Critical Acclaim For Book By Retired Pastor

The cover of the book.

Foreword Reviews has named Marjorie Weiss’s Praying on Empty: A Female Pastor’s Story as a finalist in the Indies Book of the Year Awards in the category of Women’s Studies. Weiss was the pastor at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Wellington from 2004 to 2015.

“To stand out among so many wonderful submissions, a book has to be exceptional,” Foreword Reviews Managing Editor Michelle Anne Schingler said. “We’re proud to attach our names to each and every book selected as a finalist.”

More than 2,000 entries across 55 genres were submitted for consideration in the magazine’s annual contest, which is part of its mission to discover, review and share the best books from university and independent publishers.

The memoir was also named a winner of the 2020 Illumination Book Awards, honoring the best titles written and published with a Christian worldview, and a finalist in the 2019 International Book Awards for Best New Nonfiction.

Weiss, now retired, currently resides in Port St. Lucie after a 35-year career as one of the first female pastors in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She served congregations in Rome, Utica and Schenectady, N.Y.; Danville, Pa.; and Wellington between 1980 and 2015.

“My book deals with the three-year period when I had no faith, yet I still needed to continue making my living as a parish pastor,” Weiss explained. “I preached, taught Bible classes, officiated at funerals, visited the sick and prayed with them, all without a sense that God was real. The anguish and hypocrisy I experienced were profound.”

The award-winning memoir also describes what led Weiss into ministry in 1980 at a time when female clergy were few. It examines how her position as a middle child in a family of four children influenced her personality so that she would even consider entering a male-dominated profession. And it explores how unexpected betrayals and loneliness in parish ministry contributed to her loss of faith and search to regain it.

“Weiss tells the truth about what private life can be like for women who seek to publicly serve the church,” said Lynne Silva-Breen, a former ELCA pastor. “It’s a wonder she gets to the other side.”

Weiss said that her book is timely, since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America marked the 50th anniversary of the decision to ordain women on June 29, 2020. “I was ordained 50 years ago, in 1980, when there were just 200 Lutheran women pastors in the United States,” she said.

Weiss credits her ability to write this book to her time as part of the Writer’s Circle at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.

Praying on Empty: A Female Pastor’s Story is available on Amazon.