Rachel Held Evans, the blogger that gave us A Year of Biblical Womanhood a few years back, devotes quite a bit of time in her new bestselling book, Searching for Sunday, to talking about how much she admires her younger sister, Amanda Opelt (nee Held). Although Evans is the older sibling, she readily admits her tendencies to be jealous of Amanda's precocious piety and natural beauty, among other things.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Rachel introduced her sister to her audience in a more personal way than ever before, with a post written by the musician and a link to Opelt's new album, Seven Songs.
'Searching for Sunday' is as much a memoir of a slow healing as it is a philosophical piece on the state of the church today. It's not an indictment against the modern church as much as it is a reminiscing; a soft sigh. A "me, too." And an altar call to the church community at large to commit to being what we want the church to be.
While the post-modern Evangelical movement seeks to redefine itself in light of what's hip and attractive, Held Evans seems to advocate the opposite. The echoing themes of 'Searching for Sunday' are of beckoning, beckoning for a return to the mystic, recognition of ritual, and an embrace of an Ancient mystery. It is a beckoning forward by a Jesus that has not changed, though we may feel like He's farther away from the ways of man than ever. She points out, "Church was alive and well long before we came up with the terms 'relevant' and 'missional', and church will go on long after grass grows through our cathedral floors. The Holy Trinity doesn't need our permission to carry on in their endlessly resourceful work of making all things new."
'Searching for Sunday' is structured loosely around the seven traditional sacraments (for those of us that are less orthodox, that's baptism, communion, holy orders, confirmation, confession, marriage and anointing the sick.) While it recognizes the deep theological trouble that an arrogant sureity puts Evangelicals in, the emphasis is not on finding answers to the questions of a church in its moonlight period, but on writing the story of the questions themselves.
The Held sisters have a lot in common. The genetic connection is obvious: they share piercing blue eyes and thick brown hair. Born to a professor of theology, they are both, unsurprisingly, preoccupied with notions of faith in our age. Both have deep and touching thoughts to share about the decline and renaissance of local church communities. Both are gifted with their expressions of love, and of life, and of faith. Though they may not consider it so, both are poets.
Though Amanda Opelt's album, Seven Songs, is certainly not meant to be a companion album to Rachel's book, there are parallels between the two that were put there purposely. Seven Songs is also based off of the seven sacraments, and its sample track is "Snow (Baptism)." Opelt's voice has a delicateness to it, and trickles over the beautiful lyrics like a small stream coming through a mountain range. She sings, "Pull me under, fill my lungs. When the snow melts from the mountaintops, maybe you can baptize us." The image of the snow melting, drop by drop, calls to mind some of Rachel's remarks on the topic of baptism: "The spirit that once hovered over the waters has inhabited them. Now every drop is holy."
Whether listening to Seven Songs or reading 'Searching for Sunday', the Held sisters both offer a valuable, unique and beautiful perspective on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.