An astute reader pointed out this past week that when I said in my last blog, “Thanks for being along for the ride,” that I conveyed that this whole conversational, transformational, dialogical, culture-shifting project that I am embarking on was not all that serious. She knew that wasn’t my intent, but pointed out that the usual definition of “being along for the ride” denotes a half-hearted, non-engaged approach to things. She was right. I may have communicated something that was the exact opposite of my intent.
Many of you know that I am a rather serious cyclist. I have competed in the National Championships as a young adult and embarked on some ambitious cycling adventures including a romp up to Everest Base Camp where our group ascended five mountains over 17,000 feet. What I was trying to communicate was, “Thanks for being willing to strap your feet into the pedals with me and join this crazy theological, sociological, and cultural adventure we find ourselves on.” I may not take you up to Everest, but this adventure won’t be any less ambitious.
Now that I have that cleared up, l want to share what has evolved over the last week (remember, we are on an unfolding pilgrimage here). After my last post on seeking a “Public Platform,” I was reminded of something that I began saying nearly two decades ago. As I have worked with churches wanting to connect with the broader community I have repeatedly said, “I believe the future of the Church is going to come from the dialogue between our rich historic traditions and the emerging spiritualities of our time.”
This is important because there are some who have rejected the Church completely and, while I understand their disappointment, I don’t think the future will be dependent just on their rejection. On the other hand, there are many in the Church who only want to recover a past when their voice was dominant in society (called Christendom). I know for sure that the future will not be the result of simply turning back the cultural and religious clock.
The future, I believe, is going to emerge from a both/and mentality.
We have been living in an either/or society with regard to religion for too long. Either the church will recover its dominant voice or the anti-religious secular voices will now replace it and dominate. I do not believe that is healthy for our society nor do I believe that God works in such rigid either/or dualities. Religious belief and life has thrived for thousands of years for a reason. Simply to discard it now sounds like cultural suicide. On the other hand, a secular humanism has taken deep root in our Western civilization. Many of the values that our religious traditions espouse are now adopted by this humanism, just “without the baggage” of religion, as some would say.
The answer is not a return to Christendom, when the Christian voice dominated. Nor is the answer a pure secular humanism. I don’t have THE answer, but I do believe that it will emerge from what I am calling a Holy Conversation.
One thing I want to be clear about is that if my hunch is right—that this is a conversation that we MUST have—this blog will write itself. Yes, I will actually have to punch the keys and organize the words and hit the “send” button, but the content and the energy will come from you. I will promise to be a good dialogue partner, but I won’t dictate the content nor the direction. That will be up to the Spirit or the Sacred Impulse or the unfolding of a divine drama of which we are only minor actors.
What I promise is to follow the energy of this. Not to try to contain it in a once-a-week blog, but to write whenever and as often as something needs to be said. Healthy conversations have both periods of frenetic energy as well as reflective pauses. I will promise to follow the energy of the conversation—even if it means a few late night posts to keep up with it.
This is my commitment to you. I will initiate this conversation. I will make space for it and for you. I will follow every thread and possibility until we come out the other side. I will stay with this until we find something hopeful, healing and redemptive for our churches, for our society and for our common humanity.
I will stay with this until we come home to each other again.
Come home to each other.
By Rev. Brian Heron, Presbyter for Vision and Mission, Presbytery of the Cascades
I believe what you are attempting is admirable, even noble. I have a serious doubt that any merger of traditional, historic Christianity with more varied “spiritualities” will last. I believe they will keep separating from each other like oil and water. One reason is that Christianity has always offered only one door: …. “whoever believes in me shall have eternal life.” And …. “give everything you own to the poor, and come and follow me.” And such….. How do you mix exclusivity and inclusivity? It is simply not true that everyone is welcome in Christianity — as it is traditionally practiced — though that is the message preached, and the image that satisfied church-goers like to claim. I think there can be civil, and civilized conversation–such as you are trying to engender. I don’t know if there can be something more substantial.
My paternal side have been Presbyterian for a VERY long time. My 5x great grandfather was a Cumberland minister. My maternal grandfather was on Session of the Church he attended. My father was also a minister I have come to love the TRADITIONAL little things in a sanctuary from Communion table to pews to pulpit. Every Sunday I go on YouTube at 7 am Pacific Time to worship with FPC Clarks Summit then either online or in person with Salem FPC. I think we MUST get back to our TRADITIONAL roots
Tried to post a comment, but it would not go through. Kept telling me I had “already responded.”
So here is my issue. How do you make Christianity’s exclusivity into actual inclusivity? Christianity has provided one door, one standard for membership: ….”whoever believes in me shall have eternal life.” Also, statements like ….” give away all your wealth to the poor, and come follow me.” Off-putting to most Christians, let alone those outside the church.
If you want to integrate historical, traditional Christianity with varied “spiritualities,” could you address this limitation in one of your blogs?
Fondly, Fran Morse
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Your point about meshing “the rich historic traditions” of traditional churches with “the emerging spiritualities of our time” is an excellent starting point for building new ministries and new focuses for Christian experience. I would like to add that one focus of this endeavor should be in the communities in which our current physical churches reside. I believe today that many of our church congregations have become insular within their local communities. They are no longer viewed by their non-member communities as important, vibrant institutions. Instead they now often exist as merely a building down the street or on the corner. Yes we need to recognize and reach out to people with emerging spiritualities. But at the same time we need to revitalize our churches and interject them back into the communities in which they reside.
Life keeps flowing, people change, questions keep coming, so the process of change and quest are actually “home.” There is no “other side” because even as we think we find the answers, we and the world are past them. Living in the moment, responding to spirit honestly and flexibly, is how we’re made. Home is the act of living/acting in transit. Destinations are passing signposts.