The remarkable public and private journey of the scholar, activist, and preacher whose death became a way to celebrate life
Through his pulpit at the prestigious Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York, Reverend Forrest Church became a champion of liberal religion and a leading opponent of the religious right. An inspired preacher, a thoughtful theologian and an eloquent public intellectual, Church built a congregation committed to social service for people in need, while writing twenty five books, hosting a cable television program, and being featured in People, Esquire, New York Magazine, and on numerous national television and radio appearances.
Being Alive and Having to Die works on two levels, as an examination of liberal religion during the past 30 years of conservative ascendancy, and as a fascinating personal story. Church grew up the son of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, famous for combating the Vietnam War in the 1960s and the CIA in the 1970s. Like many sons of powerful fathers, he rebelled and took a different path in life, which led him to his own prominence. Then, in 1991, at the height of his fame, he fell in love with a married parishioner and nearly lost his pulpit. Eventually, he regained his stature, overcame a long-secret alcoholism, wrote his best books–and found himself diagnosed with terminal cancer. His three year public journey toward death brought into focus the preciousness of life, not only for himself, but for his ministry.
Based on extraordinary access to Church and over 200 interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, Dan Cryer bears witness to a full, fascinating, at time controversial life. Being Alive and Having to Die is an honest look at an imperfect man and his lasting influence on modern faith.
Praise forBeing Alive and Having to Die:
One of the most intriguing people I have met as a journalist, Forrest Church was publicly popular but privately inscrutable. He thought long and hard about religion and politics, was at home in both spiritual and secular spheres, wrestled to live an ethical life yet proved as flawed as any of us, and struggled to cope with the shadow of a famous and once-powerful father. But I knew him only in passing, and longed to know more. Now, thanks to Dan Cryer's prodigious reporting, I understand more deeply the source of his eloquence and the agony of his search. Even if you never heard of Forrest Church, you will find this man's pilgrimage worth your time. --Bill Moyers
A biography as winning and smart as its subject.--Booklist
Dan Cryer's compelling biography of Forrest Church limns a quality liberal religion archetypically misses -- struggle. Cryer's beautifully wrought account of Church's remarkable rise as a major Unitarian-Universalist minister, and more importantly as a person, melds politics, family, and theology into a riveting account of Church's joys and tragedies. This is a moving, even transforming book about the central issue Church struggled to clarify -- the very human meaning of life.”--Jon Butler , Howard R. Lamar Professor of American Studies, History, and Religious Studies and Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Yale University (he is the author of several award-winning books of history from Oxford University Press and Harvard University Press)
This splendid biography is worthy of its sparkling, accomplished, and inspiring subject, capturing the life and bountiful spirit of Forrest Church in rich detail.--Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University