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Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest Church

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One of the year's Top Ten Books on Religion and Spirituality (Booklist), Being Alive and Having to Die is the story of the remarkable public and private journey of Reverend Forrest Church, the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life.   Through his pulpit at the prestigious Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Reverend Forrest Church One of the year's Top Ten Books on Religion and Spirituality (Booklist), Being Alive and Having to Die is the story of the remarkable public and private journey of Reverend Forrest Church, the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life.   Through his pulpit at the prestigious Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Reverend Forrest Church became a champion of liberal religion and a leading opponent of the religious right. An inspired preacher, a thoughtful theologian and an eloquent public intellectual, Church built a congregation committed to social service for people in need, while writing twenty five books, hosting a cable television program, and being featured in People, Esquire, New York Magazine, and on numerous national television and radio appearances.    Being Alive and Having to Die works on two levels, as an examination of liberal religion during the past 30 years of conservative ascendancy, and as a fascinating personal story. Church grew up the son of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, famous for combating the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the CIA in the 1970s.  Like many sons of powerful fathers, he rebelled and took a different path in life, which led him to his own prominence. Then, in 1991, at the height of his fame, he fell in love with a married parishioner and nearly lost his pulpit. Eventually, he regained his stature, overcame a long-secret alcoholism, wrote his best books–and found himself  diagnosed with terminal cancer. His three year public journey toward death brought into focus the preciousness of life, not only for himself, but for his ministry. Based on extraordinary access to Church and over 200 interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, Dan Cryer bears witness to a full, fascinating, at time controversial life. Being Alive and Having to Die is an honest look at an imperfect man and his lasting influence on modern faith.


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One of the year's Top Ten Books on Religion and Spirituality (Booklist), Being Alive and Having to Die is the story of the remarkable public and private journey of Reverend Forrest Church, the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life.   Through his pulpit at the prestigious Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Reverend Forrest Church One of the year's Top Ten Books on Religion and Spirituality (Booklist), Being Alive and Having to Die is the story of the remarkable public and private journey of Reverend Forrest Church, the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life.   Through his pulpit at the prestigious Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Reverend Forrest Church became a champion of liberal religion and a leading opponent of the religious right. An inspired preacher, a thoughtful theologian and an eloquent public intellectual, Church built a congregation committed to social service for people in need, while writing twenty five books, hosting a cable television program, and being featured in People, Esquire, New York Magazine, and on numerous national television and radio appearances.    Being Alive and Having to Die works on two levels, as an examination of liberal religion during the past 30 years of conservative ascendancy, and as a fascinating personal story. Church grew up the son of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, famous for combating the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the CIA in the 1970s.  Like many sons of powerful fathers, he rebelled and took a different path in life, which led him to his own prominence. Then, in 1991, at the height of his fame, he fell in love with a married parishioner and nearly lost his pulpit. Eventually, he regained his stature, overcame a long-secret alcoholism, wrote his best books–and found himself  diagnosed with terminal cancer. His three year public journey toward death brought into focus the preciousness of life, not only for himself, but for his ministry. Based on extraordinary access to Church and over 200 interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, Dan Cryer bears witness to a full, fascinating, at time controversial life. Being Alive and Having to Die is an honest look at an imperfect man and his lasting influence on modern faith.

47 review for Being Alive and Having to Die: The Spiritual Odyssey of Forrest Church

