty and loving detail….I cannot overstate how liberating and transforming I have found Leaving Church to be.” —Frederick Buechner, author of Beyond Words

“This is an astonishing book. . . . Taylor is a better writer than LaMott and a better theologian than Norris. In a word, she is the best there is.” —Living Churc
ebook, 272 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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Deirdre Keating
It wasn't the book I wanted it to be, but I loved it even more for telling its own story, instead of the one I had in my head as I began.

A beautiful and generous book. I wanted a slightly less guarded tone, but when it felt guarded, it was her old congregation's privacy she was mostly guarding. We couldn't have started our faith journeys more differently, but we ended up on very similiar land.

The last 50 pages of my copy is full of dog-ears. Here's one of my favorite passages:
"What if people wer
Oct 29, 2007 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology, memoir
At first, this memoir seemed almost too painful to read.

I have witnessed firsthand the way in which clergy and church leaders can be stretched to the breaking point trying to be all things to all people in the fractious household of God.

It's not an easy task, and in some cases, it's not a task that can be accomplished at all, which is the subject of Barbara Brown Taylor's book. After years of serving as an assistant rector in a large church in Atlanta. Rev. Taylor willingly and eagerly became p
Bill  Kerwin

A moving memoir, showing how faith can grow beyond easy categories. It is also an interesting account of what it means to be a pastor.
May 29, 2008 Padraic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had not come across Brown's writings before (my wife, on the other hand, raves about her). This is a beautifully written and gentle memoir about an Episcopal priest choosing to leave formal ministry for a more broadly defined sense of the divine. I know there are millions of these stories out there, but few are as exquisitely crafted and ultimately reassuring as this one. It spoke well to the heart of a weary Catholic.
Jul 19, 2010 Crystal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was "almost" amazing. I did love the book and I find Taylor's spiritual insight both sensitive and liberating. She has communicated what I've felt for several years about the personal spiritual journey and the love/hate relationship many people share with "organized" Christianity - yes - I said Christianity not religion. Being a Christian is very simple and too often "churchianity" makes it far too difficult. While Taylor's "leaving church" was not a jarring as I expected it to be, I a ...more
Jan 02, 2008 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Ironically Barbra Brown Taylor's experience of personal/spiritual growth through the process of leaving her pastorate to teach, convinces me that I shouldn't at all be eager to jump ship. If our life isn't deeply rooted in community, everything is open to question. Taylor glories in this. I am not so sure. There is something good about being able to explore things as an outsider, but it is not the same thing as belonging.
I normally rate the books that I read, but in this case, I am going to take a wimpy pass on providing a rating. The story follows a woman Episcopal priest who joins the clergy- helps her church grow quite quickly and then eventually burns out feeling empty and further from the Divine than she has ever been before. In all her religiosity and business for God she misplaced her love relationship. She then becomes a teacher and is free to explore religion again and anew.

I loved the story and the wa
Feb 06, 2010 Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leaving Church is one of those books that has been recommended to me over and over again in the last few years by people whose opinion I trust. Because I share enough of Taylor's story to have it resonate with me, I suppose I would say that I could not make time to read it before now. I would add that I am grateful it came into my hands when it did.

I underlined a good portion of the book; there are sentences that both sting and ring true for someone who has also found her worth in being good (an
Oct 25, 2007 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: hurting ministers
Shelves: religion
Unless you love all biographies, skip to the last chapter. The summary of everything is there. This is the truly sad story of a woman who salivated all her early life to be a priest. Yet, having achieved her goal, discovered she was not capable of fulfilling it. She did not fit the role and burnt out trying to be someone she was not.

