As I’m putting the finishing touches on my next book (read: frantically writing the second half), I’ve realized I would like to include a few more stories about other people’s experiences with church.
The book, tentatively titled Sunday Morning, is ultimately a memoir—a series of essays about loving, leaving, and finding the church, loosely arranged around the seven sacraments. I’m thrilled with how it’s turning out, and think it’s some of my best writing so far. But as with Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood, it’s important for me to not only share my own story, but also the stories of friends, family, and readers, in an effort to broaden the scope of the project and introduce new perspectives. I’ve already included several people’s stories in the book, but I’d like to include just a few more.
So I’m hunting for church stories. I’m looking for the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the bizarre, and the redemptive. I’d love to hear from both pastors and laypeople, the churched and the un-churched. A few questions that especially interest me:
Why did you leave your church?
How did you find your church? When did you know it was where you belonged?
What did your journey look like?: Atheist to Catholic? Anglican to Pentecostal? Baptist to Orthodox? (I love hearing about unusual church journeys)
Tell me a story that encapsulates everything that is beautiful about your church.
Tell me a story the encapsulates everything that frustrates you about church.
[For pastors]: What makes you feel most removed from your congregation? What do you feel you have to keep from them?
Think 400-800 words, about the size of a normal blog post. (Not my normal, which is 1500 words, but normal people’s normal.) Specifics are key. Broad generalities won’t help me much. Since the book draws from the imagery of the seven sacraments—baptism, confession, communion, holy orders, marriage, healing, and confirmation—stories that center around those experiences are much more likely to strike a chord with where I’m at creatively with this project.
If you’re interested in contributing your story, you can send it to Katie@Rachelheldevans.com or leave it in the comment section. Please include your first name and hometown. Katie is my assistant and she will keep track of all the submissions and put them in a single folder in my inbox. Though I will read them all, I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to respond to them all. Please send submissions by April 1, 2014.
Submissions may be used in one of two ways:
1) Inclusion in the book. I’ll be sure to contact you if I want to include your story in the book. If I do, I will likely paraphrase your story in my own words and include several quotes from your submission, so the piece will have a sort of journalistic feel. (I’ll let you read your section before it’s published, but I will retain the rights to the final product, as it appears in the book.) If you leave a short comment—three to five sentences—I may use your quote in a series of other quotes around a single topic. (For example: “I asked my readers why they left their churches, and this is what some of them said…”) In all cases, I will only use first names.
2) Guest post entry. You will remember that a few years back we hosted a series of guest posts here on the blog called “Church Stories” (you can find most them under the “church” category). In the lead up to the release of Sunday Morning, I’d love to bring that series back with some new submissions. So if you’re interested in contributing to that, please indicate that in your email or comment and write with my audience in mind. (If I use your submission only for a guest post, you will retain full rights to the final product.)
Hope all that makes sense. Let me know if you have questions.
One thing I love about blogging is that it has made the writing process so collaborative. I think about this little online community through every stage of the writing and publishing process, and I am so grateful for all the ways in which you have influenced how I think about the church. You’ve had a greater impact on me than you can know, and it’s a privilege to be on this journey with you.
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