Altars in the World BBT
"Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish—separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars."
Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, HarperOne 2009
I may not have read everything Barbara Brown Taylor (BBT) has published, but it is close. I first met her in the 1980’s at a book group led by Dean McMillin, the administrator of our church’s amazing bookstore, The BookMark. Dean picked one of BBT’s first book of her sermons to read, and our group including myself couldn’t put the book down. This was back when BBT had black hair. I was hooked. I listened to her tapes, went to her conferences. I even danced once around the altar at Kanuga in a service with her! She was my mentor at a writing conference at the College of Preachers. She inspired me to be a good preacher and good writer. For years, I preached in her style, used a lot of her material, categorized all her sermons. She is a narrative preacher proclaiming the gospel, not afraid to tackle the tough questions, helping people to experience the gospel. Finally, I think I have found my own voice different from hers, but her style and love of scripture and need to experience what I am reading and to speak out is still ingrained. I know I am one of many that she has inspired. I try to thank her by sharing what I learned from her with other preachers and writers and remembering her kindness to me each time we talked. The picture was taken when she spoke in Little Rock at Trinity Cathedral at their Insight series in 2017. Two of the members of my Kanuga Haden Institute Spiritual Direction group, Bridget and Liz, came over and we had breakfast with BBT. I only remember a little of what we talked about, but I can vividly remember the feeling of being in the presence of a gifted person sharing her gifts as she also was still empowering us to use our gifts. I remember a recent Christian Century (May10, 2007) article where BBT was asked the names of the guests she would like to invite to dinner. She chose three teachers at distinguished universities who have written to support those with no voice. She would just listen and not say a word and keep their coffee cups filled! She remains an inspirational mentor. That’s the kind of mentor I would like to be, always learning from others.
I would love to hear about mentors for you.