This is a far more common story in ordained ministry than laymen suppose. Taylor's gift lies in being a blacksmith of words, not a handyman Mr. Fixit of the cloth. T
Rhonda Rae Baker
I totally identified with this memoir. Leaving the church organization is the best thing that I have ever done. It was a starting point for my spirituality even though there were many things that hurt me within the walls of the church. Religiosity has left a sour taste in my mouth, especially when it comes to one person believing they are better than others. Some of this story was funny because I understood where she was coming from. Some of it was serious because I know what it is to be judged ...more
Sep 11, 2008 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: doug knowlton
Shelves: memoirs
As someone who has left churchand religion I was in for over 20 years, I have tried to find and read as many memoirs as I can about people that have left their churches, their religions, their faiths. This book is about a woman who becomes an Episcopal priest, loves it, gets burned out, and stops being a priest and becomes a professor. It's very well written and insightful. She doesn't stop believing what she believed all along, but her beliefs evolve, they aren't static. Her adjustment to becom ...more
Feb 01, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pastoral-reads
A powerful and thought provoking work, that made me think twice about what it means to be called by God as a pastor. A great storyteller, who fills the pages with stories that make you laugh till you double over, but then hits you with a truth so hard that it stands you back up.
Barbara Brown Taylor's beautiful little book tells the story of a painful part of her faith journey: the decision to leave ministry to remain close to God. It resonates with me because it's my experience. While studying for and getting a degree in ministry, a process that encouraged questions about beliefs and practices, I found myself on the outs with organized religion, but not with the Almighty.

Taylor's book offers reassurances that being on the margins is an opportunity to minister in a new
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read07
Barbara Brown Taylor went from being an Episcopal priest at a large church in Atlanta, to working at a small parish in the mountains, to leaving the ministry. It was interesting to read.

(About not recognizing depression)"When I shook people's hands on the porch of the church after services on Sunday, my eyes would start stinging for no reason at all... I could not imagine what the problem was, but whatever it was made tears run down my face as I stood there trying to greet people. ... I believed
Jan 01, 2013 Jon marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
"Encountering God in other people is saving my life now. I do not look for angels anymore, although I have nothing against them. The clerk at the grocery store is messenger enough for me, at least if I give her a fraction of the attention that I lavish on my interior monologue. To emerge from my self-preoccupation long enough to acknowledge her human presence is no mean feat, but when I do I can almost always discover what she has to teach me – and not only she, but every person who crosses my p ...more
Being a cradle Catholic with 11 years of base education completely in R. Catholic schools- then 7 years of public university, and after a lifetime of secular work, then eventually working for a R. Catholic university for 15 years, this book is difficult for me. Bemuddled! Not because of her universal search for her own spirituality or because of her understanding of both her own religion and her role within it- but more so in the way she approaches inquiry and rationalization. A run-on sentence ...more
Melissa Lindsey
"If my time in the wilderness taught me anything, it is that faith in God has both a center and an edge and that each is necessary for the soul's health. If I developed a complaint during my time in the wilderness, it was that Mother Church lavished so much more attention on those at the center than on those at the edge."

It is moments from this book like this one that make this one of my favorite books. As a person who has spent much of her adult life on the edge of her faith, I know full well t
Jan 11, 2011 Winnie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Susan Greene gave me this book.
After 9 years serving on the staff of a big urban church in Atlanta, Taylor arrives in rural Clarksville, GA (pop. 1500) 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. She is one of the only professional women in the community -- but smalltown life offers many of its own unique joys. Taylor has five successful years that see significant growth in the church she serves
Jan 26, 2010 ben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A page turner for me.
I am a person who seems to not be able separate myself from a "divine presence", but at the same time I am so confused by faith and this presence that I often feel lost or tricked or at best drawn.
Taylor's journey through her faith and a life of being a "professional holy person" was close enough to mine to help me get clarity on the last few years of my journey. She is inside faith enough for me to feel connected but also outside "safe faith" enough for me to join her mys
Jun 29, 2016 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a thoughtful book - the author relating her first glimpses of faith in God, a desire to experience "the Presence" blooming into a long process of becoming an Episcopal priest, spending meaningful but exhausting years in that role, then leaving the office altogether.

