Book Review: Any Day a Beautiful Change
Posted July 28, 2013on:
Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family by Katherine Willis Pershey. Chalice Press, 2012, 118 pp.
I don’t know Katherine Willis Pershey in real life, but we are both active in the UCC 2030 Clergy Network. We are friends on Facebook and interact that way, and we corresponded last year when St. Luke’s used a children’s Christmas pageant she authored. I felt like I knew her already before I began reading her book. By the end of the introduction, I felt like she knew me too. By the end of the book, I felt like we were BFFs.
Pershey’s book tells the story of her life and mine, which are shaped by the intersection of motherhood, marriage and ministry. The one of those identities that takes priority depends on the day. The topics she covers are the same ones I talk about with my closest friends over lunch, and Pershey’s personal sharing is equally intimate. The difference is that she writes her story–which I want to claim as our story, though the particulars are her own–with such depth, insight and beauty.
Each chapter is an essay that can stand on its own. One is about getting married, others are about getting pregnant, nursing, family conflict and the stress between work and family life. Each one has its own beauty and its own theological insights, and the craft of her prose is just tight. For example, she talks about being pregnant and preaching during the season of Advent, when the whole church anticipates the birth of Mary’s child and her own.
Incarnation. God becomes flesh. God becomes a baby. The very fundamentals of my religious tradition, the stuff I’d grown up with and studied and (for heaven’s sake!) preached was suddenly extraordinarily real to me. The longing I had for my theoretical fetus to be transformed into a tangible baby was the same as my desire for my theoretical divinity to become the incarnate Christ. (16)
In a later chapter, she reflects on nursing and communion:
Long after I first wrestled with those doctrines in classrooms and chapels, I’ve finally learned that there’s no way for bread to be broken and wine to be spilled without somebody’s body and blood taking a hit. It isn’t that the pain is redemptive. The pain is redeemed. Take and eat, my daughter. This deluge of milk is called forth by you, and given for you. (29)
Together, the chapters create an intimate picture of a life lived at this intersection of ministry, marriage and motherhood, which is simultaneously broken, beautiful, agonizing, breathtaking, and redeemed. I almost hesitate to recommend it to members of my church or family, lest they come to know my life too intimately. This book is vulnerable and brave.
Many friends have been raving about how good her book is. They were right, and now it’s my turn to say the same thing. If you are a young clergy woman, especially if you are a mother, why have you not read this book yet? You must. Order it today. Read it–to support a colleague who is telling so much truth and doing such good theology about our lives and our ministries.
If you are know or love someone living at the intersection of ministry, motherhood and marriage–this is a good book to read to learn about their lives. Most importantly, though, this is just good theology, beautifully written, and anyone who reads it will be blessed to encounter the Holy in the author’s life and likely in their own, whether you yourself are minister, mother, married, or none of the above.