Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Traci Rhoades. Traci is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area with her family. She is the author of Not All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Lost. We talk all about discovering the beauty in other church traditions and how we can pursue unity in the Church even with our differences.
If you find yourself in the messy middle as a Christian, you’re not alone, and I’d love to help. I’ve created the Untidy Faith newsletter just for you. Together, we'll navigate the many tensions of the Christian life and in the process find ourselves wandering closer to the Way of Jesus. When you sign up, you'll get a printable version of the Messy Middle Christian manifesto to your inbox today and first access to more Untidy Faith resources as they come out. You can sign up today at kateboyd.co/newsletter
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You're listening to happy and holy. I'm your host, Kate Boyd. I'm a disciple maker and writer and speaker who is making space in the church for Christians caught in the messy middle between conservative and progressive. We love Jesus. We love people, and we work with God and each other for a better world. Welcome to the show. If you find yourself in the messy middle as a Christian, you're not alone. And I love to help. I created the untidy faith newsletter just for you. together every month, we'll navigate the muddy waters and the many tensions of the Christian life. And in the process, we'll hopefully find ourselves wandering closer to the way of Jesus. When you sign up today, you'll get a printable version of the messy middle Christian manifesto delivered to your inbox instantly. And you'll also receive first access to more untidy faith resources as they come out. You can sign up now at Kate boyd.co slash newsletter. Today, on the show, I have the pleasure of sharing my interview with Tracy Rhodes. Tracy is a writer and Bible teacher. She lives in the Grand Rapids Michigan area with her family. And you can connect with her online at traces of faith calm or at traces of faith on Twitter. She is the author of not all who wander spiritually are lost. And today we talk about discovering the beauty and other church traditions, and how we can pursue unity in the church even with our differences. So let's dive in. Welcome, Tracy, thanks so much for joining me today.Unknown:
Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to it.Kate Boyd:
So from what I gather on between your book and what you do online, which is how we connected, you have a real heart for the unity of the church, where did that come from?Traci Rhoades:
As I look back, I have been in the church since I was a baby born and raised in the Southern Baptist tradition. But in reflecting back as I do in the book, and just you know, in my my writing in my life in general, I see so many church traditions that have influenced me, I grew up in the country, just down the road from a little Methodist Church. And they used to host soup suppers that we would always attend. And it was a very small rural church. And so if there was a Christmas program, or a vacation Bible school, often we would help with those as well, because they might not have a girl like in the Christmas play. And so they knew that, um, that we were willing to bet to, um, then in high school, my best friend was Catholic and a very devout family that observed a lot of things I'd never even heard of. I didn't ask enough questions, I don't feel like now because I could have gotten some good explanations from that family. But you know, at the time, you're just friends hanging out with the people you have things in common with, so and on the story goes. And then once social media came about, and the internet grew, I started discovering all of these books and all of these bloggers, and they were presenting a Christianity that I wasn't familiar with. And I don't mean that in a bad way, different practices, the observance of the church calendar, a acknowledgement of church history that I knew nothing about. And honestly, I grew jealous, because I felt like all of these things, were giving them insight into living a life with Christ that I didn't have, and knew nothing about. And so that began this hot and heavy pursuit of everything Christian, that I can find and I have befriended dear friends now after you know, years and getting to know one another. orthodox sisters, I have grown to love the Anglican tradition, and the liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer, those kinds of things. So you know, at times, whenever people use the word unity, they immediately think you have to you have to believe my exact type of Christianity, or we're not going to be able, you know, that's what unity is believing the exact same thing. And we're, we're not going to reach that first of all, and secondly, they never have if you look back even I love To do a search on the 12 disciples, because they were radically different individuals who thought Jesus was coming to do something completely different than what he you know, they had to learn the ways of Jesus just like we do. I think they're a great example of us trying to our unity comes from Christ, or unity comes at the cross. And it doesn't have anything to do with clones. Yeah, being little Christian clones that think and look just alike. So that yeah, that has been a wonderful thing for me to explore.Kate Boyd:
