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The frank and funny story of a church-geek girl who spent twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches as a Lutheran pastor, preaching weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.
After a series of childhood misfortunes—her father’s death, her mother’s ill-advised love affair, her disabled sister wrecking the family GTO—self-avowed church-geek Jo Page decided it was her job to figure out how to stay on God’s good side and maybe spare the family any more tragedy. But she was a girl. And a Lutheran. That ruled out the Roman Catholic sisterhood as so quasi-erotically portrayed by Audrey Hepburn in Page’s favorite movie,The Nun’s Story. Though women were ordained in the larger branch of the Lutheran church, when Page’s own pastor handed her a brochure enumerating all the ways in which she, as a female, was to be silent and submissive, she gave up on the church and went off in search of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll like any rejected adolescent Lutheran girl would.
Eventually Page found her way back into the church and ultimately into ordained ministry, spending twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches, presiding over life’s rituals and preaching compulsory weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.
Comical, provocative, and heartbreaking, Preaching in My Yes Dress tells several stories: of a child’s need to cleave to the very God who instills mortal terror; of the shape-shifting that a public “pastoral identity” entails; of the power of ritual and the weight involved in presiding over it; and of the rise of the religious right and the patriarchy endemic to both scripture and faith traditions. Page also raises the question of whether or not faith can heal the wounds the life of faith has itself inflicted.
“Preaching in My Yes Dress lives up to its wonderful title. Jo Page’s memoir is a thoughtful, wide-ranging, and unusually frank chronicle of her spiritual journey. Anyone interested in Christianity, the daily realities of pastoral work, or the challenges of living an ethical life will find this book illuminating and inspiring.” — Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers
“In Preaching in My Yes Dress Jo Page tells the remarkable story of her journey in and outside the church over nearly fifty years. The result is all the things you hope a good memoir will be: profound, witty, deeply serious, wonderfully original, and utterly absorbing. Page is a remarkably intimate writer and this book offers the best kind of companionship.” — Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy: A Novel
Jo Page is a writer, Lutheran pastor and yoga teacher. She lives in upstate New York, and is a columnist for the Albany Times Union.