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A True Voice. With thanks to Rachel Held Evans.

It’s only a few years ago that I became aware of the name and the person and the work of Rachel Held Evans.  I don’t remember how I was introduced to her writing. I know that I dug in and started with Searching for Sunday.  I know that within a couple of hundred words, I was hooked.

I was hearing the voice of a real person.  A genuine voice. An honest voice. We were not face-to-face, but I felt mind-to-mind with a person.  I felt like I understood her. I felt like she would understand me.

And I use the word ‘felt’ in those statements quite intentionally.  This was first of all an intellectual connection. But it was powered by an emotional bond, somehow.  And these were born together. They were twin aspects of the inward affirmation: This is a voice I need to hear.

I appreciate and thank God that Rachel’s journey, shared brilliantly in what she wrote and said, has reached and inspired and affirmed women everywhere, among these most certainly millennials.  I am decidedly in neither category, by either gender or generation, but her spirit was kindred. I suspect in this that I am not just an outlier. Rachel touched on truths of our time and Christianity in our day in a manner of lasting significance.  Not only touched. But dove deep. Her contribution, and that of those whom she has counted as colleagues, will remain of value after her own generation has passed.

What I learned profoundly this morning, rising this Sunday and finding news of her death as the first of this day for me, is that a connection of minds, as I would describe mine with her, is as powerful (at least) as any other.  It is connection enough to shake foundations.

I never met Rachel Held Evans in person.  I never heard her speak live. Today I have read powerful memories shared by those who knew her as close friend.  I can claim none of that. But the force of her own journey, now ended, shared as it has been in honest and shining prose, left me shaking in deep sorrow and loss this morning.  Left me thinking of the grief of her husband, Dan, and of the dimension beyond measure of the loss their children will suffer. Left me saddened for the church universal, which needs to hear more from Rachael.

The beautiful strength of those who, like her, are wondering and creating and believing and writing in similar (though unique) voices will have to do.  And they will much more than merely ‘do’. They will inspire and move us as well, as they are already doing.

But I was first surprised, momentarily bewildered, and finally heartily grateful this morning at church, when sharing with our congregation something of Rachel’s contribution and a few of her words, I was overwhelmed with emotion, with deep sorrow.  I could hardly continue. Hardly speak. It is not only okay, it is important to pause to recognize and say that we have all suffered deep loss in the death of this – yes, true indeed – woman of valor.

Dear Rachel, inspire us now from home with the energy and commitment and courage to doubt and wonder and speak the truth as you have done so well.  Thank you for all the gifts you have given, and those you have left behind with such generosity.

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Author:

A native of the North Shore of Boston, I currently live on Long Island, New York. I worked at Boston College as the Acting Director of The Church in the 21st Century Center until August, 2010 and served until November 2016 as Canon for Formation, and Dean of the George Mercer Jr. School of Theology of the Diocese of Long Island. I am now Rector at the Church of Saint Anselm of Canterbury in Shoreham, New York.

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