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An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  3,049 ratings  ·  335 reviews
In her critically acclaimed Leaving Church ("a beautiful, absorbing memoir."—Dallas Morning News), Barbara Brown Taylor wrote about leaving full-time ministry to become a professor, a decision that stretched the boundaries of her faith. Now, in her stunning follow-up, An Altar in the World, she shares how she learned to encounter God beyond the walls of any church.

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Hardcover, 216 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by HarperOne (first published January 1st 2009)
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Kate
I read this for a church book club, and while the book had some solid, even excellent, chapters, in other ways I found it flawed. An Altar in the World is best suited for people who identify as "spiritual, but not religious," and for those who are looking to expand their spirituality outside of their standard worship experience. Taylor tends to dismiss out of hand what religion has to offer outside of a standard (often boring) weekly worship experience, so I would urge those who are working with ...more
Elizabeth Andrew
Barbara Brown Taylor is our twenty-first century Henri Nouwen. I'm immensely grateful for AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD, for its elegant, lively prose, yes, but mostly for its practical application of a big-hearted faith. In the prologue, Taylor writes, "What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I ...more
Susan Ideus
I wondered how I had forgotten that the whole world is the House of God. Who had persuaded me that God preferred four walls and a roof to wide-open spaces? When had I made the subtle switch myself, becoming convinced that church bodies and buildings were the safest and most reliable places to encounter the living God? (p. 4, An Altar in the World)

Thus it is that Barbara Brown Taylor begins finding altars in the world as places where even the most reverent or the most jaded among us can encount
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katie
It's been a long time since I devoured any book in just one day. I was led to this one by nothing less than divine urging, when I was supposed to be reading another book I'd been asked to check out in order to lead a discussion group about it. I felt blocked about that one for some reason, couldn't make myself read it, and instead I obeyed the nudge to the bookshelf, got down An Altar in the World, read the introduction, underlined several things there (haven't done that in a while either), read ...more
Fiona
This is a book about some of the different practices of worshiping and recognizing God in our lives. The practices are;
1. practice of waking up to God
2. practice of paying attention
3. practice of wearing skin
4. practice of walking on the earth
5. practice of encountering others
6. practice of living with purpose
7. practice of saying no
8. practice of feeling pain
9. practice of being present to God (prayer and prayers which I read while taking shelter during the tornado warning)
10. practice of prono
...more
Allison Severson
I put this book on my "read" shelf, though it could also be on my "currently-reading" list, as I have read most of the chapters, albeit not in order.

I loved the chapter on pain and suffering (which sounds strange), but I read it when I had been mildly-ill for a few weeks. Certainly put my illness in perspective, and she really articulated how we are awakened and called to when we're sick (at least that's how I interpreted it having read it months ago now).

