I received a copy of Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving And Finding The Church by Rachel Held Evans from Family Christian Stores for the purpose of generating a review. Italicized quotes are either from a previous post of mine or her book. The opinions expressed here are my own.
And bonus!! They've offered to give away a copy of the book to one of my readers! I'm throwing in a $10 appreciation certificate (works like a gift card) too. Enter below.
In March of last year, Rachel announced to her readers that she was putting the finishing touches on her latest book, “Searching for Sunday.” She asked people to write in with their church stories. She’d review them and use some of the segments in this book.
I’d only been blogging for a few months. I would actually meet Rachel about a month later at the Festival of Faith & Writing Conference for like two seconds. It all felt so out of my element. But the assignment intrigued me and I had developed an appreciation for Rachel’s work. So I wrote a piece for consideration.
I have never left the church. Perhaps I should say the church has never left me. It runs through my veins on my mother’s side.
My words didn’t make her book. After reading it, I see how what I prepared didn’t fit with the stories Rachel used or the topics she covered.
Eventually, I published my article over at my blog and didn’t think much more about it. Until I read her book. It was then I realized that the story of my faith experience is the lens through which I look at the worldwide church.
I’m a church girl, through and through. When I first entered the blogging community, I began reading various articles and responses from people who have been scarred by the church. Individuals who time and again left the church because she hurt them. Serious offenses. Pastors who spent more time covering politics and football scores than teaching God’s Word. There were people who hated my family. The church one, not the biological one.
That has never been my experience. I have gone to church since I was an infant. Although far from perfect, I have experienced loving fellowship at every church I’ve attended. The pastors I’ve sat under, all males, have given me so much biblical knowledge. My wonderful, knowledgeable teachers and mentors. I cannot remember a single Sunday when I woke up wishing I didn’t have to go to church.
I had to look up words like evangelical, fundamentalism and Anglican to even know how to participate in the conversation.
Does these mean I’m doing Christianity wrong? Am I just living in ignorant bliss because I’ve never been mad enough or hurt enough to leave the church? Never had a faith crisis? Is this similar to the guilt some of us feel who became Christians when we were wee children? Because we don't have a good testimony?
The closing line from the article I submitted to Rachel for consideration in her book reads:
Generations of my family before me found answers to life’s hardest questions at church. Honestly, if I didn’t stay in the church, keep my faith, I wouldn’t have the first clue where else to look.
That’s the background I brought to the table when I read Rachel Held Evans’ book, “Searching for Sunday.” Our stories read so similar. Until they don’t.
Quotes from this point on are taken from “Searching for Sunday.”
At at time when most of my peers were struggling to find an identity, I knew exactly who I was: the church girl, the girl who always had a place in her youth group family, the girl on fire for God.
And Rachel, sometimes she hurts my feelings. She can come across as assailing my people. The church I love. Then, often in the very next paragraph, she’ll say something so true I want to reach through my e-reader and hug her (even though touch isn’t anywhere close to being my love language).
Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus - the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these. No coffee shops or fog machines required.
This book is Rachel at her finest. It’s fair and speaks to a goal of unity. She communicates truth without attacking.
Imagine if every church became a place where we told one another the truth. We might just create sanctuary.
I measured every new experience by what I loved or hated about evangelicalism, which put all these good churches filled with good people in the rather awkward position of the rebound boyfriend.
She shows a lighter side to her theology.
I nearly skipped a tour of the famed Ave Maria Grotto on my last day at St. Bernard. It cost seven bucks to see and I’d already gone all Martin Luther on the gift shop, scandalized over the sale of holy water, which, when you think about it, isn’t much different than evangelicals selling Duck Dynasty-themed Bibles in their bookstores, but still...
I feel like a representative of the minority when I say, this book didn’t heal me. I didn’t weep when she shared a story just like mine of being rejected by God’s people. But I did make a promise to myself that I would stretch and grow. To see what God had for me in the stories. To continue shedding the ugly skin of legalism from my life (even when that scares me).
And, along with every other reader, I reveled in the beauty of her descriptions.
Church showed up at the front door with a chicken casserole when the whole family was down with the flu and called after midnight to ask for prayer and to cry... Church came to me far more than I went to it, and I’m glad.
Jesus said his Father’s house has many rooms. In this metaphor, I like to imagine the Presbyterians hanging out in the library, the Baptists running the kitchen, the Anglicans setting the table, the Anabaptists washing feet with the hose in the backyard, the Lutherans making liturgy for the laundry, the Methodists stoking the fire in the hearth, the Catholics keeping the family history, the Pentecostals throwing open all the windows and doors to let more people in.
In reading “Searching for Sunday,” I discovered Rachel and I still have a lot in common. We both love the church. We’ll continue serving her as we’re called.
And so, with God’s help, I keep showing up.
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