Four years ago, Rachel Held Evans spent Easter in the apartment of a funeral home. But there would be no candles lit, no feast after the service. Instead, the group of about 10 had gathered to mourn the death of their church.
The Mission had launched in 2010 at the urging of Brian Ward, Evans’s former youth pastor in Dayton, Tennessee, 45 minutes north of Chattanooga. Like other emergent/missional/ancient-future “experiments,” the house church had a piecemeal, earnest feel to it. Evans was quickly named worship pastor and wrote liturgy for group drawn from the Anglican prayer book. Ward baptized a local guitar player in the Tennessee River. Members volunteered at Dayton’s free health clinic. Evans and her husband, Dan, helped to pay the lawyer’s fee to register the Mission as a nonprofit, a decision that “felt as momentous as a down payment on a house,” Evans writes in a new book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (Thomas Nelson).
But the financial strain capsized the community. The apartment where they met was always cold. Evans realized that she and Dan’s income was so low, they qualified for free care at the clinic. Meanwhile, Pastor Ward found a youth-pastor gig at a United Methodist church in Florida. And Evans wouldn’t return to one for another three years.
A Trail Well Traveled
This Easter, the Paschal candles were lit. And, as she has done most Sundays for the past year, Evans attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, “a bustling little congregation” 45 minutes outside Dayton. It marks the popular blogger’s return to church. It may also mean for Evans, I imagine, a more peaceful relationship ...1