Phyllis Tickle

Phyllis Tickle. Image via Karen Pulfer Focht/RNS.

They preached and inspired. They wrote and taught. Some lobbied in the halls of government. Others toiled to protect the environment and educate the young. Several died at the hands of persecutors. Here is a list of notable faith leaders — and one champion of secularism — who left us in 2015.

Photo via Karen Pulfer Focht / RNS

Phyllis Tickle looks out the window in her home in Lucy, Tenn., just outside Memphis. Photo via Karen Pulfer Focht / RNS

Her once boundless energy starts to fail by midday. She started radiation treatment on May 21, mainly in an effort to forestall the possible collapse of her spine, which would leave her helpless and in intractable pain.

“That sounds a little formidable to me,” she says.

“I was never much for suffering.”

She goes on, her words carefully chosen. “Am I grateful for this? Not exactly. But I’m not unhappy about it. And that’s very difficult for people to understand.”

Nadia Bulkin. Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Nadia Bulkin. Photo via Sait Serkan Gurbuz / RNS

Nadia Bulkin, 27, the daughter of a Muslim father and a Christian mother, spends “zero time” thinking about God.

And she finds that among her friends — both guys and gals — many are just as spiritually disconnected.

Surveys have long shown women lead more active lives of faith than men, and that millennials are less interested than earlier generations. One in three now claim no religious identity.

What may be new is that more women, generation by generation, are moving in the direction of men — away from faith, religious commitment, even away from vaguely spiritual views like “a deep sense of wonder about the universe,” according to some surveys.

Michaela Bruzzese, 46, is a Mass-every-week Catholic, just like her mother, but she sees few of her Gen X peers in the pews.

Mallory McDuff 09-30-2013
Paparazzi, Ronald Sumners / Shutterstock.com

Paparazzi, Ronald Sumners / Shutterstock.com

Some people follow pop-star celebrities. I follow spiritual writers.

Rather than tracking news about Lady Gaga or Beyonce, I’m a fangirl of writers like Anne Lamott, Nora Gallagher, Kathleen Norris, and Barbara Brown Taylor.  

The obsession is borderline embarrassing. Just last month, I announced at a party that writer Nora Gallagher, author of Moonlight Sonata at the Mayo Clinic, friended me on Facebook. (In truth, I was bragging about an imaginary friend.)

After Nora accepted my friend request, I was bold enough to send her the link to an op-ed I had written about making my teenager go to church. Within 48 hours, Nora wrote back that she liked the title of my piece. So I was convinced she would like me too.

My love of spiritual memoirs has reached the point that my book club, The Literary Ladies, issues a collective groan when it’s my turn to suggest book titles. Many believe that memoirs about faith are slightly self-indulgent. In contrast, I view such writing as the deepest expression of sacred meaning in the chaos of our daily lives.

Christian Piatt 08-19-2013
Photo by Nate Baker-Lutz, used by permission of InterVarsity Press

Photo via Wild Goose Festival Facebook page, Photo by Nate Baker-Lutz, used by permission of InterVarsity Press

I just got back a few days ago from a campsite outside of Asheville, N.C., the site of the third annual Wild Goose Festival. For those who are unfamiliar with the event, imagine and old-fashioned days-long outdoor revival, combined with Bonaroo and a traveling circus. For several days, authors, activists, artisans, musicians, and seekers converge to engage in spontaneous community, share ideas and to inspire one another.

It's not every day that you can walk by a makeshift tent and listen to Phyllis Tickle succinctly summarize the history of Christendom in 45 minutes, and then wander over and pick up a vegetarian pita sandwich while on your way to hear the Indigo Girls perform. Impassioned conversations emerge all on your walk about everything from child trafficking to the state of the institutional church in the 21st century. And you're only momentarily distracted by the guy on stilts, wearing a hat covered in goose feathers who wanders by for no apparent reason.

Welcome to Wild Goose.

the Web Editors 04-01-2012
Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis

Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis

GOTCHA!!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAH!

This was, of course, an April Fool's Day joke...

Sojourners CEO Jim Wallis stunned critics and supporters alike Sunday as he emerged from a three-month sabbatical from the progressive Christian social justice organization and announced he had joined the tea party.

Brian McLaren 07-12-2010
Here are some of my favorite women writers of spirituality and theology in no particular order with short comments on why I recommend them.
Becky Garrison 12-19-2008
Here are some books I read this past year that gave me considerable food for thought:
Phyllis Tickle 09-14-2008

Image via /Shutterstock

But the house and the occupant do share one commonality: they both will someday cease to be. Both will pass away. The occupant, who was not the house, will die; and the house, who was not the occupant, will burn down or molder down or be torn down or undergo some other such ending. All will be gone. All the pieces and parts of our lovely story gone into dust and ashes. All of them gone as pieces, anyway.

What is and always will be is what neither the house nor the occupant, as separate entities, ever was. What is and is ever to be is home — the joy-giving, rest-filled, and light-bearing presence within experience of the reality of "home." What is, is the translation of passing tangibles into the eternal. What is, is the fusing of occupant and house into one that is neither, but both together. What is, is a story about an occupant and a house that, in truth, is really a story resurrection bodies and the kingdom of God, as in "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven." 

Becky Garrison 07-03-2008

Soccer moms, NASCAR dads, and now holy hipsters have been touted by political pundits and the mainstream media as the group du jour that political candidates must court in order to win the coveted presidential prize. Using select books and blogs, they conclude that these missional millennials have abandoned the political party of their parents and will be casting their ballots for Obama [...]

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