Searching for Sunday on the Wilderness Road

I have been a fan of Rachel Held Evans since I read her first book Evolving in Monkey Town (2010). Soon I was following her blog and when the opportunity arose this winter, I was able to get an advance copy of her newest book Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church.

Even though I don’t have experience in the Evangelical tradition, Evans has the ability to relate her experiences to others from many traditions – even someone raised Catholic like me. Searching for Sunday is a memoir but not a chronological diary. Reflective of her search for rooted authenticity, she organized this book into sections on the seven sacraments.

Each section begins with a sumptuous, earthy meditation on each sacrament that  recalls their physicality. Sacraments are done not just assented to.  She next shares something of her own experience of the sacrament and stories she has gathered around the country in  a way that makes it relatable to many others. This book is for all of Christendom, or at least American Christianity, rather than one fraction or denomination. In each section we are reminded how many traditions mark these sacraments in different ways, whether they care to recognize it in each other’s traditions or not.

anointingHealing may be  implicitly named in only one of the sacraments but there is healing found in every one of them and in every section of this book.  In this sense each of these sacraments fulfills a vital need for a full Christian life by providing acceptance (baptism), forgiveness (confession), sustenance (communion), validation (confirmation), purpose (holy orders), healing (anointing of the sick), and companionship (marriage) all held together with grace and love.

Receiving the sacrament for the first time is only the beginning. They are meant to be re-experienced for a lifetime. When the church withholds anyone of them them by no longer accepting or sustaining, denying the need for healing, purpose, or companionship, the pain can be intense, leaving scars that last a lifetime. If the church is a peek into the kingdom of heaven on earth, then rejection by the church is a glimpse at hell. What is hell if not the absence of God? We are Christ’s body, if we turn our back on each other is it not inflicting a glimpse at hell on the isolated? Jesus does not abandon or exclude, especially when his church does. How great his disappointment must be.  While the LGBT community has been the most visibly discriminated group, many women still struggle to be heard as well as seen in churches that wield the bible like a weapon to enforce their laundry list for conditional acceptance. Searching for Sunday is a balm to sooth the pain, to let you know that you are not alone, validate your pain and begin the healing process.

When we have been hurt, our instinct is to avoid the pain at all costs. Christianity can not be done alone. Even the most holy anchorite who spent their time solely devoted to 11083615_10206463705340882_7433903619505391052_nprayer, needed the church, depending on their brothers and sisters for spiritual support, physical and sacramental sustenance, a slender line to life. We are no different. Going it alone is just not an option. But, this doesn’t mean that we have to stay where we are rejected, whether that is a parish, denomination or tradition. Perhaps one of the most important messages of this book is that the death of a church (or your relationship to it) is not the end; Jesus is in the business of resurrection. New life in Christ will come, perhaps in unexpected places. The journey will not be easy but Jesus never promised an easy road.

Do you think it was a coincidence that I was offered to read this book early, over a Lent that I had chosen to step away from my parish over? I don’t. Its now the Easter season and I am glad to be back at my parish, but if I ever do need to step away for longer it won’t be the end of the world either.

Captivated by the Cross

I just absolutely love this photo.


I’ve been captivated by this image since I found it earlier this week. It was taken by David W Coigach and posted at deviantART. Taken at Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway  (Southwest Scotland), this imagery seems so right for Heavenfield  with the ravens circling overhead. Ok, so I’ll admit heavenfield didn’t have a stone cross, which seems really odd, but I guess a miracle working wooden cross was enough!

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The Internet and the Springfield Episcopal Election

It’s a new era in the Springfield diocese.Yesterday I attended the ordination and consecration of Bishop Daniel Martins and it was a wonderful day. In the six and a half years I’ve been in this diocese, yesterday was the most joyful and hopeful I have ever witnessed.

Ordination and Consecration of Bishop Daniel Martins

Now seems like a good time to reflect on how we got here, over the process of the election that I participated in as a lay delegate. As a blogger naturally my interest gravitates toward use of the Internet. I’ll own up to being the submitter of the technology and blogging questions for the walk-abouts. I know some delegates thought that technology issues are trivial compared to some of the national issues, but the ability to communicate especially in ways that can reach the younger generations is important. It also hasn’t taken him long to answer my question about continuing to blog as bishop. I am glad that he has decided to continue.

I should add that I’ve never been part of the election of a bishop before so I don’t know how novel this process was. Springfield hasn’t had an election in 18 years so I know the internet changed the dynamics of this election. In 1992 the Internet was still in its infancy and google still wasn’t even a dream.

The vast majority of the lay delegates that I know took their responsibility very seriously. In both the nominating and electing synod every eligible lay delegate or their alternate was present and remained for the duration. All the lay delegates I know did pretty consistent research on all of the candidates all summer. Researching 14 candidates for the nominating synod was a lot of work.

Internet searches on the nominees became a primary research tool for the delegates. A lack of information online came to be a source of insecurity. This was a major source of anxiety over one of the final three nominees. For better or worse, a nominee with a blog at least gave the delegates a sense that they could get to know the person and their positions. Reading archives gave some sense that these opinions did not change when they became nominated. It is probably not a coincidence that election came down to two nominees who both maintain blogs and have numerous other writings online. The era of the blogging episcopal nominee may be upon us.

