Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Interfaith’

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.

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.”

At Home, Spiritually

This evening I attended an ecumenical Lenten service, as I did last week at this time. Area churches plan these services for each Wednesday evening of the Lenten season, with area ministers preaching on a given theme at one another’s churches. Soup and sandwiches are offered before each service, creating a time to connect with people from other religious communities.

Beyond my general fascination with religion and spirituality, I particularly enjoy these Lenten services because, of all the Christian services of the year, those offered during Lent are likely to get us thinking counter-culturally  about how we live our lives, about what is really important and foundational, and especially about what we need to release to be able to live more freely, deeply, and in touch with the source of life.

Metaphorically, I’ve been looking to my own backyard, to new spring plant life in particular, to feel my way into the new life that is promised at this time of year. Thus my previous post here was about clearing away winter debris so that new life (snow drops, crocuses, daffodils) can appear. I tend to think metaphorically about these things, seeking out the debris that clutters my life, and finding ways to clear it so that I can be more creative, more forgiving, more loving. This time of year offers me a chance to consciously do that.  Certainly the pre-Easter season is in anticipation of the new life that followers of Jesus find at this special time of year, when his risen spirit is recognized as being within us and among us. I understand resurrection, too, as metaphorical, akin to the cycles of life in nature.

I can’t help it. I was not raised as a literalist.

The church of my upbringing was Universalist (before the merger with Unitarians in the early 1960’s). In the sanctuary of my childhood one could see not only a Christian cross, but visual symbols for Buddhism, Judaism, Taoism, and more. Our services were Christian in form, but far-reaching in content. That which is learned in childhood is close to the bone.

As I listened to the music and the message this evening in the little Congregational Church I hold dear, I thought about the astonishingly diverse and beautiful ways we each find meaning and purpose in our lives. As we left the church, in the west the last oranges of sunset hid behind the hills. In the blue-black sky, a gorgeous sliver of a moon lay on her back looking up at the stars, while Venus twinkled on the horizon below her. I am grateful that there are many places I can feel at home spiritually. Within and without walls.