CONGREGATION by Gary Dorsey

CONGREGATION

The Journey Back to Church
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 On an earnest quest for faith, Connecticut freelance journalist Dorsey (The Fullness of Wings, 1990) encounters ``a carnival of small-time saints'' at a small, 360-year-old Congregational church. Having rebelled against a fundamentalist Protestant upbringing in Georgia, Dorsey had subsequently tried agnosticism, mysticism, Quakerism, and self-actualization--a typical restless spiritual pilgrimage for baby boomers, who, he acknowledges, have ``shopped like heathens in a cafeteria of broadening options.'' In 1988, Dorsey became a member of First Church in Windsor, a town north of Hartford. This rock of New England piety featured a stately appearance and an equally venerable tradition. Over the next year, the author observed and often participated in the everyday activities of this church, which included field trips to Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua, a protest march to Hartford's City Hall on behalf of the homeless, a healing service for AIDS victims, prayer groups, and meetings to create a liturgical service with gender-free references to God. The congregation's conservative churchgoers, appalled by what they perceived as trendiness, stymied the liberal chief minister's fundraising drive. (Indeed, despite his affection for this convivial man, Dorsey admits that the minister often steered maintenance-earmarked donations toward outreach.) The author outlines with objectivity and sensitivity the inevitable tensions in an American church confronted with the modern world. However, this sharp observer of exterior matters is not as successful in explaining theology or his individual relationship to God. Even the transforming experience here--the congregation's compassionate response to his wife's infertility- -does not lead to meditations on the role of God in individual lives. Despite his sincerity, one suspects that Dorsey, like many choice-conscious religious consumers, would join any mainline Protestant denomination that would provide him with a similar community. Not a profound reflection on the relationship between a believer and God, but a heartfelt tribute to those who helped the author through the middle of his life's journey.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-670-83776-8
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995