Do you ever start quoting something without realizing it? I often find myself in conversation referencing some story I heard/read/watched recently (often on NPR). And lately, many of my references seem to come from Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans. Whether it was a conversation in the classroom, catching up with a good friend, or debriefing a sermon, I kept coming back to this book. Each section, structured about the seven sacraments, resonated with me in a unique and vibrant way. Even as I flipped back through to find some earmarked quotes, I was reminded again of the sheer beauty of her writing and instantly wanted to re-read from page one.
Rachel opens the book by noting how she often gets asked about why “Millennials” are leaving the church. I get asked this too, and have talked about it extensively in my Sunday school class, at seminary, and with friends. I appreciate that Rachel doesn’t attempt to resolve this issue or offer a one size fits all solution. Instead, she gives us an honest glimpse into her faith journey. She confesses the doubts, the hurts, and the joys of faith without making this book about herself. The chapters that dip into memoir do so in a way that allows readers to connect with her story and relate it to their own journey.
I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist Baptist church - but I can connect to the stories of youth group culture and feeling the pressure to prove my Christian identity by behavior and “right” dogma. I didn’t leave my church over theological changes - but I connect to the struggle of not falling in line with the dominant belief system. I don’t attend an Episcopal church - but I connect to the ways she’s found God present in sacramental ways.
Coming to seminary, the “get-to-know-you” questions are name, home, and denomination. All three of these have changed for me over the years. My name changed after a beautiful ceremony under a tree nearly 5 years ago. My home has changed most recently as I drove across the country from beaches to peaches, and I struggle to find a succinct way to explain how Minnesota, Arizona, and San Diego are all home to me. And that third one has three answers too. While I can currently tell people I’m part of the Church of the Nazarene (and happy to be pursuing ordination in a tradition that has always ordained women!), I still can’t leave behind how I grew up Catholic and came to know Christ in a non-denominational church. Much like Rachel’s transitions, I can’t leave any of them behind. They shaped me and continue to mold me. She writes, “I realize I can no more break up with my religious heritage than I can with my parents...as long as I have an investment in the church universal I have an investment in the community that first introduced me to Jesus” (page 221).
The church is beautiful. And complicated.
Rachel writes, “A worldwide movement of more than two billion people reaching every continent and spanning thousands of cultures for over two thousand years can’t expect homogeneity. And the notion that a single tradition owns the lockbox on truth is laughable, especially when the truth we’re talking about is God" (page 183).
Furthermore, having moved across the country from our wonderful home church, Jared and I are in a season of visiting and exploring all types of churches. This search has been enlightening, engaging, and sometimes frustrating. We won’t all agree on every tenet of faith. We won’t all agree on how to live it out. But we are called into the community where we feast on the body and blood of Jesus together and figure it out from there.
Order a copy today: www.searchingforsunday.com