Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Posts tagged ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’

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.

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.

‘GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness’

My friend Marian Van Eyk McCain has edited a new book, GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness.  Because the topics in it are related to my work on Temple of the Cosmos and my interest in our spiritual responses to our world, I intend to read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.  Marian also wrote The Lilypad List: 7 Steps to the Simple Life.

8/17/10 News Flash! Marian Van Eyk McCain, editor of and contributor to GreenSpirit: Path to a New Consciousness, will be in Chatham, NY on Sunday, September 12. 2010, 2 PM to speak about the book and about living simply. The Real Food Network Co-op, 15 Church Street, Chatham, NY. This event is sponsored by Sanctuary Without Walls.

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.

Green Spirit

On this white and snowy day, I’m sharing a springtime photo, plus a link I just added to this blog.

The people of GreenSpirit:

* celebrate all existence as deeply connected and sacred

* understand humanity as integral to the planetary landscape rather than its distinguishing feature

* find inspiration in the traditions of Earth-based peoples and Celtic spirituality

* are exploring the unfolding story of the Universe and promote common ground between people in the context of this vision

* seek to redress the balance of masculine and feminine and befriend darkness as well as light

* create ceremonies and celebrations which connect us more consciously with the cycle and seasons of the Earth

* seek a more just, sustainable and peaceful way of life in harmony with the Earth

The statements above (in italics) are from the GreenSpirit website. I learned about this organization  from my friend Marian, an active GreenSpirit member. This group in Great Britain is based on the Creation Spirituality movement. To learn more about Creation Spirituality, visit the CS website.

Meanwhile, closer to home, through Sanctuary Without Walls I am looking forward to hosting gatherings where we can explore how our place as part of the natural world and our earthly and cosmic story can offer us inspiration, healing, a sense of peace and balance, a profound feeling of belonging, and more. Posts about this and other events will appear as plans develop.

Spirituality?

The term “spiritual,” like the word “love,” has been used in so many ways that it has almost lost its meaning (think, “I love your new car!”). But most of us have not given up on the word love; I’m not ready to give up on the word “spiritual.” But what does it mean? Some thoughts from a variety of sources/traditions:

Theologian Matthew Fox, in #11 of his 95 Theses says, “Religion is not necessary but spirituality is.”  And from #12 of his 95 Theses: “Spirituality is living life at a depth of newness and gratitude, courage and creativity, trust and letting go, compassion and justice.” A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity, Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 2006

“…human beings have . . . a need to be valued, to be cared for, to be loved, to be recognized, and to feel that their life has some  meaning and purpose and is not just a means to someone else’s needs. We call these spiritual needs.” Michael Lerner, p.16, editorial, “Hostile Takeover: Theocracy in America,” Tikkun Vol. 21 No. 1

“Spirituality is an organic part of daily life, not something dispensed by a professional. True spirituality is liberation, not just from the delusions of reality but from the delusions of religion as well.” Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, p. 20. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.

“I use it with a very basic connotation: the human search for meaning. All of us, all the time, operate out of a sense of being connected to an inner core of meaning.” (p.12)   “Spirituality is inherent to being human; religion is only one aspect of our unfolding spirituality.” (p. 13) Diarmuid O’Murchu, Quantum Theology, New York: Crossword Publishing, 1998

And about raising children:

“To be fully engaged members of the human society, [children] must be religiously literate. An important part of this literacy is the recognition that humans have a ‘spiritual’ dimension, broadly defined – a yearning for meaning and purpose, a connection to the rest of humanity and life on Earth, a sense of existential wonder and mystery.”  Roberta Nelson, “Even Secular Parents are Religious Educators,” p. 15, UU World, Fall 2007. The article was adapted from Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion, edited by Dale McGowan.

And finally, my simple take on it: “Spirituality is about our human spirit, our experience of that within us and around us which opens us to a larger view and new possibilities: interconnection, love, compassion, forgiveness, and creativity in our lives.” Katharine Houk, The Book of Belonging

Making Special

Deirdre's photographs may be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/superdewa/

Deirdre, a Facebook friend, recently posted this photo of a challah, which is a braided bread often part of the meal on Fridays in Jewish households. Looking at the photo, I can almost taste the crunchy crust and smell the delicious aroma of home-made bread. The challah was made by her daughter, Elisheva, age 11. On her flickr page, Deirdre wrote, “We had one [a challah] last night with dinner and one this morning as french toast. We are not religious, but we still usually have a special meal, with candles, wine, and bread, on Friday nights.”

Special.” The word jumped out at me.  Ellen Dissanayake, in her books What is Art For? and Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes From and Why, describes art not as a thing but as a process, the process of “making special.” She considers “making special” a fundamental human behavioral tendency along with speech and tool-making/using. She writes, “Moreover, one intends by making special to place the activity or artifact in a ‘realm’ different from the everyday.” (What is Art For?, p.92, emphasis in original.) Dissanayake also relates this aesthetic process of “arting” to human play, ceremony, ritual, and its importance to our human evolution. Sacred play.

Deirdre’s daughter’s bread was made for their “ritual” Friday night meal, and the wine and candles beautifully round out the specialness of the event, which is set apart from everyday meals. Warmth and beauty, connection and sustenance: the bread by which we live.