I first heard of Nadia Bolz-Weber about two or three years ago when I was in a heavy place of re-evaluating and reclaiming my faith. Mostly, I was trying to figure out why the God of my teen and young adult years didn’t jive with the God I know today. My sources were changing drastically. Instead of endorsed material from the Southern Baptist Convention, I read books from other denominations that tackled subjects like baptism, hell, women in leadership, homosexuality, communion, and Jesus. (I am flummoxed at how differently denominations handle Jesus!) We also started recognizing the liturgical calendar. The more I read, the more convinced I became that God was much bigger than the box I put him in.
On my list of people to read was Nadia. I’d already read a handful of her blog posts and watched her in the Animate series. Based on her tattoos alone, I was intrigued. When the study group at my church chose Pastrix to read and discuss, I figured it was high time.
First, if you are offended by profanity, take heed. She does not back down from being her authentic self, f-words and all. It doesn’t offend me and I actually appreciate the transparency. Pastors are people, just like the rest of it.
Second, her church, House for All Sinners and Saints, is just that – a house for ALL. It is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and welcomes every soul through its doors. If the thought of worshiping God with a mixed bag of people makes you uncomfortable, you should definitely read this book.
Onto the book. Instead of being a dissection of the Christian tradition, Nadia uses this memoir as defining her pathway to reclaiming her own faith. She tells stories about her upbringing in the ultra-conservative Church of Christ, her alcohol addiction, her dabbling in other faiths, and ultimately her choice to answer the call to ministry. The term “Pastrix” is used by “some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors,” a topic I studied and settled a few years back.
The easiest way for me to sum up the book is to list the lessons I learned from it.
1. God is stellar at making something out of nothing. Be it the earth, our bodies, or our souls, He can take absolutely nothing and make it shine. In our total brokenness and despair, He’s right there in the muck working. Always.
2. The Bible tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31-39), so I’m choosing to believe that in its entirety. Nothing can separate us. Not our denominational differences, not our political disagreements, not our sexuality, not our nationality. Nothing. God’s love extends farther than we can see, above and beyond the rainbow and Confederate flags. That truth should comfort you.
3. Communion is a precious, personal, sacred act. No one should be denied it.
4. If we say we are “welcoming,” then our attitudes should reflect that, no matter who walks into our sanctuary – be it a transgendered teen whose parents have rejected him or Ann Coulter. God made them both, after all. Do we extend grace, or don’t we?
5. It’s not over until it’s over. If you are wading in the stagnant waters of your church, try swimming in another river. God is not finished with us until life on this earth is over. Always accept a faith challenge. Always ask questions. And if you want a tattoo, by damn go get one.