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Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  8,270 ratings  ·  691 reviews
By now I expected to be a seasoned parish minister, wearing black clergy shirts grown gray from frequent washing. I expected to love the children who hung on my legs after Sunday morning services until they grew up and had children of their own. I even expected to be buried wearing the same red vestments in which I was ordained.

Today those vestments are hanging in the sacr
Kindle Edition, 277 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2006)
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Elena Westbrook I found it to be a moving and helpful book about living faith in the day-to-day world -- hence, "altar in the world." Her faith evolved, as true faith…moreI found it to be a moving and helpful book about living faith in the day-to-day world -- hence, "altar in the world." Her faith evolved, as true faith does, but I would not describe it as being snatched away or replaced.(less)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  8,270 ratings  ·  691 reviews

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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.
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, theology
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
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
David Eiffert
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spirituality
"As many years as I wanted to wear a clerical collar and as hard as I worked to get one, taking it off turned out to be as necessary for my salvation as putting it on. Being set apart was the only way I could learn how much I longed to be with everyone else."

This book hit WAY to close to home to be a comfortable read. All the stars. Just take em.
May 29, 2008 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. ...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
Jan 02, 2008 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. ...more
Jul 19, 2010 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
Feb 06, 2010 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 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
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
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
Rose Schrott
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
BBT is an expert of expressing the seemingly inexpressible. I loved this book’s exploration of the gift and challenge of Church and how to find yourself within it. I feel it should be required reading for all seminarians.
Would read again. Would recommend.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 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
Sep 11, 2008 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
♥ Ibrahim ♥
Disappointingly preachy! Just tell me the story and quit all that homolitical verbiage! Arrrrg!
Jan 01, 2013 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
Feb 01, 2009 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.
Ben Schnell
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Very cathartic for how the author describes the reasons its hard for a for a former pastor to attend church. This book articulated thoughts and feelings about church I thought only I had, which makes for a great reading experience.
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found her journey interesting even though it’s not the same as mine. I especially loved the quotes that she inserted throughout the book. They didn’t necessarily speak to me in the same way but they caught my attention.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Val Catrow

This memoir has been on my list for a long time, ever since I read a quote from it in Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, and I have only just got to it. I wish I had read it sooner. The writing here is introspective and strong, and I nodded along the whole way. Reading this book has helped me reflect on faith and work, viewing my professional life has vocation, as well, and what aspects of priesthood (though it sounds strange) apply in that realm. I'm reall
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 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 28, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody, really
Recommended to Jenny by: I was attracted to the title
Barbara Brown Taylor left the parish ministry for many of the reasons I avoided it in the first place. I have to say I felt affirmed, because Barbara Brown Taylor is a big deal.

I would have included a stronger critique or anlysis of the structure of the system and the theology itself that enables leaders with poor boundaries and a savior complex.

I also failed to find the renunciation of this decision or the loss involved very compelling. She comes out sounding too righteous. When you receive a
Jan 26, 2010 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
Ian Caveny
Pastoral (in this case, priestly) memoirs are quickly becoming a genre that I gravitate towards with an earnest interest and curiosity. Maybe it has something to do with this being a year in which I myself have become a pastor for the first time. Whatever the case, whether nonfiction (as was the case with Open Secrets) or fiction (as was the case with Jayber Crow), I have enjoyed hearing others' reflections on what the nature of the pastoral vocation is, full of all its strifes and dangers, toil ...more
Aug 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful writing. This book resonated with me on multiple levels. I also left the “church” I grew up in, and did NOT leave my faith. Her feelings about losing her identity when she left the church is also easily relatable to leaving a career.

One of my favorite quotes...”..I have learned to prize holy ignorance more highly than religious certainty and to seek companions who have arrived at the same place.”
Katie Liestman
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, faith
This book is the exact thing I needed to read. At times I felt like she was writing my own story. She has a calm and soothing way of painting her experience that is clearly personal but so poetic. This is not an anti-faith or anti-church book but moreso about the expansiveness of God and the (at times) limiting nature of the structures we put God info. Highly recommend for anyone deconstructing or rebuilding their own faith journey.
This book came as such a gift to me. Beautifully written with such wisdom, vulnerability and humility. The Readers Guide at the end has been incredibly helpful in processing my own story in the light of the author's. I am so grateful and I’m quite sure I will return to it many times in the future. I highly recommend it to all men and women who are considering and questioning their involvement in church ministry. ...more
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Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times best-selling author, teacher, and Episcopal priest. Her first memoir, Leaving Church (2006), won an Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. Her last book, Learning to Walk in the Dark (2014), was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. She has served on the faculties of Piedmont College, Columbia Theological Seminary, Candler School o ...more

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