Big Books & Bold Ideas with Kerri Miller

How a pastor's faith survived 'Beautiful and Terrible Things'

side by side of a woman and a book
Amy Butler led some of America's most well-known churches — and she bears the scars. Her new book, "Beautiful and Terrible Things" is a thoughtful reflection on the value of community, the inevitability of conflict, and the transformative power of love.
Courtesy images

“Here is the world,” writes theologian Frederick Buechner. “Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Those words rooted Amy Butler through some of the darkest moments of her life. As Butler slowly embraced her call to be a pastor, she was rejected by her conservative evangelical family, who doesn’t believe women should be in pastoral roles.

She was the first woman ever appointed to lead the historic Riverside Church in New York City, but the challenges of breaking the “stained glass ceiling” almost caused her to lose her faith.

In her new memoir, “Beautiful and Terrible Things,” Butler takes us inside her life story. She covers joyful and painful moments, including the loss of a child, her unexpected divorce and the hardships of being a woman in ministry.

But ultimately, as she tells MPR News host Kerri Miller on this week’s Big Books and Bold Ideas, she found that vulnerability is worth it.

Butler writes in the introduction, “The invitation to become who we’re meant to be happens at the intersection of human pain and divine hope, and almost always in the context of relationship.”


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