Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Belief and belonging

During her first week of brushing up on church history, writer Rachel Held Evans began a blog list of learnings with this statement: "Christians have never been in full agreement when it comes to theology."  In Worlds Within a Congregation: Dealing with Theological Diversity, Paul Jones writes,
There is no such thing as the Christian faith, in the sense of anything resembling a common, agreed upon substance of belief held as a uniform center by those calling themselves Christian.  Currently there are more than two hundred fifty recognized denominations, which together weave the tapestry called American Christianity.
I am comforted and challenged by these reminders.  I've been reminded lately that no matter how clear we are about our mission and values, churches wind up being a collection of such a variety of individuals.  We bring our many experiences, backgrounds, personalities, and previous church histories with us.  We see God, scripture, life and ministry from different angles. It's what makes things lovely and beautiful...and very difficult.

The question on my mind is just how much theological diversity faith communities can handle without a disruption in fellowship.  Is there a way of being church in which the lines that have been drawn in the sand splitting so many faith groups, congregations, and denominations can be avoided?

Theological diversity is nothing new as Jones affirms, "What is new in our era, then, is not the fact of diversity but the call of the church to celebrate this diversity in a gesture of rare and expectant honesty" (p.36).

New and existing congregations have the opportunity to be safe places of belonging, where we can wrestle with our beliefs, honestly express our different perspectives and still practice the way of Jesus together.  We have the opportunity to express the gospel in our context as we say no to allowing differences to divide us and yes to peace and love toward each other.  Instead of huddling together with a homogeneous group of like-minded followers, we have the chance to work out our beliefs with fear and trembling.

That is good news for those who think they have to believe before they belong.
That is good news for churches.
That is good news for all of us, if only we would dare to embrace it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

hope, freedom & sacred space

I encountered the question what is sacred space? recently, and it has caused me to do some thinking.  Last Sunday at The Well, I shared a brief response to that question.  I experience sacred space as the place where one's true self and God meet, I said.  It is a place of attention and openness to God's presence.  It can happen anywhere, and can stir us toward a spontaneous response of some sort.

Over the past couple of months, as we have moved through the book of Acts, we have explored the ways that the Spirit of God has broken numerous barriers.  Fear, (over)certainty, and roadblocks were all encountered by post-resurrection followers of Jesus trying to share the good news.  As we have shared the ways we too have met, and at times overcome barriers on our journeys, it seemed fitting to come together for a night of celebration.  The idea was to create space for those who may not have paused to see or to celebrate a broken barrier, and to offer all of us room to be encouraged by these shared stories.

We shared a potluck dinner together, and then gathered in the backyard for a time of listening and sharing.  There were children (and pets) running around, no scripts or worship orders, and an unruly fire pit mixed with wind that kept blowing smoke in our direction.  As person after person began to offer up their broken barriers, words of hope were mixed with sadness and fear.  Addictions, anxiety and abuse were named.  Even in the overcoming of difficult circumstances, there were regrets, fears of relapse and the humility of owning our own stories.  It was messy and beautiful at the same time.  It was so real. God was evident in difficult details and in hope-filled futures.

It was sacred space.

During the remainder of this week, I have experienced a raised awareness of God's presence.  In conversations with my children, in encounters with strangers, in moments of relaxation and in quiet moments of prayer, I have been more mindful of God at work.  The faith community that I am part of has helped remind me that God stirs, calls, and moves beyond our control.  God is present and moving through the fears, uncertainties, as well as in the celebrations along the way.  In our willingness to bring the details of our lives to one another and to God, we encounter hope and freedom for the days ahead.

I wonder...

Where and how are you encountering sacred space?  

How is it nourishing you for the journey ahead?