Vintage Saints and Sinners: 25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith, By Karen Wright Marsh

Vintage Saints and Sinners

25 Christians Who Transformed My Faith

by Karen Wright Marsh
Foreword by Lauren Winner

Vintage Saints and Sinners
  • Length: 224 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: September 12, 2017
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 4496
  • ISBN: 9780830844968

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Outreach Resource of the Year
Foreword INDIES Award Finalist

Saints are people too.

The word saint conjures up images of superstar Christians revered for their spectacular acts and otherworldly piety. But when we take a closer look at the lives of these spiritual heavyweights, we learn that they also experienced struggle, doubt, and heartache.

In fact, we learn that in many ways they're not all that different from you and me.

Narrating her own winding pilgrimage through faith, Karen Marsh reveals surprising lessons in everyday spirituality from these "saints"—folks who lived and breathed, and failed and followed God. Told with humor and vulnerability, Vintage Saints and Sinners introduces us afresh to twenty-five brothers and sisters who challenge and inspire us with their honest faith.

Using the included conversation starters, you can join Karen on her journey with the likes of Augustine, Brother Lawrence, and Saint Francis, as well as Amanda Berry Smith, Søren Kierkegaard, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Flannery O'Connor, and many more. Let their lives and their wisdom be an invitation to authentic life in Christ.

"The winsome brilliance of Karen Wright Marsh's ability to encapsulate gorgeous little vignettes of history's greatest contemplative mystics and fierce justice advocates makes Vintage Saints and Sinners a timely work. From the most spectacular to the uttermost undramatic conversions, each hero and shero Karen introduces highlights an embodied example of vocational fidelity that is both inspiring and inviting."

Christopher L. Heuertz, cofounder of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism, author of The Sacred Enneagram

"Sit down and pour yourself a glass of Karen Wright Marsh's Vintage Saints and Sinners. At first sip, you are transported into delightful stories of Christians past. As you drink more deeply, Vintage Saints and Sinners engages difficult issues of faith, doubts and loves, wisdom, and the practice of justice in the world. This is a gracious book full of charming prose and profound truths with just the right complexity of spiritual insight for everyday life. Taste and see!"

Diana Butler Bass, author of Grounded: Finding God in the World—A Spiritual Revolution

"Righteousness, we know, is endlessly complicated. In Vintage Saints and Sinners, Karen Marsh shows that it's also a living process, a communal drama of joy and liveliness into which we're invited. With wit, care, and deep lyricism, Karen helps us to see that saints—who are also always sinners—are on our side. Where we are, they've already been. We get to meet their messy witness with our own. One day at a time."

David Dark, author of Life's Too Short to Pretend You're Not Religious

"There are many times when Christian ministry—particularly activist ministries that pursue the full expression of the kingdom of God in the world—can be an arduous and lonely task. It can feel like we are the first ones to tread this territory. Karen Marsh looks back upon an important spiritual history. She offers important examples and role models who remind us that we are never alone when we pursue the fullness of the kingdom of God. If every activist Christian were to engage in a daily reading of this text and actually put into practice what is offered by these vintage Christians, Christianity could actually serve a healthier witness to the kingdom of God."

Soong-Chan Rah, Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism, North Park Theological Seminary, author of The Next Evangelicalism and Prophetic Lament

"It's not hard to imagine being drawn into a good conversation about things that matter with Karen Marsh. At the same time playful and profound, with heart and mind she invites us in, opening her deep, rich reading of the 'sainted ones' of the centuries, making them be what they must be: ordinary men and women who lived lives near to God—with every possible heartache and hope. But that's the good gift of this book: it makes these saints be sinners like us, people who long for honest faith, honest hope, and honest love. Vintage Saints and Sinners is a book for the everyman and everywoman, pilgrims across the centuries that we are."

Steven Garber, principal of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation & Culture, author of Visions of Vocation

"This page-turning pilgrimage journal offers readers way-bread from—and for—the fallible and glorious communion of quotidian saints."

