This past week saw the death of two Christian writers who have deeply shaped not only our work here at the ERB but also the lives of many Christians around the globe.
Jean Vanier (1928-2019)
Jean Vanier was the founder of the L’Arche communities, which “provide homes and workplaces where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers; create inclusive communities of faith and friendship; and transform society through relationships that cross social boundaries.” Vanier taught us much about living in Christian community. His book Community and Growth remains one of the most helpful guides for living in Christian community. [ Read an excerpt ] Vanier’s experience in L’Arche taught him to live and write with a deep tenderness; he could say the most challenging and counter-cultural things and yet did so with such gentleness that you would want to follow him in these things. This Washington Post tribute by Michael Gerson delightfully cuts to the heart of Vanier’s work: “Jean Vanier created a wildly inefficient model of compassion. We can learn a lot from it.” Vanier’s On Being interview with Krista Tippett is also a compelling introduction to his work. (AND one of the very best episodes of On Being)
Rachel Held Evans (1981-2019)
Rachel Held Evans‘s books and online writings carved out a way for many young people (and not-so-young people) to not give up on the church, in spite of the ways that it often had wounded them. I only met Rachel a couple of times, but she was a fan of the ERB, and often would share our posts on Twitter. I had the opportunity to interview her just before the release of her book Searching for Sunday. In that interview she said:
[My aim in this book was] to honestly acknowledge all of the problems with church and the struggles that a lot of us have with church, but at the same time still trying to articulate the importance of church. Church is still relevant and useful, and there are many ways that the church can be a healing and reconciling presence. Searching for Sunday was my attempt to say to a generation that has, in a lot of ways, given up the church that it’s worth sticking with it, it’s worth fighting for.
[ Read the full interview ]
Rachel’s last book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on
Water, and Loving the Bible Again was also on our Best Books of 2018 list.
Jean Vanier, Rachel Held Evans, you will be missed. Your books and your lives will continue to bear witness for many years!
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com