Sunday, March 28, 2010
I had a hard time in a traditional church when the white, male minister stood above the congregation with an engaging, animated delivery and prayer that did not speak my heart. It reminded me why I was away from organized religion so long. It was someone else's interpretation of what my spirituality, my relationship, with God ought to be.
And, not much rang true for me.
My body tensed and my attitude bristled. The rebel in me, well, rebelled. I sang "Goddess our mother, she" instead of the printed "God, our father, he."
Stand up, sit down, read this creed, say this standardized prayer, we were commanded. Not even a single moment of silence. I felt no room for spirit, except in two hymns.
I realize this kind of church does appeal to many and am grateful there are as many denominations and faiths as their are personalities and types of people. I believe we respond to God differently and what speaks to me may not necessarily connect someone else.
After my inner rebel settled down, I began to view the time and experience as a blessing. A blessing that I have discovered a way that deeply connects, feeds and sustains me. The wonderfully sacred silent, corporate and unmediated worship of Quakers. Strictly between me and God and the roomful of people prayerfully centered.
It's not always perfect. Occasionally, I can't center easily, but I usually link to God and the congregation in some way -- even if at the last second. Enough to hold me for the week.
I am beginning to realize the real value of worshiping in community. Even just being in a faith community and how those regular interactions, connections, seeking and providing prayer, nurture and comfort are how we ought to live our whole lives. Not just on Sundays or exclusively with the people we know on Sundays. But all of the time, with everyone we encounter. Not an easy task, but the tightly-knit safety net of my faith community helps me to venture out beyond and try it other places. It's creating that blessed community right here and now. It's making where were are at this moment and how we interact more important than where we think we may be headed. It's the journey, how we respond and treat others that counts – from what I know – far more than the destination.
Lily rattled off a story in the car on the way to meeting this morning about how some kid at school screams that if you're not Christian, you're not going to heaven. It bothered her. It bothers me. Can't really blame the kid, I'm sure he's parroting what he's heard at home. But that kind of unconscious* behavior is damaging. Possibly most to those who heed it.
When I was new to Quakerism, someone told me this practice is hard work. There are no creeds, sacraments or beliefs beyond knowing founder George Fox's continuing revelation that God is personally accessible, that Jesus is the inward teacher and there is that of God in everyone. [OK, that's a really simplified synopsis, but Quakers value simplicity]. The rest, I have found, I work out myself with Divine guidance, often in the sacredness of silence.
So, if my theory that because we respond dissimilarly, God calls us as we are able to listen is true, makes me wonder how many times God has tried to get my attention over the years and I failed to notice. However, I am grateful I do pay attention more than I used to [not as much as I hope to], for when I do, I feel more whole.
*accepting things on the surface, without any personal exploration, prayerful testing or Divine guidance ... not to say faith and trust are not important, but different than judging others
• What connects me to something outside myself?
• What have been my experiences with organized religion/spirituality?
• What spoke most deeply to me? What did not?
• Have I experienced a strong faith community and what is that like?
• If I know what connects me, can I respect that something else works better for another?
when those other words
hit my breast with a thud,
I let them slide off
and I didn't listen again
for a long time
I now know you
were always with me
and I rediscovered
that I did, indeed,
know how to connect
but it was not with
not even with words
but in the still,
when your heart