Book Review – Searching For Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans

Searching For Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and finding the church — by Rachel Held Evans.

I’m green with jealousy of Rachel’s ability to put heart, mind and soul to paper in such an open, deep, accessible and honest way.
My self-esteem is still struggling just thinking about it.

Within Searching For Sunday, Rachel Held Evans openly and vulnerably, with honestly and sensitivity, shares her story of losing faith and rediscovering her faith by beautifully articulating the sacraments of: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage. But it’s not so much her faith in Jesus that is the focus of this episode of her journey, but of how her commitment to Jesus causes her to struggle with the church.

I really loved this book. I loved it because I’m at home in books that are prepared to wrestle with doubts, disappointments, questions and pilgrimage. I loved it because it’s a journey and not just a great read. I loved it because it gnawed at me, chewed me up, and spat me out on many an occasion; whilst also putting some of me back together. I loved it because it’s a book that speaks with conviction and experience about the ways in which resurrection never ceases to move in our lives.

That’s not to say I agreed with it all. But I don’t read books seeking agreement; I read seeking perspective, understanding and conversation. So I’m deeply thankful to Rachel, via this book, for lending her enriching voice to that conversation. For those who don’t like conversation partners and prefer to “talk-down” (or talk non-stop) instead of “across” and learning to listen, or for those who merely seek affirmation of their already solidified/concrete/certain/calloused theology (please feel free to pick the metaphor that better suits you), you’ll not enjoy this book. Although, I think you should still give it a try and glean what you’re able from it.

What’s that I hear you ask?

My biggest disagreement with this book?

Well, If you insist.

Early in the book (p48), Held-Evans mentions that no one writes books that help you grieve the loss of faith–I disagree.

This book now exists!

And for those grieving, this book will comfort you, weep with you and breathe resurrection life and hope back into you.

I think I’ll let Rachel have the last words, when talking about the awkwardness of visiting a church you’ve left:

“And you will know they are thinking exactly what you used to think about Easter Sunday Christians:
But you won’t know how to explain that there is nothing nominal or lukewarm or indifferent about standing in this hurricane of questions every day and staring each one down until you’ve mustered all the bravery and fortitude and trust it takes to whisper just one of them out loud…” (p.187)
PS- [appended 22nd Jan 2016] – I know other reviewers have slammed this, criticising Rachel’s angst with the Church — and I can appreciate where they are coming from. But we have to acknowledge that people feel this way, and for very justifiable reasons. What we sometimes label as angst, can be deeply prophetic. Books like this are needed to give voice, encouragement and hope to those that, very often, get ignored by those of who feel “certain” with their faith or “ok” with the church. When that day comes, and you don’t feel as “certain” anymore, I hope you’ll pick this up.

 Tristan Sherwin is the Author of Love: Expressed – Available now.

Love Expressed Book Board

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