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Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith

Author: Sarah Bessey
Published By: Darton, Longman and Todd (London)
Pages: 259
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 978 0 232 53239 5

Reviewed by Alun Brookfield.

A friend of mine likes to say farewell with the well-known “May you live in interesting times”. In the history of Christianity these are definitely interesting times as Christians struggle with the sense that the old religious answers to life’s challenges don’t seem to work in the 21st century. As a result, they stop attending Christian worship and fellowship. Sadly, all too often, these church leavers simply disappear. It’s not that they don’t believe in God. It’s not that they don’t want to be followers of Jesus. It’s just that they don’t believe they’ll find those answers in church.

Some, however, develop an evolving faith, often with a lot more questions than answers. Sarah Bessey is one such, and this heart-warmingly honest book is her experience of ceasing to be a churchgoer for six years, and using the time to ask all the hard questions, embrace the bereavement of cherished beliefs, and move on into a deeper, richer Christian faith.

As a spiritual traveller myself, I devoured this book. My copy is underlined heavily in places, as I felt that Bessey hit so many of my most painful nails on the head. She speaks openly of the bereavement of realising that, when she was a regular churchgoer, she was asking all the wrong questions, focussing on all the wrong issues. I was warmed and heartened that she had travelled the same road as me, realising that our first calling is to be followers of Jesus: “Our church tradition doesn’t get our loyalty; that fidelity belongs to Jesus” (p.85).

The author’s journey is accompanied and informed with excellent reading. She quotes freely from Jurgen Moltmann, Emily Dickinson, Phyllis Tickle, Dallas Willard, and Tom Wright, to name but a few. She’s also accompanied by her pastor husband, whose painful experience of ministry was part of her journey.

The book is not without fault. One whole chapter is devoted to justifying Bessey’s eventual return to the charismatic evangelicalism of her youth. At times, the book is too personal, with too much information about her family. These, however, are minor faults in a book which would be a valuable resource for pastors when we are guiding others who may find themselves on a similar spiritual journey.

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 66 of Ministry Today, published in March 2016.

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