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Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  171 ratings  ·  51 reviews
When Pope John Paul II died, Suzanne Strempek Shea, who had not been an active member of a church community for some years, recognized in his mourners a faith-filled passion that she longed to recapture in her own life. So she set out on a pilgrimage to visit a different church every Sunday for one year-a journey that would take her through the broad spectrum of contempora ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Beacon Press (first published April 1st 2008)
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May 25, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a disappointment. Shea attended Christian churches across the US for a year and described their decorations, congregations, worship styles, etc. Surprisingly, what was woefully missing was Jesus: His teachings, His mission, His atoning work on the cross for our sins, His invitation to relationship. I doubt that the churches somehow all failed to mention salvation through Christ alone, the Roman's Road, or the need for repentance and submission to his Lordship. No, Shea just doesn't talk abo ...more
Fred Forbes
Sep 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Despite my Catholic and Episcopal upbringing and two grandfathers who were ministers, I am not a religious person. Spiritual, like most sailors with regard to the natural world - wind, waves, tide and sun, but not too comfortable with the world of formal religion. And, face it, if most people were to grow to adulthood with no exposure to religion, a blank slate if you will, were they then approached by someone who laid out the story of Christianity, they would probably be looking at this informe ...more
It has been a long time since I have disliked a book this heartily.

I was really put off by the author's attitude towards the churches she visited. I found her tone to be really judgmental as she goes through people's houses of worship. It bugs me. I don't like how she takes a one-moment-in-time snapshot and seems to extend it to represent the whole of that form of worship, based on how it either pleases her or doesn't.

I think I would like it more if she treated it as a gift to be allowed a wind
Jul 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
A Quaker friend recommended this book to me four years ago, and I just got around to reading it. I'm glad I took the trip.

I have nothing original to say in reviewing this book. I fought with myself again and again about whether I really liked this book or really didn't. In the end, I think that's the mark of a good read--one which is gripping and provocative enough to engage the reader when the book's set down.

Likes: I think it's a clever concept (52 churches in 52 weeks). Seeing churches throug
May 16, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: Kathy Mullins
My mother, who owns an independent bookstore, thought I might like this book. She knows I enjoy visiting various religious services and figured this book would be right up my alley. I thought so too. Unfortunately, I've been disappointed with the book thus far and likely will read only a few more entries before returning it to the library.

I do not consider the author a strong writer, and her insights appear much more superficial than I had been expecting. I disagree with the blurb on the front c
Oct 19, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
So, I loved her other books and I was excited to read this, as I am quite interested in other religions. There were parts of this that were very interesting; however, overall it was much more telling about the author than about the churches she visited. For whomever is interested she visited an LDS church outside Sharon VT on Father's day (as her view was the Mormons are a very male dominated church) and experienced a typical sacrament meeting on Father's Day. Her conclusion...a lot of hype (by ...more
Jul 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short chapters, each of which describes a Sunday morning visit to a different Protestant church somewhere in America -- everything from gatherings of a handful of people to a couple of mega churches with famous preachers.

Really interesting; I almost felt like I had visited the churches myself. And came away with mini-sermons (or at least a little something to think about) from several of them.

It also seemed like my views are similar enough to the author's that I would have appreciated the same
Sep 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in preparation for hearing the author speak. It was a very fast read, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I appreciated Shea's ability to find positives in each and every church she visited, even if the experience overall did not speak to her (and in some instances, really put her off). I highly recommend this book to anyone who is (or ever has been) on a spiritual journey. ...more
Sep 11, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A woman's search for a new religion after becoming disgruntled with Catholic leaders and their predilection for young boys. Interesting tidbits about different religions and their origins are included, which made it worth the time to finish it. By the end I realized that the author wasn't looking so much for relgious truth as acceptance and warm fuzzies. It was an easy read and opened my eyes to the many Christian faiths out there. ...more
Nov 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an interesting look at a large variety of non-Catholic Christian religions (52 of them) by the author, but was as much about her expectations of religion and of religious people as about the religions themselves. She was raised Polish Catholic and was moved to explore other possibilities by the death of Pope John Paul II not long after she concluded treatment for breast cancer.

