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Remembering Rachel Held Evans
by: 
James Melchiorre

Rachel Held Evans’ death on Saturday, May 4, at age 37 grieves the millions who have read her books and followed her blogs. You need do nothing more than check a Twitter feed to get a sense of what she meant to people, especially to women of her generation and to any people who have struggled with their faith.

Rachel Held Evans visited Trinity Church Wall Street in January 2015 as a speaker at the Trinity Institute conference “Creating Common Good,” which focused on economic inequality and the role of the church in disrupting it. She also participated in a short documentary Trinity produced in her hometown of Dayton, TN, demonstrating the different but equally devastating nature of rural poverty.

As producer of the documentary, I recall the personal touch with which Rachel welcomed our video crew—introducing us to her neighbors, joining us for lunch at a local restaurant, opening her home so we could record the video interview in her living room. We called the documentary, which you can watch through the link below, "Safety Nets" because Rachel told us that day "It's a sense we're watching out for each other. I think Christians are called to be safety nets for one another and for the people around us."

Then as in the years since, as I followed Rachel on social media, hers was always a voice of compassion, justice, inclusion, humor, and humility.

Other Trinity staff members wanted to express their thoughts on her passing.

“When I first heard of Rachel and read her work, I thought finally there was someone who had the same questions about this essential aspect of our lives and who wasn’t afraid to ask questions.  That’s a big deal, when you’ve been brought up to believe the teachings you’ve been given are the only and best way to meet God. I’m grateful for her honesty, bravery, and sense of humor.”—Lynn Goswick, Congregational Communications Manager

“That religion must evolve is something Rachel Held Evans knew better than most and communicated better than anybody. She upset those who wanted their faith to be static, but she also knew deeply that evolution has a direction: toward greater compassion. I wonder whether it was that conviction that allowed her to engage so firmly yet lovingly with her critics.”—Bob Scott, Director Faith Formation and Education

“Rachel used her candid writing of her journey from certainty to faith to expose, with love and grace and respect, the hypocrisy of American Evangelicalism. In doing so she championed others who found themselves refugees from their own faith tradition by reminding us we are not alone….or crazy.  She was also generous enough to be our guest at our kick-off meeting for a small group, Evangelical to Episcopalian.  She led the group with honest and witty warmth that created a bond among strangers which encouraged and comforted all who were there. By the end of the weekend I felt I had a new best friend.  And from the outpouring of love on social media, it is clear I’m not the only one who had that experience.

I grieve for the loss of her voice in these tumultuous times in our society.  There are too few Christian voices to counter the exclusion and hate and greed that is touted as Christianity.  And even fewer that can do it without anger, resentment, or pride.  I look forward to the new voices she has inspired rising up and speaking out for love and hope and Jesus.

And for all that the Church lost with her death, the greatest loss is that two young children will not grow up with her loving, witty presence and her husband will parent without her strength and wisdom.  For them, I pray her legacy and the love she poured out for so many will come back to them in abundant measure.”—Ellen Andrews, Program Manager- Pastoral Care & Community

Watch videos below.


Panel - Agape Economy
 
 

Panel: Rachel Held Evans, Jennifer Jones Austin, Amy Butler

 
Safety Nets
 
 

Trinity Institute in January 2015 will present Creating Common Good, a practical conference for economic equality.  In the second of a series of video segments examining the economic condition of the nation and the world, author and blogger Rachel Held Evans takes us to her small rural community, introducing us to people who are working hard at their jobs—and still struggling.