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Life in a Small Church

by Nick Taylor

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-70944-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

 Warm account of a year in the life of St. Mary's Episcopal Church, a small parish in an N.Y.C. suburb. At first glance, this covers the same ground--daily life in a burgeoning Christian community--as Stanley G. Freedman's impressive Upon This Rock (p. 1550). But the parish Freedman describes is poor and black, whereas Taylor's is white and snugly middle-class. And that makes all the difference. No horrible drug wars here, or desperate poverty, or brutal crime. The crises are real but ordinary: confusion, doubt, disease, death. So are the pleasures: spiritual retreats, Eucharist celebrations, a chance to love one's neighbor. The maestro is Rev. Lincoln Stelk, a likable, fairly conservative former bomber pilot who oversees his parishioners with a firm but pliant hand. Stelk draws many lapsed Christians back into the fold, but drives a few devout members away to other parishes. He has his own problems, of course, like a 23-year-old daughter about to marry a man in his mid-40's; but with prayer and trust, all is resolved. As the year bumps along, nothing special happens: The church expands its food bank, baptizes new members, cares for the sick, renews the bell tower, distributes turkeys at Thanksgiving, deals with the strain of Operation Desert Storm. Stelk's sermons, frequently described, range from prayers of forgiveness to worries about premarital sex. They make an impact on the author, who buries both his parents during the year, and who gives thanks that now--after 30 years away from church--he can see with his newborn eyes of faith that they are ``raised up among angels.'' ``What connects human beings to God,'' says Taylor, ``is generosity and sharing.'' That wholesome, simple tone informs this entire book--a straightforward, sincere, skillfully spliced slice-of-Christian-life.