‘An Altar in the World: Finding the Sacred Beneath our Feet’ by Barbara Brown Taylor

An Altar in the WorldstarstarstarstarstarBarbara Brown Taylor is an episcopal priest, author, teacher, and theologian. Despite making Time’s 100 most influential people in the world list, she is one of the most honest, humble, and down-to-earth preachers ever. The American subtitle for the book is ‘A Geography of Faith’ but I’ve included the UK subtitle because it best describes the book and underscores her main message: God can be found as we walk, rest, play and work in the world, not just in church on Sunday. In fact, as important as community and communion with other Christians is, church and religion may even get in the way of the spiritual for some. Faith is a way of life and it can be recovered in the grit, grind and glory of God’s presence in the world.  If you like Anne Lamott and Annie Dillard, you’ll love Barbara Brown Taylor.

Taylor says this, “In a world of too much information about almost everything, bodily practices can provide great relief. To make bread or love, to dig in the earth, to feed an animal or cook for a stranger–these activities require no extensive commentary, no lucid theology. All they require is someone willing to bend, reach, chop, stir. Most of these tasks are so full of pleasure that there is no need to complicate things by calling them holy. And yet these are the same activities that change lives.”

With chapter headings that choose everyday practices rather than doctrine (“waking up to God,” “paying attention,” “wearing skin,” “walking on the earth,” “getting lost,” “encountering others,” “living with purpose,” “saying No,” “carrying water,” “feeling pain,” “pronouncing blessing”), Brown articulates a perspective that I found refreshing and wise.  Matter matters to God and finding Him in the physical world is designed to help us experience the spiritual one. “God has no hands but ours, no bread but the bread we bake, no prayers but the ones we make.”

There are not many books on my re-read list, but this one will take its place  alongside What’s So Amazing About Grace and Man’s Search for Meaning. Taylor has a new book out this year (Learning to Walk in the Dark) which has some surprising things to say about darkness. The short excerpt I read of that one has me hooked already.

Here’s a short sermon from earlier this year entitled Sacred Downtime (25 min) which is worth listening to, perhaps while ironing or doing the dishes! 🙂

2 responses to “‘An Altar in the World: Finding the Sacred Beneath our Feet’ by Barbara Brown Taylor

  1. Wilma Van Brummelen

    Hi Joanne, did you know that she has another book out (2014) called, “Learning to Walk in the Dark”. I just picked it up from the store and am starting to read it.

  2. Wilma Van Brummelen

    Yes, you do know! Sorry! Just listened to her speech you included. Great!!! Thanks!!

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