I preached on Sunday, and we’ll get to that in another post.
But first, I want to talk about Rachel Held Evans.
I never met her, and never really talked with her. I read her books, and her blog. I followed her on Twitter, and she replied to me a few times (which triggered hours of shrieking.) In any logical sense, I didn’t know her.
But when I read her accounts of growing up in the church, questioning her faith, wanting to find a better way–I found myself convinced that she had been reading my mind, somehow. When she talked about her experiences as a young woman with opinions in the church, and how few people knew what to make of her, I put so many underlines and highlights in my copy that it bled through the pages. “Yes!” I thought, “I’m not the only one! She’s like me!”
Tragically, inexplicably, she’s gone now. She died over the weekend, leaving a bereft husband, two tiny children, and a legacy we’re only beginning to understand. She was only 37.
My little corner of the world is in deep mourning. So many clergywomen and progressive Christian friends are heartbroken right now. Not just because Rachel was great at elevating the voices of LGBTQ+ folks and POC that the church has been historically bad at hearing (she was), and not just because she was honestly as humble and generous as her writing made her seem–but I think because she was one voice that showed all of us that we weren’t alone.
This job gets lonely. Not in a “I am stranded on an island!” way, but in a “Wow, I am the only one dealing with all this” sort of way. Problems of leading a church crop up, many of them are confidential, and it’s not always easy to find people who understand how emotional you may get over how much electricity capacity your building currently has, coupled with the frustrating theology being cited by some random congressman on the TV.
When you add onto that the constant, nagging mosquito-bite-itch of being a young woman, of being told in a million ways explicit and implicit that your voice doesn’t matter, that your job is to look pretty and stand over there, please, that Jesus only took men seriously, that women who want to preach are what destroy church unity, you know, that maybe ordained women are ok, but goodness, you aren’t going to keep your hair long, are you?—that loneliness becomes acute. Not only are you lonely, you’re also quite probably a weirdo.
Part of what I valued so deeply about Rachel was how she unabashedly cheered us on. No matter what else was going on, or who else was talking, I could always think to myself, “Ok, but Rachel will say something brilliant and incisive, and she’ll represent us all so well.” She was out there being so awesome, doing such good work, and because she was, I, and so many of us, could feel less alone. Like less of a weirdo.
We get to do that for each other now. We get to show up for each other (especially for LGBTQ folks, and POC, and women). We get to pat each other on the back, remind one another to use the voices God gave us, and cheer each other on.
Because as Rachel taught us: we aren’t alone. We aren’t weirdos. God formed us because someone out there needs these stories. In Rachel’s memory, we need to share them.