Congregational Tradition in My Face

This morning, I went to have coffee with one of my new parishioners at her home. The objective was to talk about what women's spirituality might look like into the future of this worshipping community. Toward the end of the last week, I realized that my arrival had this salvific quality of "Oh good. The associate is finally here to make all of the programs that are dying revive again." It's all very humbling especially as I know that I can't launch in and just start a bunch of new stuff -- that's not how I understand my call into service.

That's a really fun part about being a process person and wanting to share in that figuring out task but not make any decisions (stop it with the Meyers Briggs). It's frustrating for everyone else, but the Search Committee knew this. I said it there. Good Lord I hope they heard it. Nope, I'm just here to listen. Just here to hear what God might be leading us toward. Just sitting here, sipping my coffee and listening while asking you these vast questions.

So, I have always loved the tradition of Congregationalism where we can all sit in the same church, worship the same God, eat at the same potluck and not believe the same darn thing about anything. I've always thought that was pretty amazing (and something our polarized political world could learn from, mind you).

But as I sipped my coffee this morning, I became aware of the fact that I am not sure how to minister to this woman. She started by asking me if I had seen this particular movie with a lot of metaphysical spirituality stuff (which I had actually seen). Actually, she started by putting me in my place which I tried to envision as her way of beginning the conversation, but it was a tad abrupt. But as we kept talking, I kept thinking "Are we still Christian?" and "What happened to Jesus?" I consider myself to be a liberal Christian who struggles with a slew of dogma in the tradition, but this woman was way out in left field for me. I think that needs emphasis. FOR ME this woman was out in left field. FOR ME. I'm baffled and I think I can do some gnostic stuff that might be actually helpful with the Sophia tradition and stuff. But, do tell. When did prayer become ineffective? Only Buddhist prayer and chakras work? Only those? Really?


Songbird said...

I, on the other hand, started the day with a church member complaining about the use of inclusive language and telling me that people who don't like patriarchal language should find another religion. Yes, it went well. (Not.)

Pastor Peters said...

My seminary professor always called inclusive languge "Pentecost Language" which I really think helps to claim it scripturally for all those men (and women) who think we should only talk about them.

Blessings though. That's dreadful.

steve westby said...

I ran across your blog and rather than just lurk, I thought I'd share my thoughts on this one. As a fellow liberal Christian who has also spent a fair amount of time studying Buddhism, I might ask her whether she is being true to the spirit of Buddhism.

After all, Buddhism teaches the value of compassion and love. Their principle of non-attachment states that one should never cling to any belief so strongly that it interferes with your ability to show compassion or understanding.

That doesn't fit, it seems to me, with an all out rejection of the validity of Christian prayer. It is "clinging" onto a Buddhist method in a manner that actually contradicts one of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism. Thich Nhat Hanh speaks eloquently about this, if you haven't read his works.

Iris said...

I sometimes feel like I am in that lonely place of being too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the uber-liberals. I still like to talk about Jesus, too!

Good for you for being up front with not be the savior of all dying programs. Man, that sure would have saved me a lot of grief in my first call!