On a February day in 2008, Forrest Church sent a letter to the members of his congregation, informing them that he had terminal cancer; his life would now be measured in months, not years. In that remarkable letter, he wrote: "In more than one respect, I feel very lucky." He went on to promise that he would sum up his thoughts on the topics that had been so pervasive in his work-love and death-in a final book.
Church has been justly celebrated as a writer of American history, but his works of spiritual guidance have been especially valued for their insight and inspiration. As a minister, Church defined religion as "our human response to the dual reality of being alive and having to die." The goal of life, he tells us "is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for." This last book in his impressive oeuvre is imbued with ideas and exemplars for achieving that goal. The stories he offers-drawn from his own experiences and from the lives of his friends, family, and parishioners-are both engrossing and enlightening. Forrest Church's final work may be his most lasting gift to his readers.
I read Love and Death as soon as it came out. The greatest gift I could give every one of you is to just tell you to go read this book.—President Bill Clinton
"Truly a gift, one that will echo in my own preaching and teaching, and in my own life as well. Like Moses gazing at the Promised Land he would not enter, Forrest Church blesses us with his eloquence, his faith, and, mostly, his love." —Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People
"Love & Death is transformative. I was not prepared for the power of this splendid, soaring book. It totally captured me."—Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Creating a Life
"In the midst of an extremity for which there is no euphemism-the prospect of his own imminent death-Forrest Church has written a book that defies the usual adjectives. It is poignant, moving, candid, and eloquent; but it is also so much more. Love & Death, a meditation on the end of life, is really a book about life-a book that shows us how to love ourselves and others, how to know God, how to live. I read it with inexpressible gratitude."—James Atlas, author of My Life in the Middle Ages
"Forrest Church is one of our great prophetic intellectuals and compassionate voices. His poignant and wise words on the two ultimate realities of our journey-love and death-reveal his grand courage and vision." —Cornel West, author of Race Matters
"Forrest Church, a deeply spiritual but always practical visionary, is a minister to us all with this moving and instructive book on the lessons of life and death. A lovely, important book."—Tom Brokaw
"This beautiful book by a matchless preacher, poet, and author is Forrest Church in his finest hour." —Senator George McGovern
"Here is one of the great confessional narratives about dying that provides profound insights into meaningful living. Forrest Church evokes the full gamut of emotions as he probes the meaning of living, dying, and loving. Nothing in this book is theoretical or inconsequential. At its center is truth that will live forever."—C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance
"Forrest Church in Love & Death, a deeply moving testament, utilizes his commitment of love to transform our fear of death into a fuller appreciation of life."—Derrick Bell, author of Faces at the Bottom of the Well
"Every Christmas Eve, for a quarter of a century, I, a confirmed skeptic 364 other days of the year, have been inspired by Forrest Church's words at All Souls. Now, on reading this magisterial meditation on his-and our-mortality, I understand at last the marvelous anomaly he has brought to my life."—James Lipton, host of "Inside the Actors Studio"
"Forrest Church has given us many gifts of illumination over the years, often using his own life experiences to disclose insights into the nature of faith and hope, but now in Love and Death he has given us the ultimate gift: a treatise on life's meaning revealed in the face of his own impending death. The book is consummate with the man: witty, eloquent, gracious, with not a touch of the maudlin. Once again, Forrest teaches us how most passionately to live." —Reverend William F. Schulz, President of the UUA 1985–1993