being and belonging to the church.

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber (via Blogging for Books)

I read Pastrix and I loved the second half of it. Accidental Saints is more in line with that second half, as Bolz-Weber tells stories of her life at her church. It can be difficult to see the image of God in people who are annoying or who don’t like you, and Bolz-Weber paints herself in an unflattering light at times as she talks about what she has learned through working for and worshipping with people who are very different than she is.

“The really inconvenient thing about being Christian is the fact that God is revealed in other people, and other people are annoying. I understand the impulse of not wanting to be in community. I can’t argue with that. But I think the experience of bumping up against other people has changed me in ways that I never could have been changed if I was just reading books and practicing meditation. We don’t get to be Christians on our own.”

There are no easy answers to some of these questions about loving God and loving others. My two favorite stories were about taking the time to really see other people: when a congregant named Bobbie saw Nadia, and when Nadia had a conversation with a girl on a plane who needed someone to notice her. This is a short book but it packs a lot into its size.

Lessons in Belonging From a Church-Going Commitment Phobe by Erin S. Lane (via Speakeasy)

These two books complement each other in surprising ways. Accidental Saints is about seeing and hearing God in the people around you, and Lessons in Belonging is about the search for a church and the ways that your service, your voice, your presence should be important to your congregation. As Erin S. Lane is trying to find a church in Durham, NC, she struggles with giving of herself as well as questions of theology. My favorite parts of the book were the places where she took a risk – offering to help with nametags in order to get to know the church members better, going to a discussion about Amendment One even though she didn’t know anyone. The book does not end with Erin S. Lane happily ensconced within a church but she does seem more sure of her own gifts and what she has to offer. On one hand, as Nadia Bolz-Weber points out in her book, whenever there are people around, we will not experience perfection. In this book, Erin S. Lane wants to attend a church where the theology doesn’t make her feel worthless. It was pure coincidence that I read these two together and I am so happy that I did.

The publishers provided me with copies of these books but my opinions are my own.

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