Along the way, the author Taylor reflects on her strengths and doubts, how a community of individuals can be united and divided by their faith, and in general, how vision, energy, and an accumulating set of experiences can bring
Andrew David
May 10, 2011 Andrew David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In her thoughtful memoir Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor explains that the idea of joining the priesthood “seemed only slightly less dicey ... than being chief engineer at a nuclear plant. In both cases, one needed to know how to approach great power without loosing great danger and getting fried in the process.” In some sense, then, Leaving Church is all about getting burned. Taylor's affair with the Divine begins in the Kansas prairie grass behind her childhood home, winds through the hal ...more
Sep 09, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From her childhood, the author felt called to follow God. Following that call led her to the seminary and ultimately to becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church. At each step, she hoped to find the tools to better follow her calling to better serve God, but instead found herself pulled further away from the Divine with every effort she exerted in helping others. Eventually, she would resign her post as rector of a parish in a small, rural Georgia community and become a teacher. Only then did sh ...more
Aug 18, 2008 Friar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: followers of Jesus, those active in church ministry
This is a must read book for anyone involved in church ministry, whether lay or clergy. Taylor discusses the joys and sorrows of ministry as a parish priest in the Episcopal Church, and her astute observations of congregational life are a joy to read. A few quotes from the book readily illustrate this.

“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do,” she once said, ”because I notice it always coincides with their own desires."

“I know people who come to this church,” he said,
Feb 25, 2011 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most amazing books I've read in a long time. Taylor writes beautifully and expressively. Every metaphor is well-crafted and multifaceted. The love of each word is evident as this book was a blessing. My first reaction to the book was that it seemed so very accurate to me. As a child of a pastor, I've witness first-hand many of the painful effects the preaching life can have on a minister. I tried not to call any particular event from my earlier years to mind (because I don't want to r ...more
May 20, 2014 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Leaving Church’ is the memoir of the author’s life of faith and her personal struggles through becoming an Episcopalian priest only to discover that this did not give her the life she was looking for. I think I enjoyed every page. So often the truths and conclusions she realized left me with reactions like, “Yes! Those are the words I’ve been looking for. Thank you.” I guess that’s a big ‘Amen’.
Listen to this excerpt (one of many I could have used) for example.
“. . . I have known where to go
Leaving Church is such a beautiful book. As a clergy person, I was able to resonate with much of BBT's perspectives of the church and her role within it, and I appreciated how poetically and gracefully she depicted the life of the church even in times of imperfection (which is always) or when it is not what we desire or expect. BBT gleans something from each season of her life and demonstrates how the things we often deem sacred OR secular are really connected.

I particularly loved and benefited
Apr 03, 2015 Bradley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book I've read in a long time. This was a quick read for me, reading a chapter every chance I got. As a clergy-person in the process of ending my current assignment as a pastor, the words spoke immediately to my situation, as if the author was putting on paper my present feelings and saving me the effort of finding the words. I cannot say how much of a blessing this was.

This was my first time reading Barbara Brown Taylor but it won't be the last, especially as I picked up her 2 books f
May 26, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seekers
I really loved this book. I already know Taylor from her other books which in the majority are collections of her sermons and I heard her preach a Good Thursday sermon a few years ago. I am also familiar with the churches, colleges and towns to which she refers in this memoir. So I appreciate that my familiarity with person and place may bias this review but she was not named one of the 10 best preachers in the US for nothing. The book chronicles her finding church, ordination to the ministry, m ...more
Mar 13, 2017 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was glorious. Not what I expected, but so much more than I could have hoped for. Love this book.
Becca Nelson
Sep 12, 2016 Becca Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such a beautifully written book, and there were so many little bits of wisdom that I hope will stick with me. I definitely plan on reading others by Barbara Brown Taylor.
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Barbara Brown Taylor’s last book, An Altar in the World, was a New York Times bestseller that received the Silver Nautilus Award in 2012. Her first memoir, Leaving Church, received an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association and won the Theologos Award for best general interest book of 2006. Taylor spent fifteen years in parish ministry before becoming the Butman Professor of ...more
More about Barbara Brown Taylor...

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“As a general rule, I would say that human beings never behave more badly toward one another than when they believe they are protecting God.” 35 likes
“With so much effort being poured into church growth, so much press being given to the benefits of faith, and so much flexing of religious muscle in the public square, the poor in spirit have no one but Jesus to call them blessed anymore.” 26 likes
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