"Perhaps being disillusioned is a good thing if it leaves you facing the Truth."
That was my thought after finishing Searching for Sunday.
Rachel Held Evans knew who she was. She was a pastor's daughter, ensconced in a tight-knit Evangelical community. Her family was a link in a chain of giving and receiving, of visiting the sick and sending casseroles to new mothers. All of her childhood memories were bracketed by those familiar people and that particular expression of Christianity. And it was, in some ways, a very good thing.
But in other ways, that same sense of unity would leave a growing Rachel wondering where she fit. She makes an excellent point partway through the book: In Evangelical circles, we call ourselves "a community of believers." Because we're afraid of faith becoming mere rote routine and ritual, we emphasize the personal beliefs. And we often ask our people to believe far more than just the Nicene Creed. We mine the Scriptures for dozens of other principles and doctrines, and we package it together as a whole.
So when Rachel could no longer swallow the whole Evangelical serving, when she could no longer sign off on the doctrinal statement, she felt that she'd lost her place in her childhood church.
She unfolds her stories a sensitive touch, holding on to the things that blessed and nourished her even as she describes her strong disagreements with the American Evangelical culture.
When did she begun to trust her place in the Body again? When she found a place at the table of communion, a place on the path of pilgrimage, a place in the row of footwashers, a place where the healing oil flows. When she couldn't bear the weight of belief any more, it was tangible, tactile sacraments that re-introduced her to Christ and His people.
I requested this book because I had heard that it was arranged around the sacraments, and that idea piqued my curiosity.
Rachel chose seven sacraments: Baptism, Confession, Holy Orders, Communion, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick, and Marriage.
She writes several chapters about each one, telling us what they have come to mean to her and drawing in dozens of thoughts from saints both ancient and modern. She manages to meditate on the essence of each one, revealing them to be so compelling and beautiful that it seems to me like the sacraments must preserve the church, instead of the other way 'round.
And she does a wonderful job showing how the sacraments apply to all of us. (Typically, marriage would seem to have no bearing on the single, and holy orders would be reserved for the ordained.) Rachel expands on those ideas, exploring marriage as the mystery of our union with Jesus and holy orders as the calling of every man and woman to recognize and live their sacred calling.
Buried about three quarters of the way through the book is one of my new favorite quotes: "Scripture doesn't speak of people who found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God." Excellent point. I never like the whole "I found God," thing. It doesn't make theological or logical sense. But walking with God? Oh yes. That points to ongoing relationship, and that's what this book is about.
I thank Traci at Traces of Faith dot com and Thomas Nelson for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest opinion.