Monday, March 3, 2014

Incognito by Andrea Raynor

Raynor attended Harvard Divinity School in the 1980s. It was an era of a lively gay and lesbian caucus, marches on Washington, and fellow classmates going through sex changes. In this memoir she shares her challenges, surprises, and life-changing experiences that led her to understanding God's call on her life. She writes about having Henri Nouwen for Thanksgiving dinner and her experiences serving in the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter, for example.

Raynor says of her time at HDS, “I was not only there to study God, I was there to experience God and to apply this living communion in my life and in the world around me.” (122) She shares the moments that subtly shaped her, nudged her or altered her course in some way. “And if we are able to accept the all of it, with gratitude,” she writes, “then we will be able to accept ourselves, and we will more keenly feel the love of God, which has no before or after, but has always been.” (240)

I have mixed feelings about the book. It is interesting to read about her experiences at Harvard Divinity School and in the city of Boston. As an evangelical Christian, I was frustrated with her speaking about God as He/She. She has a relationship with the Divine but there is nothing in her book about salvation or belief in Jesus' death and resurrection. She says of a spiritual experience, “I can't quite explain it – call it the Holy Spirit, Something Greater, the Goddess, the Calling – but something came over me...” (224) Reading that tells me her understanding of God is vastly different from mine. Perhaps one could say she is spiritually open within the Christian tradition (as she described her parents).

Being ordained within the United Methodist Church has allowed Raynor to minister to others in meaningful ways. She has a compassion for others that is amazing. She helps and comforts those many “born again” Christians would happily pass by. Hers is an inspiring story of one who is spiritual, has found her spiritual calling, and is living it out helping others.

Find out more about the book and watch a video at the publisher's author page.

Andrea Raynor received her Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School and served as a chaplain at Ground Zero after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. A cancer survivor herself, she now continues helping others through her hospice work. She lives in Rye, New York.

Howard Books (a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc), 320 pages.

I received a complimentary galley of this book from Howard Books for the purpose of this independent and honest review.

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