Rachel Held Evans just released her latest book, Searching For Sunday, with Thomas Nelson. It’s an excellent foray into the church’s current cultural moment, seen through the lens of Rachel’s own journey from evangelicalism, to doubt, to church planting, to the Episcopal church. In this interview we dig a bit deeper into the author’s motivations, insights, and hopes as Searching For Sunday hits store shelves:
Z: Rachel, wow. What a timely, important book you’ve written here. It deeply resonated with me all the way through, made me cry (and laugh) at several points, and provided insight that I really needed in this season of my life. So first and foremost, thank you! And to kick things off – why (beyond the prodding of your editors) did you write this book?
RHE: I keep in close contact with my readers through my blog and social media, and in my conversations with them have repeatedly found one question to be front and center of their minds: What do I do about church? Many have been deeply wounded by the churches in which they grew up, or alienated when their questions and doubts weren’t welcomed, or even kicked out when they they told the truth about their sexuality. There are so many people of faith who, like me, want to follow Jesus but who are understandably reluctant to follow him through the church doors. So I wrote this book for them, not to glorify church on the one hand or bash it on the other, but to tell the truth about it — the good the bad and the ugly — and to offer something of a way forward, using seven sacraments (baptism, confession, communion, holy orders, marriage, anointing of the sick, and confirmation) as guides.
Z: So apparently you’ve rejected the evangelical church of your youth and apostatized to the mainline, huh? (Tongue firmly in cheek.) Care to explain yourself?
RHE: Ha! It was funny to see some of the pre-release buzz assume this is a story about ditching one denomination for another when it’s most certainly not. We get so caught up in categories and labels we forget most people don’t fit quite so neatly into them but are rather unique amalgams of many faith experiences, both past and present, good and bad. And I’m the same. I grew up evangelical and am deeply appreciative of those evangelical roots, but lately I’ve been drawn to the more liturgical tradition and inclusive posture of the Episcopal Church. This doesn’t mean I have rejected evangelicalism; it just means I carry elements of both traditions on the journey.
Z: Absolutely. And in all seriousness, Searching For Sunday eloquently describes a shift so many of us are experiencing. In fact, I think this is a “moment” the Western church is having in general when our question about church is changing from “who’s right?” to “where’s home?” Tell me about your experience of this shift and how you found “home” in the Episcopal church:
RHE: For much of my life, being a Christian was all about believing the right things, finding the right denomination, living the right life. My faith had, in many ways, been reduced to intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It took watching that faith completely unravel in the midst of the doubts, questions, and frustrations of my young adulthood to realize that you never really arrive at “right.” “Right is not the point. What I longed for with church, and what I think a lot of people long for, is not an exclusive club of like-minded individuals, but a community of broken and beloved people, telling one another the truth and taking it all a day at a time. What I longed for was sanctuary — a place to breathe, to be myself, to wrestle with the mystery, to confess my sins and explore my doubts, to experience God rather than simply believe in God. The liturgical church, and especially the sacraments, have offered me that sanctuary, but I also believe sanctuary can be present in any number of traditions, including evangelicalism. One need not attend a church that uses sacramental language to experience the power of the sacraments — to break bread with one another, to baptize, to confess sins, to offer healing and support. But I have found that it is in those moments when we recognize God’s presence in ordinary, tangible things — bread, wine, water, words, suffering, singing, a gentle touch, a casserole on the doorstep — that we create church, we create sanctuary.
Read HERE the entire interview.