July Bookshelf: Journey of the Spirit
50 Sundays and 50 Churches
Raised a Catholic, Suzanne Strempek Shea was taught that Protestants were doomed and that “if we kids ever so much as set foot inside one of their churches, so were we.”
Who could have imagined back then that, as an adult, she would spend a whole year traveling from one non-Catholic church to another — Quaker, Shaker, Evangelical, Baptist and Latter Day Saint among them? In her new book, “Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith” [Beacon Press, $24.95], Shea explains that after turning away from Catholicism in mid-life, she was moved by the death of Pope John Paul II to visit the churches forbidden in childhood.
Along the way she visited conservative Trinity Evangelical Church in Peterborough because she wanted to “ visit a church in what has just been designated one of the 10 most liberal states.” Not sure where she got that information, but nonetheless the description of her experience there is filled with rich detail and occasional comment, like this one about words of praise in the hymns: “If I were God, I think I just might be embarrassed by the somewhat pandering lyrics.”
Her pilgrimage included Jimmy Carter’s church in Plains, Barack Obama’s church in Chicago (Rev. Wright wasn’t there, nor was Obama) and others — exotic and not — from the Hopi Nation to Appalachia, from Maui to the West Point Academy. It’s an illuminating read, well worth your time.