The sacred shouldn’t suck.
For the past decade, I’ve been asking, “Why spiritual community? Is it worth the hassle?” I mean, it’s pretty obvious that religious organization tends to be full of problems and pitfalls. Nobody has to look far to find examples of people who have been hurt by religion’s failures. So I’ve been wondering, seriously, since I was first struck by the crazy idea of entering the ministry, “Should we keep-on doing this? Is church really where it’s at?”
I’ve been gnawing on these questions throughout the ups and downs of my stumbling spiritual leadership. And I keep concluding, though good times and rough ones — yeah, it’s worth it.
Absolutely, it’s complicated, even when it’s grooving. For sure, spirituality and religion bring out the ugly almost as often as they call forth the best in people. Indeed, it can be a total shitshow.
AND — there is magic in our togetherness. There are aspects of the Divine that we can experience fully only with each other, in community.
Of course, we can explore our own relationship with Spirit in solitude, in quiet contemplation and meditation, through communion with Nature, or art, or music. That’s beautiful — by all means, let’s do that too! But if we want to actualize anything like heaven on earth, if we want to transform and progress what it means to be human, if we want a practical spirituality that makes a difference the world — well, then, we’ve got to be able to deal with our most perplexing selves and with the messiness of other people. And that ain’t all sunsets and sonatas.
My commitment is to discover together and create together community experiences of the sacred that don’t suck. I call this: “Church.”
Okay, so — I know that “church” can sound dusty and old-fashioned. Most of my friends and family are confirmed non-church-goers. In Science of Mind, we usually try to make the whole idea a little more palatable by referring to our organizations as “centers,” or “spiritual communities,” which is fine. “Church” for me is a pretty straightforward way to describe community celebrations of spirit — most people get what that means. At any rate, I think it’s important to distinguish the container and organizational structure from what it is that we’re trying to do within it.
And if what we’re doing in it feels like a constant drag, if it drains the life out of us as we’re disappointed and disillusioned over and over again, then we’re doing it wrong, whatever we call it.
I’m not suggesting that we sidestep or bypass the challenges of spiritual organization. On the contrary, I think we’re being called to figure out a new way of meeting these challenges. I think we’re hungry for meaning and connection as a society and a species. It’s pretty clear to me that this hunger is spiritual, and that we are being invited to discover and create together fresh ways of navigating the messy parts — the complicated and convoluted inevitabilities of a deeper relationship with ourselves, our lives, and each other.
Organized religion can be so fraught! It gets doctrinaire and jargon-y, even when it doesn’t want to be, laden with beliefs that teeter into exclusionary ways of being, dividing rather than uniting. But neither am I really that into the popular alternative to dogmatism — identifying as “spiritual but not religious” — because, well, I think that usually sounds pretty limp and non-committal, and I don’t think we’re going to get very far with any of this if we aren’t committed.
So — I just keep coming back to CHURCH — reclaiming this word to define something awesome and joyful and empowering and authentic.
We can be as religious as we want to be with it — asking big mysterious questions, having theological debates, adventuring into the creative power of belief. We can be as spiritual as we want to be in it — connecting ever more deeply with our own hearts, with each other, and with the Infinite Everything of Life Itself — (I think this is really the whole point). “Church” is simply the framework, the supportive structure in which we get to do whatever we choose to do, mindful of our connection and belonging — serving, singing, wondering, dancing, praising, praying, and playing together.
I can wait to see you at CHURCH this Sunday. Even if you think you don’t like church, you’re going to love this special service with musical guests, Engine! (Check them out at theengineproject.com). Our celebration will be mostly music, and definitely participatory, so come prepared to get your spiritual socks knocked off this Sunday, April 7, 10 am. XO, Drew
© Drew Groves 2019