Review by Shelley Crook
Two faith leaders with deep vocations; one a learned layperson, one a clergyman at the pinnacle of the church hierarchy. Both were central to the story of LGBTQ acceptance within the Episcopal Church; both share a lifelong interest in meditation, prayer, and interfaith dialogue. The subjects of these books have much in common, and the books themselves have much to commend them.
“A Life” is an intimate and unflinching portrait of the beloved writer Phyllis Tickle, who died in 2015 at the age of 81. Jon M. Sweeney, Tickle’s official biographer, illuminates Tickle’s oftentimes painful personal story — including a faith-informing near-death experience, a difficult marriage with a secret at its heart, several miscarriages, and seven children — in a tone that is scholarly yet also unfailingly warm and compassionate. …
Tickle, excellent at pithy pronouncements, is useful for a segue: “The minute you own a piece of real estate, then you have to have somebody to clean it…then you have to get somebody to be sure that it’s insured, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a bishop,” she once said, always suspicious of church hierarchy. Surprisingly, Frank T. Griswold, the 25th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, would agree with her.
“How ironic it is that I, who have always sat somewhat loose to the church-as-institution, should have found myself its chief pastor and symbolic head,” Griswold writes in “Tracking Down the Holy Ghost: Reflections on Love and Longing.”