The book was a gift from a mentor and
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Michael
Marvelous book about the spirituality inherent in the everyday things of our lives. The author writes with both beauty and insight about the holiness of things like paying attention, taking a walk, community, physical work, and practicing a personal Sabbath. I was especially struck by her thoughts on sacraments. She wrote, "Regarded properly, anything can become a sacrament, by which I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual connection." In the Catholic Church, a sacrament is ...more
Angela Kantola
This is a beautiful book -- another one borrowed from the library, but which I want to purchase. Brown discusses twelve spiritual practices, but as she says, each practice is "an exercise in being human that requires a body as well as a soul." From the introduction: "What is saving in my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the mos ...more
Marion
I had this book on my "to read" list for it seems like forever. I am so glad I finally sat down with it. I thoroughly enjoyed the twelve different chapters on ways to enhance your spiritual experience grounded in everyday life. These practices are very doable, even in the midst of a hectic, busy life. You just need to pay attention to what is inside and around you. The chapters can be read in order or at random. You can skip around to see what speaks to you. She asserts that "all of life is holy ...more
Theresa
The author is an Episcopal priest who is no longer in what we would term "active ministry." The entire premise of the book, subtitled "A Geography of Faith," is that there are altars everywhere and we can constantly worship and minister wherever we are. She does not discount the extreme value of communal worship, but she sees the sacred in the everyday. Each chapter explores a different "altar," such as getting lost, encountering others, walking, paying attention. She spends time talking aboout ...more
Carol
Barbara Brown Taylor's story of her journey of faith is so engrossing and easy to read. She writes as though she's your best friend--never preachy or "religious"--just REAL! The structure of her memoir is such that any part can be read at any time and it will make complete sense. Beautiful writing that really spoke to me. A definite must!
I just finished this amazing book and cannot recommend it highly enough. A must read for anyone who enjoys excellent writing, incredible insights, and a joy of
...more
Henry Le Nav
I am a sucker for any book that has the word geography in the title. I enjoyed this book but ultimately it disappointed me. It does a very good job of helping people with a crisis of church or religion. Her lesson seems to be that one should be and do rather than think. Taylor reminds us that we have a body and the body is Sacred. She shows us many ways to express one's spirituality by stopping and smelling the roses, fully experiencing life, and performing service to others. She states, correct ...more
Liz
A book about finding spirituality in our everyday lives. I've never been very religious or spiritual, but I like the approach this author takes. The author is a former Episcopal priest who decided to leave the church/organized religion. As such, much of the "source material" she uses to illustrate her points are Bible stories. At the same time, she draws from the traditions of many other non-Christian major and minor religions to make her points as well. In my understanding, her goal is to help ...more
Shawna
This was, in many ways, a game-changer for me. Learning how to slow down, actually see what's around me, and realize that all of it is from God-which makes it holy-is difficult to do in my day-to-day. And, yet. Such simplicity, in the encouragement to practice being.

The recurring thought centered around the theme of "matter matters to God." This is a complicated statement because it is not a common belief in Western thought. Here is a perfect example: as BBT was discussing the idea of Benedicti
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Ron
A reader following my blog, where I’ve been posting about being a cancer patient, recommended Barbara Brown Taylor’s books to me. Ordained as an Episcopal priest, she was on the cover of the Easter issue of Time. In the feature article about her, she made the unconventional argument that spirituality is fostered in darkness as well as light (and I’m thinking of the school motto of my alma mater: “In Thy Light shall we see Light”).

Familiar with the mood swings that arrived with cancer, the long s
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Denise
When I read in my church newsletter that this book was chosen by one of the church's study groups, I thought it sounded interesting and decided to read it on my own as a Lenten activity. The author describes ways that we can experience God in everyday activities. From the book jacket: "Taylor reveals meaningful ways to discover the sacred in the small things we do and see...something as ordinary as hanging clothes on a clothesline becomes an act of meditation if we pay attention to what we're do ...more
Jonelle
Taylor, an Episcopal priest who now teaches at Piedmont College and Columbia Theological Seminary, has written an excellent, highly readable book on spirituality and pracitcal spiritual disciplines.

Some of the practices that she describes, such as walking meditation, pilgrimages, fasting, prayer, have long histories. But, most of what she advocates are things that we do in everyday life.

Taylor says that "All of life is holy, and that every activity harbors and opportunity to meet God." In short
...more
Kit
This is the first book by Barbara Brown Taylor that I've read, so I can't compare it to Leaving Church. Instead, I found myself comparing it to Kathleen Norris' Cloister Walk. While Norris writes more personal memoir and reflections, the preacher in Barbara Brown Taylor comes out in this book and I end up hearing these chapters more as sermons. I think I was hoping for something denser-for-reading - the chapters sometimes felt to me like they were repeating the same idea more than necessary, but ...more
David
There are a few authors who, when I read them, I feel invigorated about life. Such authors make me want to be a Christian on days I am feeling cynical. They are good for my soul. I am thinking of people like Frederick Buechner, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson and N.T. Wright. Now I can add another to that list, probably someone who I should have read long ago: Barbara Brown Taylor.

