I have been a lucky one, when it comes to faith communities. Raised in a rural church as 4th generation church/family member, I knew what love was. I knew about the answers blowing in the wind, and about the overwhelming emotion that comes from doing a pencil rub over the name of a lost air force pilot on the Vietnam War Memorial, of a name of a church son. I was raised by many hands, corrected by many hands, loved by many. That church today still thrives and I find it such a beautiful testament to a people who have blended the best of the 1950s church and the church of today that can hold Zumba and Love Feast.
When I went to seminary I was part of a local CoB congregation that also was a thoughtful, caring congregation. And then the first congregation that Kurt and I served as pastors was a radical bunch of amazing change agents and very human beings. In all of these instances, the congregating was true to wanting to be together and wanting to craft lives that were just.
In moving to Richmond, we again joined a congregation that was thoughtful. A preacher who could move my soul deeply, and a young intern pastor who was wise and witty beyond his 21 years of age. We raised our boys in that environment and their foundation for belief and justice is solid.
That congregation closed a few weeks past. Lots of reasons. Kurt and I had already left, not out of turbulence or tension, but we were on the exploring end of faith and what "church" could mean and many remained in favor of what church has always meant. They bravely faced their end, true to love for God, Neighbor, Self.
For months now, I've been pondering becoming a congregational orphan for the first time in my life. An odd, neutral, liminal space to be for me. I no longer feel bound by geography but the congregations that are exploring beyond the boundaries of what church has been are in Olympia Washington and San Pedro California, and neither are set up for skyping a Hoosier into the service.
In that time of leaving our local congregation and this orphaning, I have been congregating with a small Buddhist Sangha here in Richmond. 5 of us, most nights. It is a house sangha where we chant, meditate, read and have darhma talk. I've learned so much from these wise and practiced Buddhists. And I've honed my own meditation abilities. This is to my liking. I do not bring in my deeply seated Christian beliefs because this is not an ecumenical venture. But it has been there.
I feel often like I am living a real life segment of Krista Tippet's ON BEING. These evenings for me have been embodied moments of what Richard Rohrer and company call perennial wisdom. A reminder that what we are all to be aiming for is the wisdom not the doctrine. That is fine, for my formative faith is not doctrine bound or centered. The Gospel of Jesus is twinned with the Heart Sutra and the chants for Happiness and Sorrowlessness.
Tonight, I heard the last 5 minutes of ON BEING which is usually winding down as I pull up to the house for the sangha. I am missing my Buddhist gathering, for we are on haitus due to 2/5 of us being in northern India for a semester. I meditate better when I am together in the sangha. I am better when I am with others.
This fall, I anticipate moving my denominational membership to a congregation in Fort Wayne where I preach from time to time. it is a church with walls (which I said I would never again be a part of....never say never), that brings such beauty and integrity to worship and study and welcome. They offer a radical welcome to all, engage in meaningful interfaith dialogs, and have a compelling witness of presence and vigil when there is a homicide in Fort Wayne. I will likely drive the 4 hour round trip to take part in some of those. But it is a new day for me, a new way to do church from a 2 hour distance. Maybe I'll beocme their Richmond annex. I anticipate the Spirit moving, as she always does.
Thank you to the congregations who know how to love, ask questions and raise children and young adults.
Thank you to the gatherings of all faiths that enter into the wisdom beyond the belief system itself.
Thank you to the people who go about life, day by day, living a gospel of love and justice because they have found a good news within themselves.
Peace & Joy,