Sunday, June 9, 2013

Spiritual But Not Very Religious

Sunday Morning in my Meditation Garden

Sunday mornings (and sometimes Sunday afternoons) were always "church time" for me - a whirlwind of activity, conducting services, preaching, teaching, meetings.  

On my last day in the parish several people inquired as to where I would go to church after I retired. The fact is, I don't go to church anywhere.  For the past several months, I've taken a break from church. 

My Sundays are very different nowadays. I rise early, greet the sun in my meditation garden where I pray and meditate. My wife and I often take leisurely morning walks along desert trails. We browse the Farmer's Market, and sip iced tea in the village square watching the crowds milling around. As evening falls, I reverently watch the sun fade. When darkness comes, the crystal clear desert sky is ablaze with the moon and stars; and I am bathed in the glory of that Holy Presence in whom everything and everyone is connected and energized. I've come to like my new Sunday ritual quite a bit.

There are many people today who used to go to church but no longer do, or have never gone to church at all, and yet they still believe in God and are on some sort of spiritual path.  This growing category of people often refer to themselves as spiritual but not religious. They find the ways of religion to be an obstacle to a deeper spiritual awareness. 

In some sense, I have been one of those spiritual but not religious people over the past few months. 

Someone recently asked me if I have missed it?  Have I missed the church?  My honest answer is : "somewhat, but not all that much."

I have not missed a sometimes tedious ritual that often lacks passion and intimacy. I have not missed the sense of "obligation" that so many people carry with them when they come to church - "we are here because we are supposed to be here." I have not missed the endless meetings and the politics of it all. 

But the one essential part of "church" that I do miss (and miss very much) are the relationships. I miss the hugs, the smiles, the dialogues, the stories. I miss the kids running around. I miss the sound of babies. I miss being with other people who are trying to lead a life of compassion and are engaged in building a more just society. This is what I miss.

The lesson I have learned in my break from attending church is that being part of a church is "all about relationships." The primary reason for "church" is not so much to worship God, but to be connected to the lives of other people.  For it is in relationships with others that we see the face of God. 

Having been part of the spiritual but not religious crowd for the past months, I think it's time to rediscover some connection with a community of believers. But I certainly don't want to go back to Sunday mornings they way they used to be. 

 I am spiritual but I am also religious - just not very religious anymore. 

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