Tuesday, July 19, 2016


    In the summer months Jude and I often 'church hop' to share in Sunday worship with congregations that are new to us. In our Kingston area there are plenty from which to choose. There's always a chance, however small, that we will find one that will feel like home. We left the island on the nine o'clock ferry so we had lots of time.
    The first two we tried, the Unitarians and Quakers, apparently had closed for the summer, without putting anything about it on their web-sites. (Isn't it interesting that what-ever is offered in most places of public worship, somehow decreases in importance with the onset of warm weather?) We still had time to swing by a United Church that we had some connection with through their  music staff.
     I'm sorry to say that the experience was too predictable. They are 'modern'; there's a screen up front so the worship bulletin and hymn book(s) are redundant. The sound system, even assuming that many of the people have some hearing troubles, was WAY to loud.(The gentleman sitting in front of us took out his hearing aid.) The sixty or so seniors were very friendly in the 'greeting' part of the service. Everything was well planned and professional. The 'skin' of the experience was so very acceptable. And, for me, so very lacking in any deep spirituality.
    But what is needed in community worship? It is obvious that the people there, who have been coming there for generations, are getting what they need, at least, in some very important ways. But what do I need? Obviously, something very different. What might others need who are coming for the first time? I need a place to give and to receive, a place to share, a place where I see others sharing, being close enough with others to risk even a bit of close and personal stuff. Did I see any indication of that being even a small possibility? No.
    As is to be assumed in any clergy-driven church, all was directed from the top down. The music was hired help as well. There was no time for any inter-action. Not even coffee-time afterwards. You came, were entertained, and left.
    This 'church' style is hurting our spirituality. It gives us the impression that this shallowness is all that Christianity offers. If this is indeed the case, it needs to die. What we all long for is a place/time/community in which to share, question, be quiet, yell, laugh and cry. We need to live.
    At least, I need it. Most of us, I suspect, don't know we need it because we haven't experienced anything even close to the possibility of a loving community. We have no idea of what power and joy is available in real shared spirituality. And by this I certainly don't mean a group of people who are identical in their beliefs, but who, instead, can share their different realities and questions with each other, learning and growing in the process.
   In leaving that United Church congregation, the thought that remained most with me was that of all the gifts, knowledge, experiences, hopes and dreams of all those people. And of how all that pure WONDER was being lost by not being shared. How the very structure of the church, especially the assumptions of the need of control by the ordained clergy, was limiting and killing God's Spirit of Love and Life.
    Viewing the average age of the congregants, it was obvious that in another six or eight years, the church would die. Good. Maybe then, by then, there will be  enough wisdom and need for something new to be born. I hope I see that day.
    I need that day. For I know that there are mighty things that can only happen when people join together in love. We believe on our own. We need times of solitude and reflections. But the important things happen when we are together. We only grow when we are with others. That's how God and love work. "When two or more are gathered...." is fundamentally true. In leaving ourselves alone and isolated in our spirituality, we are limiting our growth and our futures. A real shame.
   So I'll keep searching. Maybe I'll have the nerve, some day, to try again and invite others to just join with me in sharing. Anyone interested?