Recently ordained United Methodist minister Cartledgehayes debuts with no-holds-barred reflections on her decision to be ordained, her experiences while in charge of a church, and her uncertainty about her future in the ministry.
Some religious writers emphasize prayer and spirituality; others, like the author, are motivated by a need to preach God’s word and to fight for the powerless. Cartledgehayes offers a disarmingly frank account of her own life and of the difficulties and moments of grace she encountered as minister to a church in South Carolina. Raised on an island on one of the Great Lakes, she dropped out of college at 19 to get married. By then she’d given up on God, but after two divorces and two children, living in the South in what she calls “affluent poverty—the fun kind where disaster is only a paycheck away, ” she began occasionally attending church. She also began talking and thinking about God: did He exist, and if so, what were the implications? In November 1980, now in her early 30s and driving along the highway in a brand-new Chevette, she had a “conversion experience” as the car became bathed in golden light. God did exist, she realized, and she needed to be in church. Witty, a tad profane, known to cuss and smoke, as well as take a drink or two, Cartledgehayes next describes how her marriage to widower Fred Hayes provided solace and encouragement as she attended Duke Divinity School, where she encountered considerable sexism but won a prize for preaching, and was ordained in 1986. Sent to minister in a dying church, she worked energetically to save it, gave memorable sermons, and conscientiously tended to the sick and dying, but the congregation did not renew her contract, possibly because she was a woman. Burned out and disillusioned, she applied to take leave, but despite the setbacks still believes all life is holy.
A beguilingly straightforward account of the religious experience.