  1. 4 out of 5

    Peter Goodman

    “Being Alive and Having to Die: the spiritual odyssey of Forrest Church,” by Dan Cryer (St. Martin’s, 2011). Dan got his book, and it is powerful. Church was the son of Sen. Frank Church, and got out from under the big man’s shadow by gradually becoming a minister, theologian, and intellectual battler for the liberal church, as pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church of New York. Detailed, loving account of Church’s life, and his strivings to understand and explain how humans can build a spiritual “Being Alive and Having to Die: the spiritual odyssey of Forrest Church,” by Dan Cryer (St. Martin’s, 2011). Dan got his book, and it is powerful. Church was the son of Sen. Frank Church, and got out from under the big man’s shadow by gradually becoming a minister, theologian, and intellectual battler for the liberal church, as pastor of All Souls Unitarian Church of New York. Detailed, loving account of Church’s life, and his strivings to understand and explain how humans can build a spiritual life, sometimes involving God. He starts from the axiom that we are alive and have to die. Over the years Church builds All Souls into a powerhouse of the religious left religious (which Dan acknowledges is a very small part of American life.). Church fought vigorously against the likes of Jerry Falwell and the other powers of the Religious Right. He wrote constantly, self-help, aspirational, explanations of the paradoxes of life and how to deal with them. He, being human, had flaws. He was an alcoholic for much of his life. And he fell in love with someone else’s wife. They began an affair and he asked his wife for a divorce. Very messy, the tabloids had great fun with it, but it was distressing to all involved. Interesting to see how earnestly he tried to deal intellectually with a tremendous emotional upheaval. Interesting: No photo of his first wife, Amy, in the book. There is a shot of him with his second, Carolyn Buck Luce. At the last, he fought and lost a three-year battle with esophageal cancer—a battle he carried on almost entirely in public. One book, which I must read, describes the history of the Founding Fathers and their demand to create a separation between church and state. It’s the sort of book that’s hard for me to describe. Philosophy ties my tongue. I did write Dan a defensive note about how there is not a spiritual bone in my body. http://www.dancryer.org/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Because of a mutual friend, we went to Church's ordination in the early 70s at a Unitarian-Universalist Church in Boston. I remember finding the service lacking in what I needed and wanted in worship but because of that event I have somewhat followed Church's career. Dan Cryer was a member of All Souls in NYC where Church was a pastor for 30 years. He was able to spend much time with Church in the last few years of his life and had access to almost all the important people in his life--family an Because of a mutual friend, we went to Church's ordination in the early 70s at a Unitarian-Universalist Church in Boston. I remember finding the service lacking in what I needed and wanted in worship but because of that event I have somewhat followed Church's career. Dan Cryer was a member of All Souls in NYC where Church was a pastor for 30 years. He was able to spend much time with Church in the last few years of his life and had access to almost all the important people in his life--family and colleagues. It is a book full of admiration for Church but it is not hagiography. Apparently UU churches depend on the individual leadership of each congregation to set a tone. Church had a recognition of sin and an admiration for the transcendent and the spiritual. He followed the words of Jesus in the gospels. He died at age 61 of esophageal cancer--after years of smoking and drinking. He managed to keep his position as a pastor after his affair with a parishioner whom he subsequently married. His energy amazed me with the number of books he wrote and edited, the sermons he delivered, the amount of good he left in NYC, and the pastoral care he gave many in his congregation. I spent a restless night last night after finishing the book too late--as if I were mourning him as well. He was larger than life in many ways, a flawed man, but one who left a legacy of how to face death without regrets.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Forrest Church is probably the most famous Unitarian Universalist Minister of the 20th Century--which is, of course, not saying much. However, this spiritual biography of the man is a wonderful reading experience. What was most interesting to me is how life happened to him--he had no intention of going into the ministry. He entered theological school to avoid the draft. He decided to get a PhD in religion and to teach, but wound up accidentally getting a parish ministry. He was definitely "called Forrest Church is probably the most famous Unitarian Universalist Minister of the 20th Century--which is, of course, not saying much. However, this spiritual biography of the man is a wonderful reading experience. What was most interesting to me is how life happened to him--he had no intention of going into the ministry. He entered theological school to avoid the draft. He decided to get a PhD in religion and to teach, but wound up accidentally getting a parish ministry. He was definitely "called" since this was the perfect position for him. He touched thousands of people with his sermons and books. A very flawed person--an adulterer, an alcoholic--he dealt with his demons and was very human. Good book

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    This is definitely the best biography I have ever read. The amount of research is amazing. The writing is complex, subtle and yet accessible. Rare in a book, it has changed me. I feel that from here on out, I won't rush to judgement as quickly as I may have in the past. The even-handed treatment of the subject, Forrest Church, is what's responsible for what I feel is the change in me. That turned out to be so important that the all the knowledge I gained seems secondary. And that knowledge is ex This is definitely the best biography I have ever read. The amount of research is amazing. The writing is complex, subtle and yet accessible. Rare in a book, it has changed me. I feel that from here on out, I won't rush to judgement as quickly as I may have in the past. The even-handed treatment of the subject, Forrest Church, is what's responsible for what I feel is the change in me. That turned out to be so important that the all the knowledge I gained seems secondary. And that knowledge is extensive. It's not just about Forrest Church but also about the UU movement, life in a city and so much more...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Pearson

    Wonderful biography of a powerful man and his journey through life. Being of a similar age the history was all so familar and delightful to revisit. Forrest is presented flaws and all and his religion is explored in a very accessible way. A must read for anyone already familar with Forrest and a should read for anyone with any interest in the making of a (in keeping with the spirit of the title) a hero.

  6. 5 out of 5

    George A.

    It was the writing of Forrest Church that helped me understand Unitarian Universalism. Learning about his life framed those writings. I enjoyed this book very much. I better understand "Want what you have." It was the writing of Forrest Church that helped me understand Unitarian Universalism. Learning about his life framed those writings. I enjoyed this book very much. I better understand "Want what you have."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Lowry

    Dan's book gave a powerful and insightful history to the life and legacy of Forrest Church. Dan's prospective and comprehensive story was well researched and provide windows to the the life of this theologian of Amerian liberal religion. Dan's book gave a powerful and insightful history to the life and legacy of Forrest Church. Dan's prospective and comprehensive story was well researched and provide windows to the the life of this theologian of Amerian liberal religion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tarrant Figlio

    Very dry biography, interesting but not amazing

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Interesting approach to religious questions, and an introduction to Unitarian Universalism. Also a record of an intelligent man approaching his own death.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Grace

  11. 5 out of 5

    Frank Richeson

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ginbquik

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lee

  14. 4 out of 5

    erin

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eva Thompson

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt Fuller

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

  20. 5 out of 5

    Farfoff

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob Porter

  22. 4 out of 5

    ROBERT SANBORN

  23. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Looking forward to this biography of Forrest Church.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maryann McKenna

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Middleton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary Cunningham

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Fredrickson

  31. 4 out of 5

    Ms. S...........

  32. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Jeter

  33. 5 out of 5

    Rory

  34. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  35. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

  36. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  37. 4 out of 5

    Helen

  38. 5 out of 5

    Heather Richard

  39. 5 out of 5

    Ohioana Quarterly

  40. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany

  41. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Pecoraro

  42. 5 out of 5

    Lnoel06

  43. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

  44. 5 out of 5

    Joanna Crawford

  45. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  46. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  47. 4 out of 5

    Michael Carnell

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