Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


Barbara Brown Taylor On Giving Up Power and “Spiritual Poverty”

Leaving_church_-210Leaving Church, by Barbara Brown Taylor, is (somewhat ironically) full of enriching meditations for the church. When she left a twenty-year career as a priest and in essence also “left church,” Brown Taylor says she was compelled to let go of her power and in turn share that power with a priesthood of all believers. Three things happened, she says, in the process. First, she came to feel a sense of “tenderness” for “everyone trying to make a go out of church the way it was.” She understood even better how hard it is to be a clergy person leading the people of God and how challenging it can be to be a layperson in a church that typically revolves around the personality of its head minister.

The “second thing that happened” when Brown Taylor “lost her power,” was an appreciation for the necessity of spiritual poverty in following Jesus. Here is Brown Taylor on this quality of “spiritual poverty”:  “Since this virtue has all but vanished from the American church scene, it is often hard to recognize. 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. Yet his way endures as a way of emptying the self of all its goods instead of shoring up the self with spiritual riches. Only those who lose their lives can have them.”

The third thing that happened when Brown Taylor lost her power was this: she began to understand how her priesthood “emptied into the world.” She came to see how her vocation was one of paying attention to the holy outside of church, like in line at the post office or grocery store. She came to see that she was still very much a priest, only now a priest for the whole world.

There are numerous observations within the pages of this book that make it worth a read, but these I count as most edifying. Spiritual poverty in the public square, not the flexing of spiritual muscle, is, I think, a pathway through the wilderness for the church in America- as is a church that exists in and for the world, rather than apart from and against it.

 



Previous Posts

Mental Health Break—Sprawl II
My favorite band these days is Arcade Fire, and I've featured the Canadian indie rock group before at this intersection between God and life. The lead singer studied Kirkegaard in college and their songs, like this one, are often subtle but brilliant critiques of the least aesthetically pleasing thi

posted 12:58:15pm Dec. 18, 2014 | read full post »

I Can't Breathe and the Widow's Cry—A Guest Post
Fellow saint and sinner Saskia de Vries is a neuroscientist in Seattle, Washington and has posted before at this intersection between God and life. She, like so many of us, is grappling with the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the larger systemic problem they seem to reveal—namely,

posted 2:10:09pm Dec. 11, 2014 | read full post »

Advent and Emptiness, Via Louis CK and the Prophet Isaiah
I've been making my way through the book of Isaiah. This morning's reading was from chapter 6, where the prophet Isaiah receives his call to go to the people of Israel and proclaim God's judgment of a people who have wandered away from God's purposes for them. Isaiah asks how long God's people will

posted 11:45:39am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Advent Resurrection
It may seem strange to pair Advent with resurrection. Usually resurrection comes more naturally at Easter. But at heart the labor pangs of all creation giving birth to the Christ child are a longing for a new start. Advent is a longing to be born again. Neuroscience now teaches that every minu

posted 2:47:38pm Dec. 04, 2014 | read full post »

Birthday Cred—Ecclesiastes Via David Foster Wallace
Today I'm still (barely) on the left side of 40, and bea

posted 11:01:03am Dec. 01, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.