The Secret Lives of Church Ladies
“For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed.” – Luke 8:17a (NRSV)
Deesha Philyaw’s phenomenal collection of short stories, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, is a page turner – and not just for clergy with a prurient interest in church dysfunction. The title says it all. Even when they have walked away from congregations, the main characters of each story, all Black women, are haunted by the churches that shaped them.
The best scenes of the stories do not take place in church buildings, but in the bedrooms and steamy cars of lovers wondering what their Christian relatives are thinking about what they are doing. In one story, two women – best friends – meet for an annual New Year’s Eve tradition of making love. One is out but the other is a “proper single church lady” who can only bring herself to let loose once a year and under the influence of alcohol. The rest of the time, she accepts inane dating advice from a clueless pastor who tells her that she must make room for that mythical missing man by having a less full life.
As I read, I nodded and debated at the same time. I wanted the author to present a picture of a church where people are not condemned for their sexuality, but I also had to nod at the truth that the church universal is not there yet. We still have our secrets.
Where no matter what, no matter who, no matter where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here. Let it be so at my church. Amen.
Lillian Daniel is Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa. She is the author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To and When “Spiritual but not Religious” is Not Enough.