Review of Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Sometimes church is difficult.  Not God, but church.  Not church per se, but the struggle for community and an authentic expression of worship and engagement with God.  Despite our best hopes an intentions it is full of human beings, each with their own needs, gifts and foibles.   And my heart breaks at some of the things we do or say in the name of ‘faith’.  So, when I saw this book, I was very keen to read it.

The blurb says

Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel didn’t want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals—church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

I can’t say that I don’t want to go to church anymore, I desperately want to hang on in there, but at times I struggle to find my place in it, for many reasons that are probably another blog post. (oh and I cannot by any stretch of the imagination claim to be a millennial sadly, but if the cap fits – read the book)

The book is set out around the seven sacraments: baptism, confession, Holy Orders, communion, confirmation, anointing the sick and marriage.  Each section contains stories that will break your heart and then some to gladden it.  It looks at church through people’s stories – true community and a large part of what church, imho, is all about.

The basic premise of the book is ‘why are people leaving the church?’

On reading Searching for Sunday it transpires that many of Rachel Held Evan’s questions are about God, and the struggle for an adult faith after a childhood following him and sharing all about him.  But if that wasn’t enough, the church and it’s attitudes get in the way of her finding the answer to those questions – however much she longs to be part of it. So Rachel’s story is about

growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places (p15)

Rachel tells her story, but one that I’m sure many of us can identify with.

Much of the gist of this book is about putting aside cynicism.  Rachel suggests that if we want to heal our wounds, we have to

kick the cynicism habit first.

We have to allow ourselves to feel the pain and joy and heartache of being in relationship with other human beings.  In the end it’s the only way to really live… even if it means taking a risk and losing it all. (p207)

There are many other gems and food for thought, but you need to read the book to get the full picture.

There is a lot of sense in this book.  A lot of despair, but also a lot of hope.

The finger is also pointed back at me –  what am I doing to help or hinder the faith and church life of others?

If you’ve ever wondered about leaving church, or about why others do, this will give you some insight.  Stories of how others might see the church we have become so entrenched in that perhaps we don’t see some things any more.   Perhaps it might give us another perspective on what we see as ‘normal’.  And if you are searching for Sunday, perhaps it will help you find it – or at least make you feel that you are not alone.  Perhaps it will take you to the place where you can embrace church – flaws and all. For as Rachel concludes,

All we have is this church – this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church – which, by God’s grace, is enough (p235)

We are after all a resurrection people.

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