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« Health Administration Books for Health Care Professionals | Main | Progressive? »

Strength for the Journey, by Diana Butler Bass

By an everyday book reader
March 1, 2007

In Strength for the Journey, Diana Butler Bass illustrates the dynamic strength and persistence of mainline Protestantism. While many baby boomers left the church, only to come back later in life, Bass was a "stayer" who witnessed the struggles and changes and found much there that was meaningful.

"Bass delivers the ostensible goods - an account of her life in eight different Episcopal churches - and even if the book stopped there, it would be magnificent." - Publishers Weekly

Offering thought-provoking portraits of eight parishes she attended over two decades, she explores the major issues that have confronted mainline denominations, congregations, and parishioners during those years - from debates over women clergy to conflicts about diversity and community to scrimmages between tradition and innovation.

Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community
by Diana Butler BassBook Picture

Softcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9780787974251, 0787974250
October 2004

"The church cannot depend on the past for its future." Diana Butler Bass

At a time when many mainline churches were losing members, Diana Butler Bass chose to stay and discover the vibrancy at the very heart of her faith. She was not alone. There has been a quiet resurrection in the mainline tradition, energized by a new generation of churchgoers and a host of new members. The reemerging Protestant mainline possesses an unexpected and underestimated vitality. And in recent decades, mainline churchgoing has been anything but dull, as congregations have struggled to understand their identity and vocation in a changed world.

In Strength for the Journey, Diana Butler Bass illustrates the dynamic strength and persistence of mainline Protestantism.

"New York Times syndicated religion columnist Bass delivers the ostensible goods an account of her life in eight different Episcopal churches and even if the book stopped there, it would be magnificent. Her parish stories unfold in that riveting, better-than-fiction way that the best sociological case studies always do. Each chapter is more intriguing than the last, and it is a pleasure to see how their titles, such as 'Competing Authorities' and 'Interim,' perfectly label the personal and congregational stories therein. But what strikes the heart is Bass's own journey from conservative evangelicalism to mainline liberalism. A precocious undergraduate who was reading the likes of Luther, Bultmann and Julian of Norwich in her free time, Bass went on to get a seminary degree and a Ph.D. in church history. She joined the Episcopal Church in her early 20s because of her passion for liturgy and the Eucharist, and she initially hoped to 'renew' the church, a euphemism for making it more evangelical. Instead, becoming a member made her less evangelical. Each parish story is also the story of her baby steps away from evangelical belief until, finally, the floodgates broke loose and she chose to leave all vestiges of her conservative Christian life behind, including her job and her marriage. This book is more than the chronicle of a baby boomer who stayed in a mainline denomination while most of her peers fled; it records a soul's search for God and communion with God's people." - Publishers Weekly

Diana Butler Bass's story reveals the church's history among us. She uses her life as the focal point to tell the larger story of contemporary mainline church life, with all of its ups and downs. During the last two decades, she says, "the church was being quietly transformed by the experiences of stayers like myself who demanded different visions and practices of churchgoing than the institution had traditionally offered."

And out of the turbulence, a new kind of mainline congregation has been emerging, and a new period of American Protestantism is being born.

"Throughout her journey, (Bass) remains a restless spirit with a strong Christian heart, one who, despite loving tradition and timeless values, has never settled for easy answers. The imminent death of mainline Protestantism has been greatly exaggerated, she believes, and indeed American Protestantism has entered a new period of growth and renewal. This book is, in part, her personal rebuttal of Protestantism's doom-criers." - Booklist

"Diana Butler Bass has written a rare kind of book. Part religious travelogue, part contemporary tracing of one pilgrim's progress, part spiritual autobiography, Strength for the Journey gives us a very personal and a very acute view of what life is like for a committed Christian today." - James P. Wind, president, The Alban Institute

"A compelling intertwining of a personal spiritual journey and the recent history of Protestantism. Diana Butler Bass makes the case that baby boom seekers are drawing the Church into a new, more authentic Christianity." - Nora Gallagher, author, Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith

"With the insights of a mystic, Diana Butler Bass recounts her spiritual pilgrimage from Methodism to evangelicalism to the benumbing diversity of the Episcopal Church, where she found a spiritual home. Along the way, she offers a guided tour of the crises and the controversies afflicting mainline Protestantism over the past several decades. For anyone looking for evidence that the glass of mainline Protestantism is half full rather than half empty Strength for the Journey offers a persuasive case." - Randall Balmer, author, Growing Pains: Learning to Love My Father's Faith

Diana Butler Bass writes a weekly newspaper column on contemporary religion as New York Times syndicate columnist. In addition to being a popular speaker, retreat leader, and seminary professor, this scholar of American religion serves as director of faith formation at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia.

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