The book served to teach me about many denominations I was not familiar with (sadly, she didn't make it t
Tanya Spackman

On one hand, the entire premise is simply a superficial review of the varieties of Christian worship (just attending one worship service, though the author clearly also did some research about the religions; the one I know best, my own, she fairly represented, so I'm assuming it was the same for the others). Expecting depth when it isn't built into the premise is unfair.

On the other hand, it made it seem like each denomination, even Christianity in general, is a part of a shallow
Having been charmed by her novels, and interested in religious practices, I was interested to read this one. I occasionally find frank expressions of faith in my authors to be off-putting, but I agreed with Shea's appraisals of the various flavors and personalities of American Christendom so often that I didn't mind. Every once in a while, it's nice to have someone not be afraid to be earnest. In my cynical world. ...more
Jun 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The outpouring of devotion that followed Pope John Paul II's death stirred Suzanne Shea: why hadn't she felt like that in a long, long time? And how -- where -- could she experience such an intensity of religious feeling again? And so, armed with a seeker's desire to find That Something Out There, as well as impressive traveling budget, she spent a year visiting American churches, one each Sunday (and some few on Saturdays, the 'traditional' Sabbath), touring communities both close to home in Ne
Suzanne Strempek Shea grew up in a Polish Roman Catholic family and church in Western Massachusetts, married an Irish Catholic, and continued attending the Catholic Church until about age 40. At that time, her husband, a newspaper reporter, broke one of the first stories of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Her disgust at the hierarchy's continual cover-ups of the scandal led her to abandon the church and stay away even through a bout with breast cancer (which she's also written about) ...more
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reexamining her Catholic faith after the sex scandel, the author spent a year of Sundays visiting different churches across the country. She visited a variety of churches of different denominations and sizes. I found the book entirely fascinating. Because she is covering 52 different churches in about 300 pages the entry on each church is fairly short, but they all provided a good glimpse of her experience at the church as well as background on either the denomination, the church itself, o ...more
Jan 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This Massachusetts author, a lapsed Roman Catholic with Polish heritage, decided to attend a different Christian church every weekend for a year and write about each visit. That’s the book, in a nutshell. She’s a good observer and writer, and puts a bit of herself into her descriptions.

I started out sort of dutifully reading, absorbing the offered bit of history and detail on each church along with the author's experience there, but soon found myself engaged and eager to see what the next churc
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My mom recommended this book, so I checked it out of the library and started reading. Definitely worth the time, although it required reading in smaller bits. Because every few pages was a new church visit, they all started to blur together unless you only read a couple at a time. I really appreciated the variety of churches that Shea visited - some of which belonged to denominations I hadn't even heard of! It was neat to get to see inside different services all from the same perspective, especi ...more
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suzanne Strempek Shea is one of my favorite novelists, so when I saw this book on a library shelf, I picked it up. Shea, a lapsed Roman Catholic, decided to visit a different non-Catholic Christian church each Sunday for a year. She visited Shakers, Mennonites, Mormons, Lutherans, Baptists of several types, fundamentalists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, huge mega-churches and tiny start-ups with just two or three congregants.

I found her descriptions of the churches and the congregat
Sarah C
May 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book Shea takes a year from her home church and her Catholic upbringing to take an insightful look at different Protestant denominations throughout the United States. Having grown up Catholic she never set foot in a Protestant church before her year began, stating she was afraid that the roof would cave in as the nuns had warned her. However, as she travels she has a chance to check out everything from Jehovah's Witnesses to Quakers, to Evangelical Baptists. Her insights as a non attende ...more
Mary Anne
I thought Along the Way would be more about the making of the movie “The Way” which I watched twice, but the chapters relating to the making of the movie provided the framework for the stories of Martin Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez. The reader gets to know these two men as they share their family history and their personal journeys and the making of the film together in Spain. I found the book very interesting and one that I couldn’t put down. I knew a bit about Martin Sheen and his commitme ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
No matter how many times I go, I have never joined my church. Things bother me, just enough things to think I shouldn’t join, things like women not being allowed to be ministers or deacons, the literal meaning applied to so many passages in the Bible. The wonderful hugs keep me coming back each week, somehow.

