Fittingly enough, I met Barbara Melosh at a writing week hosted by Collegeville Institute (MN) back in 2012. She joined a writing group that I had begun in 2006, and made the commitment to drive all the way from Wilmington, DE to northern VA to attend every other week. I mention that because I run into so many people who think it’s possible to write books in a casual way. In my experience that’s just not true. People who write books have prioritized that activity, and have said No to many other things in order to say Yes to the book.
I’m so glad Barbara said Yes to this book! It’s a memoir of her first year in ordained ministry, which she came to after a long career as a professor of American Studies. As a second career, she served a Lutheran church in a struggling blue-collar neighborhood in Baltimore. Barbara brings so many lenses to her experience — reluctant believer, academic, energetic newbie pastor, deeply observant contemplative — that she holds up a prism for the rest of us. She was determined to turn the church around, but it was something else that turned around.
Barbara’s writing flows beautifully and her descriptions are rich and eloquent. I well remember reading drafts of these pages over the years, and it is a joy to hold the finished product in my hands and get lost in her words once again.
This is a great book for any clergyperson or committed church leader, anyone who has a love/hate relationship with their church, anyone who has wrestled with vocation, anyone who has lived in a culture that doesn’t feel like it belongs to them by birth. This is the kind of book that reminds us why we read memoir — to live for a few hours in someone else’s skin, which inevitably enlarges our worlds and hearts. You can buy it here.