Yeah, I mean, I feel like I share some of that experience. Like when I was young, we did a lot of sort of church hopping, I feel like my dad and my mom were both raised Methodist, and but we just sort of like went to different kinds of churches for different seasons of life, and then eventually landed like you. We were Southern Baptist. And it was at that point that I was like, Well, now I'm drawing all the really hard lines. And these are all the things that I believe and everybody else is wrong. And I've definitely am not in that place anymore. And now it's funny the seminary I go to now, it's technically a Methodist seminary, but my professors have been Anglican, Methodist, Catholic Baptists, like they're all in my classmates as well. So it's been really interesting, even from a theological side to sort of hear the nuances or the way that they approach things. And but why do you think it's, why do you think we want to draw such hard line sometimes, between these denominations or segments within the church?Traci Rhoades:
I think about that a lot. Um, the root of it, I believe, is fear. I think there were stages in my faith, where I was truly afraid that if I was presented with something different, it would draw me away from Christ. I, you know, simple example that many many of us have experienced when I was in college, my sophomore year, I took humanities one and two, which was that colleges version of a philosophy course, right? And all my high school years, and in the college, I had heard beware of philosophy, you know, when you study that, they're gonna try to take away your Christianity. Those two classes that year of studying ancient Greek manuscripts, and The Epic of Gilgamesh, etc, are by far my favorite. Because it, it's about humanity, right? And what I have found, again, and again, I'm a huge proponent of Bible study, recently had my first article published in Christianity Today, and it was 10, fresh ways to read your Bible this year. And I realized that whatever encounter we can have with Scripture, is going to ground us in our Christianity, whether it be reading it aloud, whether it be reading a book at a time, I have a practice of for about eight years now I've read the Bible daily, chronologically, so in the order that scholars can best determine that, that at the events happened, that has blown, blown my mind, it has helped me understand the arc of Scripture so much better. And it's from that foundation that I that I've been sure out. And what I have found is he gives us a spirit of sound mind right and not and not a fear. I don't have that burst exactly right. But I walk from that sound mind, I asked the Holy Spirit for discernment. And fears kind of been cast aside, I often think the last few months in particular, of Peter stepping out onto the water. He wanted something desperately he didn't care what his peers wanted. He saw Jesus and he wanted that. And that's the image I've kind of had in my mind. It can look too conservative for a progressive I can look to progressive for conservative, my eyes around Jesus. And what what keeps me using Christ can teach me that's what I want.Kate Boyd:
Yeah, I love that. And I think you're right. I think there's also and I think this is related to the beer, but I think there's just this desire for some kind of certainty to latch on. too, you know, and feeling like if we can just figure it out, right, we can hang on. And then we can sort of keep everyone else at a distance. But we know that we have whatever answer and so it gets. But there's a lot of, there's a lot of space for ambiguity or a lot of space for tradition, right to then enlivened, or supplement like this core. And so it's really interesting to me at this stage, and like watching how people sort of navigate that,Traci Rhoades:
it is interesting, and you almost reach a point where you can read, both of us spend a lot of time on Twitter, where you can read a tweet or two from an individual. And if not know what denomination they're a part of, at least know their leanings, you know, and speaking to, to what you said about wanting, wanting a clear path, wanting to be clear, I think, for a long time, I thought, if I studied scripture enough, if I had enough years in the church under my belt, I would find what was right and what was wrong. And it was going to be black, and it was going to be white, right. And now, I feel as if rather than reading scripture and interacting with one another to be right, and to prove my point, I want to do those things in order to encounter God. And that's been a huge difference for me. And just I on the regular acknowledge the fact that I don't know an answer, or I could be wrong about an answer. It's a humble stance to take. But I find that it makes you a better listener makes you a better learner.Unknown:
