A Journey of Grace and Miracles While Battling ALS

Jennifer R. Durant

Jan/2016, 144 Pages, Paperback, 5.5 x 8.5

ISBN-13: 9780819232472



Jennifer R. Durant, busy career woman, wife, and mom of two, made a drastic career change. In the lexicon of ministry, God called her to be an Episcopal priest, and Jennifer answered. Several years later, in the final weeks of seminary, Durant's world changed dramatically again, when the persistent weakness in one of her hands was diagnosed as ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease).

In Sparrow, completed with her husband, Matthew, Durant recounts her battle and brings the reader with her on her spiritual journey through her priesthood and ministry which, despite her illness, continued to her death—with the aid of a speech box, she preached her final sermon on the Sunday before her death. Durant leads readers forward through the confusion of our caffeine-fueled and perpetually exhausted world to discover, as she did, a renewing sense of God-given purpose and sacred light which even the darkest of circumstances cannot extinguish, a place where even in silence, God is present, whispering through us.

An inspiration to any who suffer from a debilitating disease (or know someone who does) and those who provide pastoral care to others. It is a story of God's redemption and new life.

Jennifer R. Durant was an Episcopal priest, serving as the Associate Rector at Church of Our Saviour in Charlottesville, Virginia at the time of her death in February 2015. In 2011, she graduated with an MDiv from Virginia Theological Seminary, relocated her family to where God called them, and received an ALS diagnosis. She juggled full-time family, ministry, and disease with her husband, two teenagers, two cats, and a black lab in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“I am usually suspicious of 'illness memoirs' written in relation to religion, because they so often try to convince readers that since God is in charge, being sick is really okay. This book is a refreshing change from that genre. Jennifer Durant—priest, mom, wife—never tries to convince readers that having ALS was okay. Instead, she dares to say that living with ALS and dying from it, are difficult in every possible way: physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally. And that God’s love is strong and real. And that both of these seemingly opposing realities are true at the same time. This book is important for anyone seeking insight into courageous, faithful living and dying.”––The Rev. Dr. Joyce Ann Mercer, Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology, Virginia Theological Seminary

“Although the paralysis of ALS takes her last breath, it does not rob Jennifer Durant of her vibrant faith and determination to share her moving story. Read Sparrow and weep tears of sorrow and joy.”––Ginny Thornburgh, Disability Advocate, American Association of People with Disabilities

“There's no two ways about it­––ALS is a ferocious and unrelenting foe. With unwavering honesty and luminous hope, Jennifer Durant revels how God's love is immeasurably stronger than this or any foe. I laughed, I cried, I prayed hard, and I gave thanks as I read this remarkable story of a turbulent, authentic, and ultimately grace filled priesthood.”––The Rt. Rev. Susan Goff, Bishop Suffragan, Episcopal Diocese of Virginia

“Jennifer Durant is a woman with a sparrow's faith, keenly aware of the fear of falling and wise enough to allow her spirit to soar over the monster ALS and find grace in the presence of indignity, hope in the midst of harsh reality and light as darkness slowly, surely approaches. As a Hospice Chaplain I know I will return to this book to bring comfort and solace to my patients and their families.”––The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Kaeton, Long Neck, Delaware

“Why do bad things happen? Why do good people suffer? Jennifer Durant can’t provide a complete answer to our plaintive “Why?” but her inspiring memoir of perseverance and faith in the face of ALS shows us how to find peace by depending on the God who loves us completely and passionately––even in our most difficult and trying times.” ––Anne Marie Pace, author

“One thing Jennifer Durant loved about being a priest was being able to bless God’s people through the words she would offer at the close of worship. Now through her inspiring story of a holy life and a holy death her words extend an even wider blessing to all who will come to know her story.”––The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner, Director of Living Compass and author

“I had the privilege of working with Jennifer when she was a student and a priest. She was extraordinary then—and through this amazing spiritual memoir, she is extraordinary now. This book takes us to the heart of all the passion, vulnerability, and self-giving love any of us can hope to live as followers of Jesus, no matter what monsters in this life we must face. Thank you for this amazing last gift to us all, Jennifer.”––The Rev. Dr. David T. Gortner, Associate Dean for Church Community Engagement and Director, Doctor of Ministry program, Virginia Theological Seminary

“It was Jennifer’s hope that her memoir would encourage others who found themselves near the abyss of grief and loss. With poignant honesty, Jennifer speaks of the series of relentless losses that ALS inflicted. Yet, she subtitled this memoir as a journey, not a descent, for she met the unwavering presence of God, even in her dark and despairing days; and she discovered that her journey was a catalyst, which tenderly transformed all who accompanied her.” ––The Rev. Tracey Kelly, St. Francis Episcopal Church, Great Falls, Virginia

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