"I like it much better than ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ — to be a seeker after the sacred or the holy, which ends up for me being the really real."
– Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor
From Krista, about this week's show:
It's fascinating to trace the arc of spiritual searching and religious belonging in my lifetime. The Episcopal priest and public theologian Barbara Brown Taylor was one of the people I started learning about when I left diplomacy to study theology in the early 1990s. At that time, she was leading a small church in Georgia. And she preached the most extraordinary sermons, and turned them into books read far and wide. Then in 2006, she wrote Leaving Church — about her decision to leave her life of congregational ministry, finding other ways to stay, as she's written, "alive and alert to the holy communion of the human condition, which takes place on more altars than anyone can count.”
She's written other books since, with titles like An Altar in the World, Learning to Walk in the Dark, and Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others. Being in the presence of Barbara Brown Taylor's wonderfully wise and meandering mind and spirit, after all these years of knowing her voice in the world, is a true joy. I might even use a religious word — it feels like a "blessing." And this is not a conversation about the decline of church or about more and more people being "spiritual but not religious." We both agree that this often-repeated phrase is not an adequate way of seeing the human hunger for holiness. This is as alive as it has ever been in our time — even if it is shape-shifting in ways my Southern Baptist and Barbara's Catholic and Methodist forebears could never have imagined.
Barbara Brown Taylor is the author of many books, including An Altar in the World, Leaving Church, Holy Envy, and Learning to Walk in the Dark. Her 2020 book is Always a Guest, a compilation of recent sermons. She is the former rector of Grace-Calvary Episcopal Church of Clarkesville, Georgia, and she taught for two decades in the religion department at Piedmont College.
This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode "Barbara Brown Taylor — ‘This Hunger for Holiness’." Find the transcript for that show at onbeing.org.
Sign up for The Pause to receive our seasonal Saturday morning newsletter and advance invitations and news on all things On Being.
And: if you can, please take a minute to rate On Being in this podcast app — you'll be bending the arc of algorithms towards this adventure of conversation and living.