When Pope John Paul II died, Suzanne Strempek Shea, who had not been an active member of a church community for some years, recognized in his mourners a faith-filled passion that she longed to recapture in her own life. Shea, never one to do things in a conventional manner or by halves, set out on a pilgrimage to visit a different church every Sunday for a year-a journey that would take her through the broad spectrum of contemporary protestant Christianity practiced in this country.
She began with a rousing Baptist Easter service in Harlem, traveled to Colorado's Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame for a sing-along service at the Cowboy Church, and flew to Houston for a multimedia experience at Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church, the largest church in the country. She sat with the Shakers, and-in silence-with the Quakers; she sang often, danced, and even drew on one memorable occasion. Shea approached each congregation with the curiosity of a newcomer and with respect for each unique expression of faith, whether the sanctuary was a multimillion-dollar extravaganza, a centuries-old edifice, an abandoned building, or even an airport chapel.
In her tour of more than thirty states, including Hawaii, Shea: * Knocked knees with President Jimmy Carter at his Plains, Georgia, Baptist church on Independence Day. * Joined the band at a San Francisco African Orthodox church that considers jazz legend John Coltrane a bona fide saint. * Got a wake-up call from Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham's preacher daughter, at a sprawling conservative church in South Carolina. * Followed the signs for a hot tub dealership that, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has become a new Presbyterian church in Mississippi. * Collected tips on The Purpose Driven Life from Rick Warren at his famed Saddleback Church complex. * Knocked on the door of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Portland, Oregon. * Shared a pew with Milwaukee Bucks star Michael Redd at the Columbus, Ohio, church he purchased for his dad. * Had her feet washed by a Seventh-Day Adventist at a church in Connecticut. * Attended a three-hour service featuring speaking in tongues, faith healing, and dancing in the aisle at a Foursquare Gospel church. * Toured Joseph Smith's birthplace in Vermont and worshipped with his Mormon followers.
Sundays in America is an essential guide for those seeking a new house for their worship as well as a colorful road trip for the armchair explorer, providing a vivid perspective on the practice and meaning of Christian faith as it is practiced throughout our land.