As I have struggled with my own hard questions about faith (and often finding myself on the fringe of the institutional church), I’ve found the following books most helpful in letting me know that others struggle and question and sometimes feel on the fringe, too. These books might also be helpful to those who minister to newcomers in the 21st century church by showing us how many of us feel, coming into or back to the church.
All of these books are very accessible and easy, engaging reading. All are in paperback and in the $10-$20 range, available online or in stock or available by ordering from the major bookstores.
Julia Cameron, Answered Prayers: Love Letters from the Divine (2004). This is a book of short, one-page prayers – but from God to you (not the other way around). This is one of the most affirming books I’ve ever read and good to digest in very short bites, perhaps as a daily meditation aid. I also recommend Cameron’s many other prayer books.
Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith (2000), Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (2006), and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith (2007). Anne Lamott is a trip, pure and simple. For starters, she has blond dreadlocks and is anything but a typical “church lady.” She chronicles her struggles with faith, everyday life as a single mom, and the life of her anything-but-conventional local church.
Barbara Brown Taylor, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (2007) and An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith (2010). Barbara Brown Taylor is an Episcopal priest and rock star preacher who takes a break from institutional church life to explore faith in other settings. An Altar in the World presents spirituality in simple, everyday acts of real life.
Sara Miles, Take This Bread (2007). I can honestly say this book changed the way I think about things. Sara Miles is a war correspondent and cook who had a conversion experience while taking Eucharist for the first time after stumbling into an Episcopal church in San Francisco. She then went on to start a hunger ministry – serving the hungry food off the actual altar in her church. She now has several other books in print, also recommended.
I’ll also add my own new book, Considering Birds & Lilies: Finding Peace & Harmony with the Everyday World Around Us (2017).
Blessings on your own spiritual journey,