Last time, I wrote about how to choose a church. I hope this was useful for those of you who are searching for a church community to call home. As I wrote about, I love belonging to a church for all sorts of reasons. Honestly though, If I based my understanding of who God is on the encounters with the Divine that I’ve had inside the four walls of a church, I wouldn’t believe in God. For me, church (the Sunday morning kind anyway) is not the place where I’ve met the Holy One most often.
I’ve found God in a downtown women’s shelter.
I’ve touched God while lying on the dock at camp and watching the night sky.
I’ve met God over tea with friends who make me feel known.
I’ve felt God while walking alone through fields, forests and cemeteries.
I’ve seen God in the mischievous grin of a three year old friend.
I’ve known God in the generosity of the Lao woman who guided me home through the dark when I was lost and alone.
For those of us who go to church, we are fooling ourselves if we think we have a monopoly on encounters with God. God is so much bigger and more mysterious than any church service could ever hope to contain.
When church goes right, it reminds us to look for God always and everywhere. When church goes wrong, we return Sunday after Sunday for our weekly “hit” of God before plunging back into “real life.”
I believe those of you who have left the church and those who have never been part of a church have a lot to teach us churchgoers about what it means to search for the sacred in our everyday lives.
I don’t think that joining a church in the traditional sense is essential to living a life filled with the awareness of God’s presence and the calling to live out God’s love. I do think that spiritual community is essential to that life. I’m making a distinction here between spiritual community and community in general. Lots of us have friends and neighbours that we share food and laughter and experiences with; that’s community.
Forming spiritual community takes a different sort of intentionality. It’s a place where it’s safe to talk about our beliefs and disbeliefs in the Divine. It’s a place that reminds us to look for God’s presence in all other times and places as well. It’s a place where we hold each other accountable to living the lives we are called to live.
Spiritual community can take all sorts of forms, of which church as we have usually experienced it, is just one. In fact, many of us who do go to church would probably benefit from and may even be longing for a deeper or more intimate form of spiritual community. I say, go for it. Make it happen. There is no rule that Sunday morning church needs to be your only spiritual community.
Where have you experienced God and where have you found spiritual community outside of the walls of a church?