"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


keep it holy

So I have been trying all week to find the time to write about meeting Barbara Brown Taylor on Monday night, when she spoke on Sabbath-keeping at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest here in Austin. And between getting ready to leave for spring break tomorrow, dealing with my students and their term papers, and hanging out with a friend who's having a rough time, I just haven't had time to do it justice.

Barbara Brown Taylor changed my life. That's not an exaggeration. I grew up in a world where women weren't allowed to preach, and where it was just a given that that vocation was not open to women. When I went off to Baylor, I more-or-less accepted this like I was supposed to.

And then I heard Barbara Brown Taylor preach at Baylor chapel. I had no idea who she was, but I distinctly remember thinking, "Well, that wasn't as bad as they told me it would be," when she finished. And actually, it was pretty good. And by "good," I mean, amazing. Brown Taylor is to this day one of the greatest preachers I've ever heard. She weaves narrative with the Biblical text in a way that speaks to truth beyond simple dogmas.

Looking back, that's what started it all. My realization that it's God - not man - who calls us to vocations completely changed my theology and practice. It meant that I couldn't be a nice Southern Baptist girl anymore. It meant that I had to consider carefully what the Bible said about justice and treatment of the poor. It meant that I had to be different.

My sister told me to read Brown Taylor's The Preaching Life during one cold New Haven winter, and so I did. I was mesmerized by Brown Taylor's ability with words. As the years went by, I devoured every single one of her sermons that's in print.

So Monday night was, in a way, a bit of a closing of a circle. BBT spoke on the Sabbath, on God's gift of rest that we are so good at ignoring, and on how our sinfulness on that count breaks our world. After the talk, a friend and I stepped up to meet her. We didn't get to talk, just said hello and thank-you, and that was all. But what a gift it has been to hear an amazingly gifted preacher bookend a journey through higher education and the discovery of my own vocation.


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