Sunday January 10, 2016

The tattooed pastor who finds God in all the wrong people

Nadia Bolz-Weber inside St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver, Colorado

Nadia Bolz-Weber inside St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Denver, Colorado (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Craig F. Walker)

Listen 48:09

Here's Nadia Bolz-Weber in a nutshell: When a young person in the seminary asked her, 'What do YOU do to get closer to God?', Pastor Nadia blurted out:  "What? Nothing! Sounds like a horrible idea to me! Half the time, I wish God would leave me alone."

It's the kind of remark Bolz-Weber has become known for - really honest and, for more traditional believers, vaguely scandalous.  Pastor Nadia is smart and skeptical - not someone you'd expect to offer a critique of the Enlightenment. But she does:



A few years ago, Bolz-Weber founded the kind of church she wanted to attend. It's called House for All Sinners and Saints, in Denver, Colorado. She confesses to being an unlikely religious leader (a cranky person who finds needy people annoying), but Bolz-Weber has nonetheless become an important figure in 21st-century Christianity.

Pastor Nadia recently returned to the Tapestry studio.  In this wide-ranging conversation, she speaks with Mary about daily life in her unorthodox ministry and finding God in all the wrong people.

For more on her incredible journey from addict to pastor, listen to our previous conversation with her, on an episode called  The Irascible Pastor, which was awarded a Gold Radio Winner prize by the New York Festivals


Accidental Saints book cover

Win a copy of Pastor Nadia's latest book - CONTEST CLOSED

Congratulations to Jill Mulcahy who won a copy of Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Your book is in the mail.

Check out the CBC's contest rules here.


Excerpt from "Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People" by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Chapter 16 - Charcoal Fires and Jail Cells

I never should have checked my e-mail while I was on vacation. Especially a vacation in Fake Mexico. (What we call "Fake Mexico" is geographically located in the country of Mexico but is in fact just a really nice resort named Grand Mayan Riviera Maya.) 

It was the second time my husband, Matthew, and I had gone to Fake Mexico with our friends Jay and Annie, who, like us, are also what you call Lutheran pastors. So the week after Easter 2013, the four of us checked into a resort with a single plan: Read beach books while lying in palapas by the pool. Eat good food. Hang out. Repeat.

I'm constitutionally incapable of sleeping in, even on vacation in Fake Mexico, so on day three I stopped trying and just made my early morning coffee, paid the 120 pesos for a day of wireless access, sat down on the lime green sofa, and opened Facebook. I had a message from a young pastor who had been on the Holy Land tour group with me that just said, "I want to make sure you've heard about what happened to Bruce."

Perhaps one of the least helpful messages in all of message history. What the hell happened to Bruce, the bishop I had pastored while his wife was dying, the man who had led our trip to the Holy Land only five months ago? Was he dead? Injured?

I went to Bruce's Facebook page and all I saw was one post from a friend saying, "We heard about the accident and we are praying for you."

Shit. Bruce was hurt and I was in Mexico. My phone couldn't get a signal. Finally I found Nick online. Nick used to work in the same church as Bruce and the two were close friends.

In a brief exchange on instant message, I learned that, two nights earlier, Bruce got behind the wheel of his car with what tests would later show to be a higher than legal blood-alcohol level, lost control, and hit and killed a fifty-two-year-old mother of three. And by the time I found out, from my luxurious room in a resort in Mexico, Bruce was sitting alone in jail; it was an image I could not get out of my mind. He was in jail. And he'd killed someone.

I usually know better than to preach the day after I return from vacation, knowing that I will inevitably be thinking about the sermon for days before I am supposed to, but in this case I forgot. I started working on my sermon on the plane ride home.

Excerpted from "Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People" by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Copyright © 2015 by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Published by Convergent Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. All rights reserved.