Ever since I ran across Sarah Bessey’s writing and especially when reading her first book Jesus Feminist, I have been struck by her desire to be inclusive and draw people together through her writing. Traditionally discussion of women’s roles is an exclusionary task, but Bessey, while clearly advocating for more inclusion of women in leadership and teaching roles in the church, was careful to not alienate those that disagreed with her.
In her new book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith, she is equally adept at drawing the reader in. Out of Sorts is a hard book to describe. It is memoir-ish. It is a book about church and Bessey’s difficulties with the church, but it is not a complaint book. It is about spiritual growth and formation, denominations, Women, maturity, community and a variety of other topics.
The overriding theme is that faith changes over time. The faith we have as children is not the same faith we have as teens, which is not the same faith we have in our 20s or 40s or later. Bessey’s parents came to faith when she was a child, but old enough to remember. She grew up in small town Western Canada, where there were few enough Christians that she was relatively unaware of the differences between Christian groups. As she ventured out into the world she came to new understandings as she became acquainted with other Christians.
Other than her pentecostal childhood, I think she is telling a story that is not too different from my own and many others that I know. Age and experience brought questions, but also a new ability to trust in faith. Most people I know have at least some difficulty with church abuse or burnout, and then most of those make their way back to church. Many people recently have been exploring more liturgical forms of Christianity.
Bessey, at least at this point, is a bit of a fish out of water everywhere. She is not quite comfortable in her historic pentecostal background. She is not quite comfortable with the more liturgical settings, the evangelical mega church, likewise has many positive features but also many negative ones.
There is very little judgement from Bessey. She wants people to land where they need to land. But she wants them to land in a faith community. If there is a single takeaway, it is that while they may be flawed, our faith communities are essential.
A electronic version of the book was provided by the publisher for purposes of review.