Summary: Roughly based on the seven sacraments of the Catholic church, Rachel Held Evans explores her history of leaving the church, helping to plant a church and then eventually finding another church.
I tend to think that people that do not like Rachel Held Evans’ writing are people that do not need Rachel Held Evans’ writing. This is circular I know, but Evans has a particular audience and I think that audience needs her or someone like her. But many others do not find encouragement from her and do not identify with her story, I think that people that are frustrated with Evans should consider themselves blessed.
Evans is a skeptic and doubter. She is a Christian and loves the church and even loves the Evangelicalism that shaped her (and scarred her). But she also is frustrated by the church and many in the church that have no place for doubt, investigation or marginalized people.
Anyone that knows of Evans is unsurprised that the book opens with her frustration with the church. Through the book, there is a clear arc. Evans grows up in the church, is ‘on fire for Jesus’, becomes skeptical, starts exploring the skepticism, eventually leaves the church because of her frustration with it, then helps to plant a church that attempts to live out what she believes the church should be, that church plant fails and over the next couple of years she slowly makes her way into the Episcopal church.
A lot of the reviews I have read focus on this book a rejection of Evangelicalism. I think that misses the point of the book. The book is not a rejection of Evangelicalism, but a love letter to the church. The church for Evans is the family that you just can’t leave behind. You may not always like the fact that you have that strange uncle, but he is still family.
Searching for Sunday is Evans’ third memoir-ish book. That is a lot of self reflection for a 34 year old. And I think there is clearly a lot of growing up and maturing that is going on in the background. Especially in the interviews I have heard from her lately she seems to have found some peace. But there are a couple of repeat sections here if you have read her earlier books.
She talks about the fact that she will probably never live without a measure of doubt. That is partially how she was created. But as difficult as that is for her, she gives voice to the many others that are just like her.
As much as I like this book, and I think this is the best of her three books, I was also frustrated by it. The organizational structure of the seven sacraments seems odd. She became Episcopal, not Catholic. And while she (and I) respects the seven sacraments, it felt like the structure was crammed in to the story at times.
I also think she has not found the editorial match that she needs. Evans is a very good writer. She has humor, real depth of insight and a wide ranging intellect. But she needs a better editor to help her mold that into better books. I really think the problem I have with all of her books isn’t the writing, but the editing.
As with all of her books, this is worth reading, especially if you tend to be a skeptic or frustrated with the church. Evans is her to say, that frustration is ok, but she is also her to say that the church is still important in spite of the frustration.