Church Matters: An Interview with Rachel Held Evans
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Englewood Review: Thanks for taking the time for this interview! One of the things that I really appreciated about your book was the deep love that was evident for the church. If I could oversimplify things a bit and summarize the book in only two words, I would describe it as “Church matters.” In that vein, it seems like you are using your story to very gently and kindly push back on the “Spiritual, but not Religious” mentality. Is that a fair assessment of the book?
Rachel Held Evans: Yes, thank you for getting it. That was exactly what I was trying to do with this book, 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.
ERB: I’m really grateful for writers like yourself who take this sort of approach to the church. Amidst the continuing fragmentation of modern individualism, it is always refreshing to hear people who make a case for why church matters, and why our shared life together is important. Throughout the book, you use a variety of different images and metaphors to describe the church. In a way, it was reminiscent of Lauren Winner’s new book, Wearing God. Winner draws upon a number of often-overlooked biblical descriptions of God to stir our imaginations of what the nature and character of God is, and it seems like you are taking a similar sort of approach to the church, describing it in a variety of different images and metaphors. Drawing upon these various images, can you briefly describe for our readers what you understand church to be?
RHE: The book is structured around seven familiar sacraments of the church, and I chose to use this imagery of the sacraments because I feel like they sum up our life in the church: the church feeds us (Communion), the church names us as beloved children of God (baptism), the church heals (anointing of the sick), the church unites us (marriage), the church confirms us and gives us an identity (confirmation), for example. Even in churches that are not highly sacramental, we still see the message and presence of these sacraments, whether we refer to them as sacraments or not. I had a hard time with knowing how to arrange this book, because I felt like a book about church was way too much to try to tackle. I would have been in way over my head. When the imagery of the sacraments hit me as a possible way of arranging the book, that decision helped me understand the purpose of the church as I was writing. And to the seven sacraments that I cover in the book, you could add others, including perhaps teaching the word or pilgrimage. The seven sacraments that I chose seemed to describe church in ways that were universal and significant.
IMAGE CREDIT: Rachel Held Evans – Promo photo provided by the author