Searching for Sunday
Author: Rachel Held Evans
The sub-title of this excellent book says it all really: “loving, leaving and finding the church”. It is, in essence, Rachel Held Evans’ journey back to church in an era when many millennials are leaving it in droves. Leaving it due to its stale and outdated view of culture and the world and its seeming ignorance of the real call of God to the margins.
She has a history, of course. And research backs up her experience of hurt at the hands of the church, leaving those scarred and in an uncomfortable place with nowhere to go. At its very heart church should at least be a safe haven of love and compassion. Evans asks: If you love God, but have issues with people who represent his flock, where does this leave you?
Evans lays bare her issues and her own rocky relationship with the church and in the process seems to articulate the concerns and frustrations of her peers.
Searching for Sunday is written with grace, humour, compassion and wisdom and if it teaches the reader anything, it’s “that there is no them and us, there is only us” as the foreword explains so succinctly. Indeed the book had me at her description of not being a morning person, and that had she been at Jesus’ death and burial 2,000 years ago, she would probably have slept through His resurrection!
Among the pages are also some startling statistics about church-going, such as 59 per cent of Americans with a Christian background who are aged 18-29 have dropped out of church.
Evans describes herself as “barely a millennial” and is asked constantly to speak about why a certain age group is ditching church like last year’s fashion. Her answers are simple but precise and should give the reader pause: “We long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff – biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation and social justice – but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. Contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millenials have been advertised to our whole lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away.”
What Evans loves is the liturgy and practice of being church together in its purest sense. Through a series of stories told around the sacraments – baptism, confession and communion among them — she traverses her own journey back to church and what makes it important for her. While her view of church is a personal one, it is also a raw and uncompromising portrait of picking oneself up and accepting that church is first and foremost about a relationship with God.
Searching for Sunday explores “dark corners” and “stained-glass splendours”. So, reader beware: You will be confronted, challenged and also inspired and transformed. By intentionally including stories from a variety of traditions — Baptist, Mennonite, Anglican, Catholic, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopalian — she is really searching for the strange ways God brings dead things back to life again. So she’s not searching for Sunday church, rather for Sunday resurrection. And there’s a difference.
Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber said of this book: “Evans has written a spiritual travel guide for religious runaways.” Part impassioned treatise about the problems with institutionalised church, part confessional, this is a resurrection story that is well worth reading.