yeah, I find that I'm more Welcome to kind of push back on things, which is part of how I even sort of approach things like Twitter and stuff like that, where you can kind of like put something out there and then have actual discussions with people and find that nuance, because there's so much, it's really easy to want to paint in broad strokes, because it just sort of it makes it simple, right? And it's when you actually realize that there are finer points or all these things like you don't need, it allows you that space to explore or the space to be wrong and be okay with that if you're just like, or to recognize that it's not as big of a deal as maybe you thought it was.Traci Rhoades:
That's a lot of it too. Absolutely. I know, as I have learned about how a Jewish individual will approach the Hebrew Scriptures. There's a they have commentary after commentary. And then they have a thing called midrash, where it's people just interacting with their scriptures, etc. And you discover a lot like what I said, there, they're not necessarily looking for, I will only read this commentary, this guy has it right. And I am going to, you know, only study him and you know, figure out exactly what these Hebrew Scriptures are saying, I think God is much more complex than that. And I think if we look at our old testament or New Testament, yes, Jesus Christ stays the same yesterday, today and forever. And he reminds me of that all the time as I am studying scripture, but I and everyone else is human. And so our ability to comprehend that in our ability to you know, we just in Bible study, we just did a study on the Sermon on the Mount. And I'm ready to study it again, like two weeks later. There is no way I took that all in, there's no way that I fully understand what Jesus was trying to communicate in those three chapters. And that's more my approach to Scripture and to you know, social media can be known for the shock factor is what I call it, you know, if somebody will post something that just seems outrageous, and you're, you know, that part of it is because that shock factor gives us likes and comments. And that's by design. Yes, absolutely. And whenever I see something like that from a person, you said it well, let's do a kind of push back here. You know, I'm not combative. Anybody that follows me on twitter knows that, but I'm interested, you know, and if you said this thing that seems so shocking. What's behind that, and and what more were you saying that you couldn't communicate in a very short tweet, or post so yeah, It's, it's a fascinating way to, to interact with church to interact with Scripture to interact with people. I, I just learned so much every single day.Kate Boyd:
Yeah, it's amazing what just interacting, you know, with people that are different than you will do to open up some of that. So when we think of unity, um, you know, in the church, what do you does unity look like? And what does it not look like?Traci Rhoades:
Well, as I mentioned earlier, I don't we're not going to all agree on every thing. I just don't this side of glory, and maybe not even, you know, once we're having bound, I don't, I don't know that that is God's intent for us to just, I use the word clone earlier to just be little Christian clones. Um, but I do think unity shows a respect. For other individuals, I think it allows an honest consideration of what the other person might might think, on passages of Scripture or on practices in the church. Just an example. You know, if I, I grew up Southern Baptist, so at seven years old, I asked Jesus into my Heart Walk forward and an invitation him to the altar. And probably two, three weeks later, was baptized by immersion of believers baptism. So when my daughter was born, we were attending a Reformed Church, in our particular Reformed Church, our pastor will baptize babies, and then he will also baptize adults. It's he takes each situation into consideration. And when I first started attending there, I thought, well, that's all fine and good. But yes, my daughter will have a believers baptism just like I did, right? Because we, we know what we know. And he gave a couple sermons early on, about what infant baptism signifies. And for me, it was impacting enough that we did baptized my daughter as a baby. And at the time, I thought I will baptize her and believers that you know, when she becomes a believer, two will have two baptisms. Well, since then, um, studied it and studied it, talk with my pastor read so much on social media have read books, you know, huge learning process. I love the baptism waters, she has only been baptized once. She will not at least, while while I am her guardian will not be baptized a second time. But if you have if you've, you know, my mom went to Israel, and was emerged the second time into the Jordan River. For her it didn't signify baptism so much as it was otters that Jesus was in and she Yeah, I want to encounter Jesus in that way. So um, all that to say, I hold baptism pretty lightly. Infant or believers, you know, which what we've done both in church history. I know incredibly godly men and women, who would only do unbelievers baptism. And I know incredibly godly men and women who would only do an infant baptism. Those things matter, but they don't determine your salvation. You know, and that's the core of what I try to stay focused on. Because the way we can find unity is to know our essential core beliefs, which for me, is the gospel teaching, right incarnation, life of Christ's death, burial resurrection. And if we consider around that, then I give a pretty healthy respect for the ways that we are different otherwise.Kate Boyd:
