Something is happening and it’s not in the church building!
Two weeks ago, I attended a live music offering in NE Portland. I do this somewhat regularly—scan the offerings on Google for something new, something nurturing, something soulful. I came across PEIA, a singer/songwriter who was debuting a Gaelic-centered concert. The music was marvelous—touching, heavenly and sensual.
But more than that I was struck by the people gathered for this concert. I have attended many concerts and this one felt different. It felt less like an audience and more like a community. I can’t tell you exactly why I felt that, except that the vibe was closer to what I often experience in a small church where everyone seems to know each other. There were more hugs, more laughter, and more intimacy than what I usually experience among a random group of ticket holders.
I have to admit that I was one of the older attendees. Most of the people around me were in their 30’s or 40’s. There were more couples than either single attendees or groups of friends. Many of them had young children with them. A large percentage of them had that “back to earth” look about them.
I say this because communities give off a vibe. I can tell when I have walked into a group of church people just as easily as I can tell when I am among a group of outdoor enthusiasts. This gathered bunch of ticket holders had that community feel to them. I could tell there was a connection as well as shared values. PEIA herself framed the evening with these words, “Music is comfort. Music is harmony, fellowship, and prayer.” The words captured what I felt was happening. It was like a church service without the predictable liturgical order of worship.
I write this because increasingly it is becoming obvious to me that something spiritual, something that smells a little like church, is forming out in the community beyond the church buildings. I can’t prove it, but I can definitely feel it.
Many churches are just sick with worry that their memberships are in decline and that the spiritual values they hold dear are disappearing.
I don’t think that is the case. I think God is showing up in more than one place at a time.
“Music is comfort. Music is harmony, fellowship, and prayer.”
“If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is probably a duck.”
At least worth considering…
Rev. Brian Heron
Spiritual pilgrim and religious innovator
I think the proof is beginning to show up all around us.
Perhaps God has always been in those varied places, but we compartmentalize our spiritual self to restricted areas,,,,,,
and what should we do about that?
Maybe it is time to “mix it up,” literally, and step into a world beyond boxes and compartments?
I saw Peia at the Beloved festival, which was its own kind of community. Beautiful.
I had a feeling that many of the people were part of the larger network and community of Beloved Emergence who put the event on. Interesting that while our churches are in buildings, they are on 700 acres of land. Both are rooted in physical space, but just in different ways.
When we open our minds and hearts to see spirituality beyond church walls, we might find that those spiritual values so dearly held are alive and well, not disappearing at all. Perhaps what is disappearing are not really spiritual values, but something else. Hmm, just a thought.
Over and over it seems to me that form is disappearing, but substance remains.
I follow a few younger people who have adopted the nomad lifestyle and live on the road. Some of their events and random meetups feel this way too. They don’t talk church but everything is about deep connections with their experiences, the earth, and each other. I don’t need doctrine to know Love when I see it.
Yes, Lorne, I am finding this too. It’s as if people have learned to explore the very essence of what the church is about without needing the church to do. On the hand, I hear church folks grieve over this. But I wonder if we could also see this as “looks like we did our job. The values of the church have found their way into society without us.” Probably an over-simplification, but I think we can find hope in this.