Reliance on the internet made me a little lazy about reaching out by phone or email to people who actually know the nominees. By the end I did make some of those contacts but I had to push myself to make them. Of course, without the internet finding contact information on the nominees and people around them would have been much more difficult.

Online endorsements by groups like Forward in Faith (FIF) were a double-edged sword. I’m sure the FIF endorsements gave comfort to some but made others very wary. Don’t think for a minute that people who don’t support FIF wouldn’t find everything they published about the election. Endorsements by FIF had to be balanced against what the nominees actually said in writing or at the walk-abouts. I have to say that among many of the laity in the diocese of Springfield and Quincy, FIF is equated almost exclusively with the rejection of women’s ordination and ministry. Both of those endorsed by FIF said that they would ordain and place women, but the endorsement by FIF still made many very nervous. It would helped a great deal if either of them had a reference by a woman!

The internet also made it possible for a unprecidented amount of information about the nominees to be put online for everyone in the diocese and indeed the whole church to view. Resumes and written answers to nine initial questions were available to everyone online. All delegates also received additional information: statements from those who nominated them, three written references from people of their choice, church deployment forms, and home-made videos of the candidate giving the answers to the same nine questions in the pdfs placed online. The home-made videos were okay; they were of very uneven technical quality and the answers were all practically identical to the written responses. I think it would have been more useful if the videos had covered different questions than the written responses. It had not been initially planned for the walk-abouts to be video taped. The Standing Committee responded to a request by a group of lay delegates to make videos and put them online. The fact that we settled for three nominees rather than the planned final group of four probably freed up the funds in the budget to pay for professional video taping. I did appreciate the walk-abouts being online. I was only able to attend one walk-about in person, but I watched the other two online.

Email also played a role in the election process. Delegates were able to share research on the nominees, very helpful for the nominating synod with so many candidates. Of course, rumors circulated by email and online as well. Sharing emails made it easier for rumors to spread but ironically at least the rumors were forwarded in the form that they started. Had these rumors been passing mouth to mouth no doubt they would have morphed in all sorts of directions. I did receive a couple emails vigorously refuting rumors I had not previously heard. Perhaps the most important influence of email was the ability to contact the candidates directly with detailed questions and, as they allowed their replies to be shared, spread those replies among the delegates. This helped address the limitations on questions heard by all during the walk-abouts. It also allowed some candidates to clarify or expand upon the answers they gave at the walk-about. I’m sure the candidates felt like they were running a marathon. I know they were answering emails less than 24 hours before the election (including one from me). I’m also sure they were hovering over their computer as much as the phone on election day.

When the standing committee announced the schedule it seemed rushed. I’m glad now that it is over. I don’t think that drawing it out longer would have changed the outcome. I think we got who we were meant to get and that is good. The Holy Spirit was moving through the cathedral that day. From everything I have heard I think that we are all united behind Bishop Martins to bring new life back to this diocese. The Holy Spirit has already started that process now it is up to us to cultivate it.

Bede’s Cosmological Hymn

One of the gems in the new edition of Bede’s On the Nature of Things and On Time, is the first translation and publication of Bede’s cosmology hymn. It doesn’t appear to have a very set title. Wallis and Kendall refer to it as the ‘Hymn of the Six Ages’, but the edition actually titles it the ‘Hymn of the Work of the Six Days of Creation and Six Ages of the World’. Descriptive but not very catchy. Derek over at St Bede’s Breviary may be interested to know that Wallis and Kendall assert that this hymn is the only one of Bede’s hymns written for the daily office.

Bede’s hymns are poems that were sung. There his no indication of  a chorus. We know he modeled his poetry on the many forms of hymns found in psalms.

This poem has 28 stanzas that together wrap up Bede’s views of the “ages of fleeting time”. There are 6 pairs of stanzas that link a day of creation with an age of time with four stanzas for the sixth day/age. There are introductory stanzas and descriptions of two ages to come. Here are perhaps the critical four stanzas (13-16):

On the sixth day was created

Man, who, displaying

The image of his Creator

Would live blessed forever.


The most high Creator of all,

By whom man was created

In the Sixth Age was created

A man, the Son of God.


As he sleeps, the splendid

Wife of Adam is formed,

Obtaining bone from his bones,

Flesh from his flesh.


Now the splendid bride is born

To Christ from his very flesh

And by the mystery of his blood

as he sleeps on the cross.


The bride is of course the church, known from ancient times as the body of Christ. Its not very easy to see Bede’s poetic patterns here in part because it was written in Latin. Kendall and Wallis assure us that the pattern is also found in some of Bede’s other genuine poems and fits within classical iambic dimeters. Bede’s style fits within what he described in his The Art of Poetry.


Kendall, Calvin B and Wallis, Faith. (2011). Bede: On the Nature of Things and On Times. Translated Texts for Historians Series. Liverpool University Press.