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a good approach. Um, so what are some of the ways that you know, learning from other traditions or having conversations from other with people of other traditions, what are some of the biggest takeaways that you've had from those experiences?Traci Rhoades:
Well, my absolute favorite It, it changes me every single time is actually visiting these other places. I encourage people to do this all the time. And I know, I've had so many people tell me over the years, I would do that if I had someone to do it with me, I'm nervous to go by myself. You know, obviously, if it's a Sunday morning activity, you know, you don't like to miss your local church, huge proponent of being active in your own local church. But over the years, I've had opportunities, and don't mind going alone. And so I, it just happened last Sunday evening. And so I shared a post that I had written a few years back about attending forgiveness, Vesper, at an antiochian Orthodox Church in Grand Rapids, which is near my home. And a very shocking experience of anything orthodox is unique, and not like church experiences that we in western Christianity are used to, especially if we're the non Catholic variety. And when we were there, there's different icons, specific paintings of biblical characters and saints, not it's not art, artwork, necessarily, it's kind of serves a different purpose. But anyway, icons throughout the sanctuary area. And when they come in, they will acknowledge them in some way, they'll bow, or they will kiss them in different interactions with icons. So I had been to an Orthodox Church before. So I was used to that. But that two things that really stood out to me in that service, and it was about an hour long, it's not a super long service, was it at one point, after they sung they, there's more of a chant a few songs, they had this whole ceremony of taking away the cloth that was hanging on the, on the walls. And then on the table. It may have been where an icon was, I don't recall what was on the table, but removing those claws and putting claws of a different color on purple, because it's signifying that they are now entering into greatland. And then towards the very end of the service, the priest is standing towards the front, and he tells the individuals that they are going to go forward, and they'll encounter him first. And whenever you stand before the priests, you say, I'm not going I should have looked it up, to know exactly what they say, but around the idea of, forgive me for Anyway, I've sinned against you. And then the priest responds to them, and forgive me for any way I've sinned against you. And then that person takes a space next to the priest in line, the next person comes up. By the end, every person in their congregation has stood before the priest and stood before one another, and asked forgiveness. And I went forward as a stranger, and went through the first session, along with all of the others. And afterwards, it was so interesting, because I was, you know, meeting a few people from the area. And one gentleman, he had his son with him, the son was probably, I'd say, about 1012 years old. And he said, I can't believe you were, you know, brave enough to do that in front of all these strangers. And I, as I drove home, I thought about that, and I thought, what I did didn't seem that brave. What seemed brave to me, was the idea that I might stand before the people in my church, who I've had interaction with all year. And it's not always beautiful interaction. You know, sometimes we get mad because why, you know, why do we have to have this song during communion? Why can't we have this? Or why do we have to sing it all during community? Why can't we just hear instrumental I mean, on and on, we go, right, that's church life, and to stand before those individuals and ask forgiveness. And to hear the words, I forgive you. super powerful. And so that's one example. And I love Ash Wednesday service, I did not attend my first one until 2015. So I've gone to six now, actually paid into it during the pandemic. So five, what a meaningful time to to just stand before the idea that we're only here For a short while, that that we will all encounter death someday, I heard an Anglican priest referred to at one time as crossing, crossing through the veil. I love that imagery of the all kinds of revealing glory Sunday. So, yeah, like I said, all of these services are completely new and different to me. And I'm amazed at what they serve in my heart of what they show me about God's people, what they show me about Christ.Unknown:
to sort of wrap up our conversation, what are some of the what's some advice, or some things that you suggest for people who are interested in exploring other traditions or just like even have, you know, a desire for more unity within their body? Or the people that they know really well and worship with? And yeah, what are a couple of things that you would suggest for them?Traci Rhoades:
I'm going to try to keep it very concise, so that maybe they can be takeaways that they'll keep in their mind, I'm going to go with three things. Number one, find readable books on church history. I really been exploring church history in the last year or so. And what you'll find is, there's not anything new under the sun, just like Ecclesiastes tells us. Christ always emerges triumphant. And there's always godly people that are doing the work of Christ even in in turmoil, and polarization, all of these things that we feel like we're facing today. So that would be number one. Read read more in church history. Take advantage of social media. I remember one time I do I share some of my blog posts and stuff on Pinterest. And there's different community boards, right. And one particular one I looked at was something church related. I don't remember the exact name now. But in the description of it, it said, Please don't share any Catholic posts. And I thought, No, you know, so as much as the Spirit leads you to find people that are Christians who are different than you. Like I say, I've loved the Orthodox community. I feel like they're an exposure to a whole nother realm of church history, and also a world they have a perspective of the worldwide faith that I think sometimes lacking. And yes, go find the Catholics too, because I have several Catholic friends as well. And the third thing, um, be brave enough to visit. And I'll tell you one thing that really helps me if I'm late, especially when I'm on vacation. If I attend to Reformed Church, now, when I go on vacation, I don't look for a Reformed Church. I think what's something you know, I've been I've been to a Lutheran Church, that was a wonderful experience on vacation. One time I went, I dragged my cousin to a very, we're in a small part in northern Michigan, and we went to this tiny church like they knew we were guests, because we're the only two that weren't regulars. Yeah. And it wasUnknown:
a husband situation.Traci Rhoades:
Yeah, it was a husband and wife who preached and so you know, if you've never heard a woman pastor, then seek that out. But my advice, one of the best things that I know to do when I visit especially if you think you're a little nervous about it, is to look up and email the pastor ahead of time. I'm always so welcomed like people are so excited to have you visit and to have you truly want to learn about the way they do church and the different church calendar events that they observe. I've never been met with a rude person or a offensive You know, I'm more afraid that I'm going to offend them the other way around. So maybe that will take some of the edge off you know if you know okay, I've already talked to the pastor or priest they know I'm coming this is you know, perfectly okay. And then you know, you slip in the back, you don't go up front. And you just try to blend in but um, riches, so many riches from taking the bold step of visiting like that. Highly recommended.Kate Boyd:
Yeah, I was on a trip with a group of people to England and So we went to several, you know, Church of England church, like, services, Anglican church services. And it was very much it was nice because they sort of have like the they had the orders, so you knew like what to do. Um, but yeah, to sort of like, be there and experience that and then just be able to sit and blend and absorb the way other people absorb a different kind of person absorbs is really interesting. And it definitely made me cuz I tend to be pretty, like, low church, you know, low church, for me as an I love high church too, but low church and like,Unknown:
it's still church. SoKate Boyd:
it's cool. But it made me appreciate the high church a lot more.Traci Rhoades:
For sure, for sure. Yeah. And I think the churches that I have been to, and I know, I've talked about this with different pastors, and what have you to the churches that are gone to that give that order of service, especially if it's a high church, or, you know, when you're attending Catholic mass, it's so helpful. Because if they're spending all your time trying to flip through the page and see where it is, they are there already through what they're doing before you actually get there. So yeah, organizing things in that way is very helpful, too. But like I said, it's so worth the pursuit. Yes,Kate Boyd:
it's definitely it's an interesting way to do and I like that you you know, doing it on vacations, an easy thing, right. You're already on vacation, like take a take a vacation from your normal thing and do something different.Unknown:
That's nice.Kate Boyd:
Well, thank you so much, Tracy for joining me.Unknown:
Yeah, I've really enjoyed it.Kate Boyd:
If you want to keep up with Tracy, you can find her online at traces of faith.com. And on Facebook, at traces of faith blog, Instagram at traces of faith blog, Twitter at traces of faith and Pinterest at traces of faith. Her book not all who wander are spiritually lost is also for sale now, and available at the link in our show notes. But pretty much anywhere you would buy books. If you enjoyed our discussion, I would love it if you would rate and review on your favorite podcast player. This helps more people to find the show and to learn with us. Then come on over to social media and let's talk about it. You can find me on Instagram at Kate Boyd co and on Twitter at V Kate Boyd. And don't forget again to check the show notes for easy links to Tracy's info. Thank you for joining us and I'll see you