Susan R. Holman, author of Beholden, winner of the 2016 Grawemeyer Award in Religion

"There are few things in this world that more ably transform us than our encounters with real stories. Stories that tell of joy and shame. Of hope and anguish. Of the very hard work that leads to a world of goodness, beauty, and redemption—but not without the honest rendition of all the stumbling in the dark that necessarily accompanies such godly liberation. These are the stories that we so desperately need to hear, and they are the very stories that Karen Marsh has so thoughtfully given us with Vintage Saints and Sinners. Stories not only of the saints of clay feet who we all know about, but also the story that is her own, the one that ties all the others—the reader's not the least—into the grand narrative into which God is writing all who are willing to be included. If you want your hope to be strengthened, if you want your mind to be renewed, and if you want your story to be changed, look no further: this collection of stories is for you."

Curt Thompson, author of The Soul of Shame

"In our postmodern age, it's all the more important that Christians cultivate ancient friendships, apprenticing with broken and beautiful saints who've preceded us. Their lives of devotion, service, and sacrifice help us to reimagine our own. In this wise, humble, passionate book, Karen Marsh invites you to meet the ancient friends who have nourished her faith. It's a joyful, honest journey that will make you want to join this pilgrimage for yourself."

James K. A. Smith, Calvin College, author of You Are What You Love

"Marsh provides an illuminating biographical sketch for each of the 25 Christians. She clearly demonstrates a scholar's command of their lives and key writings. But she does not impart this learning in a 'teacherly' way. Rather, she relates their life stories as compelling spiritual journeys that support her in her own spiritual journey. . . . I encourage Friends to read Vintage Saints and Sinners, either as an aid to solitary devotion or for use in a book discussion series for Quaker teens and adults."

Bob Dixon-Kolar, Friends Journal, September 1, 2018

"Told with humor and vulnerability, this work introduces us afresh to twenty-five brothers and sisters who challenge us with their honest faith."

C. Christopher Smith, Englewood Review of Books

"Marsh honors the beauty and goodness of these saints' lives without allowing us to dismiss them too easily. In so doing, we can appreciate that they are simultaneously saints and sinners—just like us."

Jeff J. Myers, The Presbyterian Outlook, December 11, 2017

"Marsh gives us a glimpse into the lives of these well-known Christian thinkers and practical theologians, not from a purely biographical perspective, but through the lens of what she has learned from their lives."

Tiffany Malloy, Englewood Review of Books, Advent 2017

"Marsh thoughtfully presents their notable activities with care, and the assumption of reading simply for holiness and mastery of mystical contemplation is undone. Instead, this survey demonstrates that faith in action is what calls all Christians. Accompanying reading suggestions and 'conversation starter' questions recommend this title to book groups. . . . A quiet journey into dynamic lives of faith."

Library Journal, October 15, 2017


Foreword by Lauren Winner

Introduction: Notes from the Crossroads

Part I: Asking
Søren Kierkegaard: Take a Long Walk
Augustine: Reconsider Sainthood
Thérèse of Lisieux: Take the Little Way
C. S. Lewis: Wake up to Joy
Henri Nouwen: Be the Beloved
Flannery O'Connor: Get Down Under Things
Martin Luther: You Shall Not Die but Live!
Amanda Berry Smith: Lean in, Lean On
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Live Unreservedly, Grounded in God
Mother Teresa: Stay Faithful (Anyway)
A. W. Tozer: Pursue True Blessedness
Brother Lawrence: Practice the Presence

Part II: Walking
Thomas Merton: Be a Real Christian
Benedict and Scholastica: Choose the Good Life
John Wesley: Quit the Holy Club
Francis and Clare of Assisi: WWJD?
Dorothy Day: Make Some Trouble
Howard Thurman: Make a Swinging Door
Julian of Norwich: Rest in God?s Goodness
Mary Paik Lee: Taste the Bittersweet
Aelred of Rievaulx: Find Yourself a Soul Friend
Fannie Lou Hamer: Stand Up, Sing Out!
Ignatius of Loyola: Get Practical
Juana Ines de la Cruz: Take Delight in God's Beauty—Within You
Sophie Scholl: Knock a Chip out of the Wall

Conclusion: Resting
In Their Own Words: Further Reading
Conversation Starters


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Karen Wright Marsh

Karen Wright Marsh is executive director and cofounder of Theological Horizons, a university ministry that has advanced theological scholarship at the intersection of faith, thought, and life since 1991. Karen directs daily programs, writes resources and curriculum, teaches weekly classes, mentors students, leads the staff, and speaks at retreats, churches, and campus ministries. She holds degrees in philosophy and linguistics from Wheaton College and the University of Virginia. Karen lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with her husband, Charles Marsh.