Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Church of Her Own

I just received my copy of the wonderful new book A Church of Her Own: What Happens When a Woman Takes the Pulpit by Sarah Sentilles.

First, a disclaimer - I was interviewed for this book and a big part of my spiritual story are highlighted in the chapter entitled Minister (n.) vs. Minister (v.), along with The Most Esteemed Callie Janoff, who co-created the Church of Craft with me.

I've been reading the book and it's a wonderful read. Sarah's writing style is very accessible - almost like I'm getting to peek into her journal and read all her intimate thoughts about her own path of ministry and spiritual service.

The layout of the book is wonderful. We follow Sarah's journey as she feels the call to ministry and discovers a lot of difficult challenges along the way. We also get to read the stories of many other women who have also hit challenges on their ministry paths. Some of the stories brought tears to my eyes, as I recognized the frustrating circumstances that these powerful, visionary women ran into when they tried to own their own power in a male-dominated world.

I feel that the deeper message of the book is incredibly powerful. A quote from the introductory chapter explains it well:
The problems faced by women ministers cannot be dismissed as "women's" problems. They belong to all of us, whether you have a female minister in your church or not, whether you attend church or not, whether you think your congregation is sexist or not, even whether you are Christian or not. None of us - even those of us outside the church - is exempt from the reverberations of religious institutions' failings. Churches' treatment of women and women's reactions to this treatment are symptoms of a larger problem, indicative of the broader ways the church needs to change. What we do and say and believe in church is connected to what we do and say an believe in our everyday lives. Our theology is linked to the state of the world - to war and poverty and environmental destruction and reckless consumerism - and it is time that we held ourselves accountable.
I truly think these stories would resonate with other women who have run into inherent sexism on their paths as well. It's an inspiring read and it certainly has helped me feel less alone on my path. It would also be an excellent read for any man that wants to understand the myriad ways that sexism can manifest in our culture.

The interviews are with women from all different faith backgrounds, including some wild, Interfaith revolutionary spiritual leaders like Callie and myself! I have to say, I was reading the book in a cafe and I got so many looks! The cover is quite austere - with a circle of golden crosses surrounding one lone female symbol, but don't let that scare you off from reading this wonderful book.  It is most definitely for people of all spiritual paths who are interested in understanding more deeply the role that sexism plays in our society and how we can transform our culture to a more encompassing and equal experience.

P.S. There's another great review of this book on the wonderful blog Viva La Feminista!

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