The Practice of Christianity

Spirituality, Religion, and Its Borders in the 1920s and the 2010s


On March 1, the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, MDiv '88, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, led a conversation with members of the HDS community and local alumni about two of her recently published books, Octavia, Daughter of God and A Practical Christianity: Meditations for Lent.

In these two books, Shaw looks at the practice of Christianity in two very different contexts. The first, Octavia, Daughter of God: the Story of a Female Messiah and her Followers (Yale, 2011) is the biography of a millenarian, heterodox community, led by women, that flourished in England in the 1920s. Shaw discovered the community, its last survivors, and its extraordinary archive in 2001. The second, A Practical Christianity (Morehouse, 2012), is a short book Shaw published as a Lenten book, addressed to those inside and outside the churches, and especially those on the borders. While they are very different books, both look at lived and living religion as a way of understanding and working out Christian doctrine, and consider the ways in which people thirst after the "spiritual" but find institutional religion wanting.

Prior to being appointed Dean of Grace Cathedral in 2010, Shaw was dean of divinity and fellow of New College, Oxford, and taught history and theology at Oxford University for 16 years.