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The spot for the good news, the good word, the quick reports of the many, many wonderful news items I hear all the time and want to share with the rest of you. Expect to find the good news when you come to check out "what’s the good word?"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spirituality Needs Mission


In my new role of Director of Mission for Canada my focus is upon 2 primary areas of activity. The first is creating New Invitational Expressions of Community of Christ and the second is Congregational Revitalization. Following 2 reunions, a meditation retreat and reading numerous books and online sites about Millennials, church growth, spirituality and religion; here are some thoughts I would like to bring forward.

The disillusionment of church is the platitudes that seem hypocritical when not lived out, the promises that are not realized, the vision that ever so slowly inches forth in the outside view of the church.

I have had many, many meaningful conversations of late with good people peripheral to the church, several who were quite active at one point in their lives. I have personally been there. A common description of their new spirituality is the freedom they feel in their spirituality that is not confined by institutionalism. We can all understand institutional disenchantment. We encounter institutions every day. They can be slow, plodding, policy based. They frustrate our freedoms by asking us to work within frameworks and to abide by the will of others.

Media reports and stats reveal that the dropout rate from traditional church has accelerated by more than 15% per yr in the last 5 years. Overall, people state they are spiritual but not religious. It seems to be an emerging identity trend that many actually aspire to and proudly declare their individualism and departure from tradition. Religion and churches within the Christian realm have become part of a….. us/them culture, with churches becoming rarely revered institutions regardless of denominational differentiation or their attempts to change.

Some say Spirituality is only an emotion; abstract intuitions of something greater. I would say Spirituality is a relationship. Some say that Religion is an obligation; that Spirituality has no ties; that Religion has baggage from earlier eras to contend with, even if the church is re-forming its identity today, Spirituality has few apologetics to explain. For some the experience of Spirituality is satisfied with itself; Religion expresses dissatisfaction with the world which would seem to be a commonality with spirituality yet the corporate dimension is a barrier as well as the perceived lack of action. Spirituality as an end in itself is allergic to institutionalism. Institutions typically are perhaps the only mechanism human beings have to perpetuate ideologies and actions. If say, books were enough, why would we have universities? If a hermitage was sufficient, why have communities? If a single voice were enough why have unions? I suggest if you want to do something lasting in this world, encompassing all humanity, including your children’s children, then look again at church. You can be a catalyst of change. It has the vision and potential to tie a community together and lead meaningful change in concert with the Divine.….it can mobilize. There are positive characteristics and qualities within the framework of a church; our church...... if you look and engage.

To be spiritual but not religious suggests freedom but confines your devotional life to feeling good and looking in a mirror. If we have learned one thing about human nature however, it is that people’s internal sense of goodness does not always match their behavior, whichever mindset they are. The two dimensions are not mutually exclusive. To know whether your actions are good, a window is a more effective tool than a mirror. Be part of a community. There is something profoundly, well, spiritual about group dynamics, about dialogical interaction coupled with spiritual mindfulness. It involves individuals trying together to sort out priorities, to listen and learn from one another, to make a difference.

Often when people say, “I stay away from the church — too much politics,” what they mean is that they did not get their way. Institutions enable but they also frustrate, as do families and every other organized sector of human life. If you want frictionless, one would have to do that alone. Participating in church does not mean you have to agree with all the positions of your own group, but, engagement in Mission together is the glue that enables unity within that community.

No one expects those without faith to obligate themselves to a religious community. But for one who has an intuition of something greater than themselves, to hold that this spiritual sense is purely personal truth, that it demands no communal searching and struggle, no organization to realize its potential in this world, I hope Community of Christ can change that perspective and offer a Mission of Meaning. Join in; together is harder, but together is better.

submitted by Kerry Richards

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