Carmen Renee Berry is most known for her self-help books, such as her bestselling Girlfriends, When Helping You is Hurting Me, and Daddies and Daughters. Now she's turned to a new kind of help book: one that helps readers choose a spiritual home among "the 1.29816 gazillion" denominations available. Brazos Press published The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church in April.
Tell me about your own journey. You started out in a Nazarene church. Then what happened?
I went my own way after college and went to a number of churches—Baptist, Presbyterian, and charismatic churches, and here and there and everywhere. But for the last five years or so I wasn't going to church. I was tired of the whole church thing. I was pretty cynical, very judgmental.
But a very significant thing happened to me in November 1999: A close friend of mine committed suicide. It really shook me up and made me realize that it's kind of cool to be cynical, but it can be real dangerous, too. You really don't grow spiritually when you're busy criticizing and sounding arrogant. I made a big turning point there and opened myself up to looking for a spiritual community.
How did you go about doing that?
First of all, I just opened to it. I visited a few churches, I talked to a few people, and found a really good sub-ministry in a large church. I hung out with those people for several years. The ironic thing is that church has since gone through a big split. Now I'm attending a much smaller church about 20 minutes from where I live.
So the church that brought you back to regular church attendance went through the problems that have led some people to leave church.
Yeah. You know, the thing that really struck me about doing the research for this book is how all the churches ...1