Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The church thing

Ihave to link again to Search The Sea because Robin just won't quit making me think. The audacity of that woman. In one of her posts today, she discusses the "church thing" in her life. I know what she means by it being a mystery to her.

How can one describe the draw and role of church in one's life? This is truly difficult for me since I was technically unchurched for years and I'm getting "we miss you" calls and emails from my church friends now. For the record, circumstances have just sort of gotten in the way of being more active in church now. Life happens like that sometimes.

So, when I'm not in Sunday School every Sunday morning or in a women's group or a regular at the potlucks and I have a history of having difficulty with churches, denominations and dogma, how can I say that church is still important to me? I feel the need to draw lines between church, religion and God here,

When one experiences resurrection,
one experiences it,
they experience life.
though they're as interconnected as the Celtic knots I love so much.

Church is so much more than a place or a building. It's truly a community, a family and a body. When I hear the words "the body of Christ" there is an instant settling of peace within me. No matter how separated I may feel sometimes, no matter how differently I view scripture and my responsibilities as a Christian from my fundamentalist roots or from a different denomination within all of Christianity, I am part of the body of Christ. Regardless of where I worship or the numbers of people with whom I worship, I am part of something that is huge and reflective of both the glory of God and the frailty of man. My years of not having my name on a church membership roll could not amputate me from the body of Christ. I contribute something to the entire being simply because I am a part of it and it contributes to me.

The church is flawed though, because it is a human thing and full of our own weaknesses. Individual churches may wane. Their buildings may crumble. There have been times in my life when my faith and my connection to God and my church have felt like buried, forgotten ruins, yet the central mystery of Christianity -- resurrection to new, truer, richer life -- has played itself out again and again. I've seen this in individual churches as well where they fade in both passion and numbers and then find the light again, whether their numbers reflect this or not. I see this as an inevitable part of being connected to God. The life-death-life throes of my life and my community of believers is one aspect of the eternal. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, this ongoing cycle is linked to the wildness, freedom and passion of the individual. Many may not associate wildness to Christianity, but I've found that those characteristics are as true of the body of Christ as they are of wise women. When one experiences resurrection, however they experience it, they experience life.

That may be the key element of the church thing for me. I crave rich, full, extravagant, passionate life, and I am determined to live well. I became part of the Church, the body of Christ through organized religion, which is basically a map of how other people have experienced God. Religion isn't the real experience. It's a guide to how to get there. It can be as invaluable as an atlas on the road and as frustrating as a map that won't fold back to how it originally looked. Because it is an extremely powerful tool, it's easy to confuse religion with God. There are just times when it's not easy to open oneself up to God, to allow consciousness of the Divine as a part of one's being. I'm just not up to having my mind blown by all that greatness all the time. God is the ultimate overwhelming and ultimate addicting experience.

Reading this over, I think that I'm not making much sense, but I don't understand this well. I just know in the most instinctual part of my being that the church thing is essential for me, and I'm grateful for it.

Christianity, church, Advent meditation


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it when people blog about the reality of the church and its weaknesses, while still loving it and yearning for it. Isn't that just how Christ is?

December 06, 2006 6:19 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

It seems all we can do is outline a conceptual framework when trying to understand and define what religion and spirituality mean to each of us.
Interesting that the horrors of war most often stem from rigid, unaccepting views, instead of recognizing the beautiful comonalities that exist across all religions. Better stop here or my comment will be as long as the entry. Thanks for presenting the conversation... Peace.

December 06, 2006 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What Kathleen said. And that you are robin are giving me church envy.

December 06, 2006 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you. You've saved me from writing an entry of my own.

December 06, 2006 8:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Paul's comment is interesting. While I love both you and Robin, and I respect the spiritual/church thing about you, I don't find myself falling victim to "church envy." I am SO allergic to "the church thing." To me, human religion and God, or The Divine, or The Creator, or whatever you want to call It, have little or nothing to do with one another. Our relationship to the Creator has been one of humankind's biggest and most persistent f***-ups.

December 06, 2006 11:50 PM  
Anonymous Kathryn said...

I'm glad Robin posted a link. I'll have to visit your blog more often.

I was unchurched for a while too. I got heavily involved in the environmental/sustainable movement at that time and met people who were much more "holier than thou" than in any church with which I'd been involved. Through them, I learned to relax about religion and focus on my relationship with God.

I totally agree with you that the flaws are because it's a human thing. Large groups of people are wonderful but almost without fail they are rife with politics, human weaknesses, and power struggles.

December 07, 2006 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I think what you said makes perfect sense, Cynthia! That resurection life, that relationship with Christ plants a love and a need for fellowship with others who have it deep within our souls. All of creation has a need to worship God within them. The church here in this world is a dim mirror or the wonderful, full, loving body that will be united in Heaven. See ya there!

December 08, 2006 7:52 AM  

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