Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Mossy Cross, for Sunday

From death springs new life.

To Stay or Go ~ Spiritual Communities & Community Ministry

Brace yourselves; here comes the C-word and the J-word, not to mention the R-word.

Popular author Anne Rice has “quit” Christianity. On her Facebook page last week she wrote:

“Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out…I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”

And this morning in my inbox I discovered a stunning response in the form of an article in Salon magazine, from Lily Burana, who has chosen to stay and fight. She wrote:

“Religion can be freighted with heartache, disappointment, uncomfortable adjustment and the dreary slog through the vale of tears. But I believe we can fashion the pieces of a broken heart into a new shape of belief. I’d rather endure the contortions of worship than suffer the bone-dry refuge of refusal or a spiritual life half-lived.”

Here’s the link to the article.

Some time ago, with the blessing of The Center for Progressive Christianity, I created a Facebook page, wanting to spread the word about this group’s work and resources. If you are one of those, like me, hanging in there with Christianity, you may wish to check it out. This month’s articles at www.tcpc.org are about Anne Rice’s decision, people who consider themselves SBNR (spiritual but not religious), the new atheists, interfaith – innerfaith, and more.

As an infant, I was baptized in the Universalist Church (in the 1960s it merged with the Unitarian Church, to form Unitarian Universalism). Although I trained as a UU minister, I am not firmly planted in a UU church, nor am I a free-floating follower of Jesus, but rather someone with more than one spiritual home. This is distasteful (bordering on heretical) to many people calling themselves Christians, but my religious experience is not a “spiritual life half-lived;” it is expansive and broad, as well as deeply rooted. I like to think it’s the way Jesus lived, breaking bread with all kinds of people, while intimately knowing his Source. Community is important to me; if I cannot find it, I gather with others and  help it grow. And I see this happening all around me. Community ministry. Yup. That’s what I do.

Registration Brochures at last!

On the sanctuarywithoutwalls events blog you will find a post which includes the registration brochures for events which will be facilitated by my friend Phoebe and me:

Growing Older, Growing Wiser: Becoming an Elderwoman ~ For women 55 and older, on the second Tuesday of each month, September 14, 2010  –  March 8, 2011  ~ 7-9 PM

To download the registration brochure with all the details, click on the following link:

Elderwoman registration brochure

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After being away and entertaining guests, I’ve had many little details to attend to here. It feels great to make these available, at last! Check out the events site for details and other happenings.

An Interfaith Day ~ Engaging With The Other

Today was one of those days. I allowed myself one meeting (only one, because of my ankle’s recovery), with our area interfaith group. The meeting got into some deep, subtle and difficult issues, and ended up lasting three hours, whereas it usually ends after about an hour and a half. Conversations like this are very important, but we don’t often make the time for them.

On another (but also interfaith) topic, this evening, I engaged in some interfaith planning for  the upcoming event The Energy Transition: Cultural and Religious Perspectives, sponsored by the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science. It is my responsibility to invite people to lead the evening Chapel Services for that week-long event; this year the services will have a multifaith focus. This is a new way of planning these traditional evening services; it will be interesting to see how the idea is received.

The more I am involved in this work, the more I see how difficult it can be for us to understand one another, especially with respect to “belief.” Can we stretch our religious understanding beyond “beliefs?” Beyond “ideas?” What is at the heart of the matter?

There’s the familiar Jalal ad-Din Rumi quote:  “Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I will meet you there.”

Eight Alternative Spiritual Paths

At the moment I’m reading a book which was mentioned on the blog called Urban Mystic (thanks, Tim). The title of the book is Beyond Religion: 8 Alternative Paths to the Sacred, by David N. Elkins. Because I haven’t finished it, I’ve not decided whether to add it to my list of recommended books.

“Buried deep in the heart of every adult is a longing for a life that matters.  We want to drink deeply from the stream of existence and know the passion of being truly alive.  The purpose of this book is to say that such a life is possible, and that it all begins by learning how to nurture and care for the soul.”

OK. Nurturing the soul is what Elkins considers the spiritual life to be about. But I’m trying to understand exactly what he means by soul, since it is basic to what he is putting forth. He does claim that one doesn’t need religion in order to nurture one’s soul. Should be interesting to see what moves he makes to define soul in non-religious ways. More after I’ve read more.

Meanwhile, some of the ideas I’ve already come across in this book may be fun to play with at the Sanctuary Without Walls  monthly gathering tomorrow. Please come if you are interested! 4 PM.

info@sanctuarywithoutwalls.org

By the way, the eight paths are: The Feminine, The Arts, The Body, Psychology, Mythology, Nature, Relationships, and Dark Nights of the Soul.

Stairway to Heaven

If you could see the stairway to heaven, what would it look like? Would it be ethereal? Made of rainbows or mist? Would it be gold and ivory, studded with pearls, emeralds and sapphires? Would it be a simple wooden stairway, leading up through a canopy of trees? Would it be within a whirlwind which sweeps you off your feet?

Since I am agnostic about the existence of an afterlife heaven, (or anything else after death, agnostic meaning I simply cannot know) – I have no idea what a stairway to heaven would be like. Nevertheless, today I found myself on a staircase that made me look twice, three times.

In a big brick building, possibly an old factory, which had been converted to a many-leveled bookstore and café, going from one level to the next was an ornate iron staircase which had been painted in shiny black enamel. It was huge, very sturdy and strong, yet appeared (to my untrained eye) to be suspended. A suspension staircase. The idea caught my attention.

Stairway

A stairway to heaven. What does yours look like?

Today I vote for iron, the metal at the core of our planet. Iron: magnetic, malleable yet strong – because creating heaven here on Earth is a messy business. It’s a process, much like climbing stairs. We can get stuck, go down when we mean to go up; we can wonder why we need to struggle against the flow, or how we will find the strength to lift our leaden feet to the next step.  In creating heaven on Earth, we each have our own small part to play in making the world a greener, more compassionate and joyous place, so it’s a good thing the stairway is wide enough for all of us. And it needs to be strong, for those times when we are not. And through our struggles, our rejoicing, and when we stop to rest, we remember that the stairway to heaven is suspended. From what? From whatever we find to be true, foundational, sacred, ultimate, holy.

A Seder? Today??

Today we will be attending a family Passover Seder, even though it’s not quite Passover. This family gathering is a large one, about fifty people, so scheduling can be tricky. At the home of a cousin, all ages will gather, from infants to great-grandparents, for a beautiful and joyous ritual meal remembering the Exodus; the themes of deliverance, humility, gratitude, liberation, and freedom; always a political dimension, usually expounded upon by one of the uncles; delicious food; much love. And a place for Elijah.

The children play a major part, reading from the Haggadah, and singing songs.  Children are very important on this holiday: “l’dor va-dor,” “from generation to generation.”

All the items on the ritual dinner plate have meanings associated with the holiday. The one most people are familiar with is the matzah, the unleavened bread. And there is much lifting of the cup of wine. The home becomes a sanctuary, a place for expressing gratitude, love, and celebration.

Passover blessings!