I bought her book, An Altar in the World, months ago when it was discounted on Amazon. There it sat in my Kindle. I wo
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Jennifer
I am always needing to believe that God is bigger and wider and deeper and more gracious and closer to me than I think that he is. This book was the kind of book that helped me believe that. It is also the kind of book that I wanted to be much longer than it was, and the kind that I want to buy for every person I know. These are my favorite kind of books. Taylor is able to begin with the everyday sometimes painful, sometimes mundane, usually busy tangible life and clearly articulate what she see ...more
Tina Mcglynn
This book didn't so much change my life as it affirmed my life. Taylor is the voice that is missing from the Roman Catholic pulpit: the voice of the feminine. She is eloquently ecumenical, filled with humility, and filled with stories that speak to the heart. I could not put the book down. Every once in a while a book comes along that makes me sob and rejoice all at the same time. This one did that on the last page. It left me filled with enough sorrow and joy to embrace my humanity, put my shoe ...more
Terry
For as much as I enjoyed Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor, I enjoyed this book even more. Here Taylor explores a dozen ways in which we "wake up to God" in our everyday lives. She maintains that we can find altars to worship God all around us if just take the time to recognize God's presence. Like Moses, we stand on holy ground when we see the hand of God before us. The topics she explores are vision, reverence, incarnation, groundedness, wilderness, community, vocation, sabbath, physical ...more
Miriam Downey
Read my full review here: http://mimi-cyberlibrarian.blogspot.c...

An Altar in the World is a book about spiritual practices, but not the sort you find in esoteric spirituality. Taylor discusses the spiritual practices of the everyday. Taylor is a woman of great wisdom; her life has made many twists and turns, but she remains true to her Christian roots. A pastor once asked her to preach on what was "saving her life" now. She says: "What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no sp
...more
Adam Shields
Short Review: Finding spiritual practices for those that have become dead to spiritual practices. Fans of Ann Lamont will like this. There were very good sections, but there are number of other books that are similar and only 5 years after it was published, this feels dated already.

I noticed that many others that have not liked it, did not like it because of its particularity. It is written to people that are middle/upper-middle class, fairly well educated and primarily mental workers (professo
...more
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
I went to kneel at Barbara Brown Taylor's many altars presented herein and was repeatedly thunderstruck by her simple profundities. There was no way I could hurry through this book. It demanded my undivided attention and I quickly realized that if I started highlighting passages, I would wear out many a marker.

Every chapter examines different forms of spiritual practices, from walking on the Earth (including my favorite practice of walking labyrinths), to living with purpose,pronouncing blessin
...more
Katy
What a beautiful book. If you are a poet, if you are a lover of words, if you are a lover of all things beautiful and want to know how this works together with your faith, you should read this. This is a book of doing, of "spiritual practices" like paying attention, wearing skin and getting lost. Get ready, the paperback cover is going to be gorgeous, and you're going to want to buy this book for both the outside AND what's inside.
Anne Marie
This was a much stronger book than Leaving Church, which started out very compelling and tapered off. This maintained its strength throughout. My favorite chapters were the ones about being a physical being and prayer. Favorite quotes:
"The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own sto
...more
Joanne
I think I had this book on my 'reading' shelf for about a year, because I'd dip into a few pages at night before bed and didn't want it to end. I love what she has to say about prayer and about integrating spirituality with life's everyday work. She's insightful and funny and not ponderous or too self-absorbed. Have given it to two people thus far and will probably keep spreading it around.
Sarah
Taylor is as down-to-earth as there ever was. For her, prayer is washing baseboards and hanging fresh laundry on the line. Spirituality is walking the earth, eating common meals, blessing anything and everything. There is no great science or rulebook to faith, only a willingness to do something. The doing will teach you everything you need to know.
Maria Longley
Barbara Brown Taylor offers practical ways of engaging with spiritual practises that are sort of DIY, anyone can do them without going on expensive courses etc. It's a book about longing: "for more meaning, more feeling, more connection, more life . . . [People] know there is more to life than what meets the eye. They have drawn close to this 'More' in nature, in love, in art, in grief. They would be happy for someone to teach them how to spend more time in the presence of this deeper reality". ...more
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Trinity Episcopal...: An Altar in the World (discussion) 1 6 Jul 03, 2013 09:57AM  
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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...
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith Learning to Walk in the Dark The Preaching Life When God Is Silent Home by Another Way

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“To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger—these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives, sometimes all at once and sometimes more slowly, the way dripping water changes stone. In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking, bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life.” 55 likes
“The problem is, many of the people in need of saving are in churches, and at least part of what they need saving from is the idea that God sees the world the same way they do.” 38 likes
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