In the weekend, I woke up to the news of the death of Rachel Held Evans – sadness and prayers.
Many, many, many people have been helped by Rachel’s wisdom and wit. If you have a story, or a quote from her that you love – I invite you to put it in the comment section below.
Rachel grew up, in an evangelical environment, knowing all the answers. She grew to question those answers, and grew to be comfortable with the questions – with a strong centre and soft edges. And she became a voice, she had a message, in blog posts, articles, speaking, and books – articulating and assisting.
I think Rachel first turned up on this blog about ten years ago, in a discussion about sola scriptura. Rachel had written a very helpful post, Have We Made the Bible Into an Idol?
She next turned up on this site in discussions about Committed Same-Sex Couples. She said, wisely:
The gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the gospel when it’s not.
Rachel and I were again on the same page in 2013 when she argued, as a millennial, that attempting to solve the church’s loss of millennials by favouring style over substance was self-defeating:
Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving…
I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.
Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.
What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.
This theme was reprised with her Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church ‘cool.’
This blog post honours her and her approach. Aged 37, she died after an allergic reaction to medication for an infection. She had been put in an induced coma, and there was a twitterstorm of outpouring of prayer and concern for her, and also collecting for financial care. We also pray for her husband, Dan Evans, her two young children, all her family, and close friends.