A Thousand Resurrections

Twenty five years ago, when she was just twenty two, Maria Garriott and her husband moved to the inner city. Settling in a poverty-stricken area of Baltimore, the Garriotts set about beginning a church that would reach out to the multiracial neighborhoods around them. A Thousand Resurrections tells this story. The book’s subtitle, “An Urban Spiritual Journey,” is instructive. While it would be easy to see this book as the story of the building of a church, I think it is more accurate to see this as a book describing the spiritual journey of the author. Of course she does tell the story of the church and also tells the story of her husband and children, but the core of the book seems to be the author’s journey. And it is a fascinating journey.

This is an honest and heartfelt book. Maria deals frankly and transparently with the many mistakes they made. She deals honestly with the heartbreak they experienced time and again when people who seemed to embrace the faith walked away or took their own lives. She describes living in an area of the city that was, in so many ways, inhospitable. She deals with raising her children in a neighborhood where the family always seemed to be at risk. And throughout, she shares stories of the grace and the faith that sustained them.

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There was one aspect of the book that I found a little bit disappointing. The Presbyterian Church of America is not a denomination known for reaching into the inner city, and certainly not a denomination that has seemed to embrace the type of “incarnational” mission work begun by the Garriotts. In my experience, though limited, it seems that PCA churches tend to be predominantly white and middle class. Because of this I was interested to learn what Presbyterianism might look like in an urban context. What I found was that there didn’t seem to be anything obviously and distinctly Presbyterian about this story, or at least the part of the story that was recounted in this book. I know that Maria’s husband Craig is working on a more scholarly book on the same subject, so perhaps his efforts will address this in greater detail. But A Thousand Resurrections did not offer much about Presbyterianism and how things may have been different had the Garriotts been part of a different Christian tradition.

A Thousand Resurrections details a fascinating journey. Or more accurately, several journeys. While the author’s journey is central to the book, travelling alongside it are the interwoven stories of her husband, church and family. This is a book that is well worth reading and one that will no doubt prove interesting and edifying.

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