So it was nice to travel with Shea this week to fifty plus churches across the USA. Catholic, Pentecostal, Methodist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Episcopal, churches with celebrity pastors, churche
Bcoghill Coghill
Oct 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bcoghill by: On the library shelf
A wonderful and gentle look at churches in the USA from little store front churches in the author's neighborhood to mega-churches in Texas and California.
Shea is coming from an ethnic Roman Catholic background.
My background is a Native American Episcopal one, but as she frames her views is translates to my experience.
I have spent a significant number of Sundays in Baptist, Unitarian, Assembly of God and Roman Catholic curches though I idendtify with ECUSA and ECLA Lutheran. I think I get it.
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating. Ms. Shea's trek through churches across America is something I could never do, though I would like to. She takes criticism from other reviewers for judging the churches she visits, but this book never professes to be an unbiased view of churches. It is a personal journey to try a variety of churches in search of something she didn't find in her own. From my own searches, I agree with her rejection of churches that emphasize fear and damnation over God's message's m ...more
Sep 19, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seekers
Shelves: faith
I cherry-picked my way around the book, reading the entries that caught my interest. Many I skipped entirely. Shea is a good writer, and her descriptions of the churches are insightful and entertaining. She makes no apologies for her very liberal biases, but still manages to find value and even accord in some of the more conservative messages. Readers should take this for what it is: a very random sampling of Christian services across the country, and not in any way an attempt to characterize th ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
Shea spent a year visiting a different church each week and shares in detail what she saw and experienced. She visited churches from different denominations, in different parts of the country, with different styles of worship, with different socio-economic and ethnic makeups, and all along the conservative-liberal spectrum. Perhaps the most entertaining was her visit to Joel Osteen’s church in Houston (hint: she was not impressed). A great book full of captivating and, at times, inspiring storie ...more
Having been charmed by her novels, and interested in religious practices, I was interested to read this one. I occasionally find frank expressions of faith in my authors to be off-putting, but I agreed with Shea's appraisals of the various flavors and personalities of American Christendom so often that I didn't mind. Every once in a while, it's nice to have someone not be afraid to be earnest. In my cynical world. ...more
Jun 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, god-stuff
Augh! I wanted the rest of the book!

Shea visits one church a week, all over the US, for one full year. She's learning about alternatives to the Catholicism that she grew up with. Each visit gets a summary of about 2 pages, and that's the beginning of my frustration. This is an interesting idea, but just scratches the surface of each tradition. Also, I'd love to know how the whole experiment affected Shea's personal spiritual life.
I really enjoyed this. I know the basics of some Protestant denominations, but it was interesting to get a better glimpse. I felt that part of the reason I enjoyed the book so much was that I believe many of the same things as the author (for gay marriage, for example). If you are a conservative Christian you might not appreciate the author's perspective in the same way. ...more
I enjoyed reading this book for the fact that it opened my eyes to a number of different christian denominations that are practiced in the U.S. The only thing I didn't like was the personal bias that she showed in portraying some religions, but it was her own personal journey of faith, so I guess that's to be expected. ...more
Amberlee Bixler
Aug 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written by a reporter, this book flows like a restaurant review, with different beliefs being offered up like different dishes on a never-ending buffet table. It's intriguing, informative, and thought-provoking. Well-written and well thought out, I really dug reading each entry - when they challenged my expectations and politics, and when they made me really proud to be a Christian. ...more
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Suzanne Strempek Shea is the author of five novels: Selling the Lite of Heaven, Hoopi Shoopi Donna, Lily of the Valley, Around Again, and Becoming Finola, published by Washington Square Press. She has also written three memoirs, Songs From a Lead-lined Room: Notes - High and Low - From My Journey Through Breast Cancer and Radiation; Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama and Other Page-Turning Advent ...more

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