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Gary Dorsey


One of the most fascinating aspects for me as a journalist having recently published an account of my journey into the life of a mainline Protestant church has been gathering a harvest of Christian critics' judgments against the institutional mainline church. While Catholic reviewers have decried the lack of a fundamental religious conviction among the men and women at First Church in Windsor, Connecticut, those like James Bratt, whose strange suspicions and generational prejudices cloud their reading, often seem to find something startling and insincere about Baby Boomers, like myself, who return to a church and celebrate the substantial spiritual wellsprings of liberal Protestantism ["How Boomers Do Church," Nov./Dec. issue].

Well, hallelujah! I wish Mr. Bratt would join me celebrating the mysteries of God in the mainline! Unfortunately, the poor man seemed to be simply unable to stomach such a revelation. As a result, his article left your readers with gross distortions.

Most importantly: The senior minister, the Reverend Van Parker, who Bratt says should be relegated to "American literature's clerical hall of shame," is portrayed by him as "scion of wasp culture driving on after that culture has lost its lead … most distinguished in this account as a manipulator of a $1 million fund drive."

Shame on you, Mr. Bratt. In fact, Van Parker, who recently retired after nearly 30 years as the congregation's spiritual leader, is among the most unpretentious and humble of Holy Men, a cheerful and enthusiastic Christian whose vision of an all-inclusive, pluralistic Christian community reflects an ideal that has fallen out of favor in our fractured, Balkanized, and often irascible American religious cultures. Unlike Mr. Bratt's unkind and prejudicial depiction, Reverend Parker actually does appear often throughout my book leading worship services, preaching, praying for his community, writing letters to the editor, visiting sick parishioners, giving private prayers of ...

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