1. Sarah opens A Church of Her Own with two quotes—one from I Corinthians and the other from The Gospel of Mary. What do you make of the fact that there are parts of the biblical text that say women should be silent in church? What is your relationship with the Bible? How do you determine what is “true”?
2. Frederick Buechner defines vocation as the place where the world’s greatest need and a person’s greatest joy meet. How do you understand vocation? Do you have a vocation? Do you feel called to the work you do in the world?
3. What does the ordination process in your denomination or tradition reveal about what churches think it takes to be a minister? What kinds of ministers are churches, seminaries, and divinity schools shaping people to be? If you are a seminary or divinity school student, what kind of minister are you being encouraged to become?
4. What do women’s struggles to live out their vocations as ministers in A Church of Her Own reveal about women’s struggles in other professions?
5. Sarah dedicates an entire chapter to mentors. Are you a mentor? Do you have a mentor? What role do mentors play in your life?
6. Sarah writes about the “good girl myth” throughout A Church of Her Own. What is the “good girl myth”? How does it function in your life?
7. How does your faith tradition understand the human body? How does your theology reflect or challenge this understanding?
8. Sarah writes that often what passes as Christian morality is really fear of human sexuality. What is the relationship between religion and human sexuality in your experience, tradition, or church community?
9. Many of the women interviewed in A Church of Her Own said that the easiest way to get rid of an annoying person hitting on you in a bar is to say that you are a minister. If you are a minister, how do you date? What does it mean to be a single woman in ministry? How can you bring your whole self to your vocation? How can you keep some sense of privacy? Why is sex such a tricky issue in the church? Do you feel like congregations don’t want their ministers to be human?
10. One of the challenges faced by recent divinity school and seminary graduates—and the communities they serve—is the disjunction between the theology they learn in school and the theology being preached in and professed by churches. If you are a seminary or divinity school graduate, do you experience a difference between what you learned in school and what is happening in your church? If you are a member of a faith community, do you experience a difference between what you believe and what your faith community professes?
11. Most of the women interviewed in A Church of Her Own were not prepared for the sexism they encountered as ministers. Did your divinity school or seminary prepare you? If so, how? If not, what could your school have done differently? Many of the women Sarah interviewed said they felt alone and ashamed when they experienced sexism. What or who will support you when you are a minister?
12. Sarah writes about the need to re-imagine theological language. What images of God are reflected in your church community’s liturgy and prayers? What words and images do you use to describe God?
13. Sarah writes, “Language about God can change the way the world works.” What do you think?
14. The women interviewed in A Church of Her Own endured relentless comments about their clothing. Why do you think clothing is such a big deal for these women and their congregations? How do you negotiate clothing in your career?
15. Many faith communities insist that they are welcoming to all people. Is your community welcoming to all people? How do you communicate that everyone is welcome? Who might not feel welcome in your church? Why?
16. Is your faith community supportive of women who are ministers? How do you support the ministers working in your congregation?
17. Many of the ministers in A Church of Her Own tried to change their churches from within—often at great personal cost. Have you tried to change your church from within, and if so, what has it cost you? How do you decide whether to stay or to go? Is change best made from within an institution or from without? How does your experience in your religious community affect your faith?
18. What was the most surprising part of A Church of Her Own? What was the most hopeful part?
19. Sarah concludes A Church of Her Own with image of Death Valley blooming. What image would you choose as an ending? Why?