A bit of reflection…
Here we are already into the new year, and I wonder how this solar (and now lunar) beginning again finds you? I find myself actively engaging in the inner work of embracing more deeply and fully the evolving nature of life and faith.
I feel like I have the evolving faith part fairly comfortably settled – I’m expecting to grow and change, to re-assess and reorient myself within my inner landscape as I integrate new understanding and new awareness. I let go of certainty and find that I am still anchored in the mystery of Love while life flows more freely without my trying to push, manage and manoeuvre around it. I’m still working on letting go of being just a bit right about particular aspects of faith (can I settle for bring right about the need to let go of certainty?)
The evolving nature of life is sometimes harder to embrace, though. Do you remember this time last year, and the year before, when there was a sincere sense of ‘good riddance’ to the passing year and a hopeful sense of looking ahead to a more settled and less chaotically disrupted future….covid changed so much about how we live and connect almost overnight, and the return to ‘normal’ is elusive, while the deep desire to be ‘post-covid’ is an improbable fairy tale ending to our present reality. Plus, there are many good reasons for us not to return to normal – there was lots about ‘normal’ that was unsustainable and unhealthy. And there’s some doubt that we will ever truly be post-covid. So we must also evolve and adapt as life has been doing on this planet for millennia – we just have to do it intentionally and not by happy accident.
So, as part of a global movement, in my own way I have been exploring the evolving of both life and faith – almost without meaning to – and then I somehow came across Diana Butler Bass’ latest book, Grounded. I thought I’d heard her give an interview on it, but I have no idea where that was so I can’t include a link that I have listened to – sorry. If you enjoy listening, I offer Rob Bell interviewing her about it…. let me know what you think.
Anyway, in the introduction to the book, Diana writes:
Much to my surprise, church has become a spiritual, even a theological struggle for me. I have found it increasingly difficult to sing hymns that celebrate a hierarchical heavenly realm, to recite creeds that feel disconnected from life, to pray liturgies that emphasize salvation through blood, to listen to sermons that preach an exclusive way to God, to participate in sacraments that exclude others, and to find myself confined to a hard pew in a building with no windows to the world outside.Grounded. Finding God in the world. Diana Butler Bass
Faith language, concepts, images, metaphors and spatial arenas of divine being and activity are all given a shake and shuffle about in this book, but it doesn’t sound revolutionary to me – it sounds like ‘yes, yes, you are saying what I also already sense/think/notice/feel about these things’.
The question for me is this: what now?
Church has been a spiritual and theological struggle, made even more acute for me as a leader of a church community. I am working to serve a community and a system whose givens, assumptions and expressions of faith rarely reflect or nourish my own journey these days – although they did in the past. I still do this out of love and hope, with trust in God and a sense of calling which I am faithful to, and I can do it because I’m not struggling to fit my faith understanding and journey into it any more – I do my best to offer my liturgies based on life, preach sermons which are inclusive, search for new words to familiar hymn tunes, etc. etc., but in doing this I am no longer trying to make it (them) move into something they are not ready/willing/wanting to open to.
I do still want to find a way and place to express and explore this evolving faith journey with a community of folks who are not angry with God, and no longer angry with the church (because you probably have to do that for a while before you are truly ready to re-engage in community without being badly triggered).
In many ways, this is what the Unusual Book Club has been for me and perhaps also for you. I wonder, how would you describe the journey for you over the last four years? At the same time, for me, the Book Club has been something of an incubator where a new thing has begun forming in the last year of our journey together and I am sensing that the time is coming near for the new thing to come to birth.
Still a bit of a mystery…
At some point this year I’m going to launch out with this new thing, and I hope that you will continue to journey with me. I’m going to be experimenting with form and content for it, though from our conversations, dreaming and reflecting together it sounds like it needs to begin as a weekly gathering offered widely and in a public space. I’ll be crafting and re-crafting it as we go, hopefully with support and input from participants and other contributors, and so as you might expect, the Book Club will continue to evolve alongside it…which I’m excited about….look out for your first post with resources and practices following this one – I’m just putting the finishing touches on there, and I’m looking forward to our first official gathering this year.