Sunday morning, I wake up, and I have a desire to go to church. I ask myself, what needs are driving me to want to go? Greater meaning and a stronger sense of purpose, is the response. Like that I/we are going somewhere important.
I react. I chicken out and choose not to go. It's a pernicious persistent response, wanting safety. I worry about the lack of social acceptance. I am also stunned, realizing that me wanting to go to a church out of my own personal heart-felt desire to be at a church with people, would be a drastic difference from how I have so far been living my life. In other words, I have never freely chosen to go to church before.
The options abound here. A Common Ground co-worker has a brother who is a local preacher. There is a local Baha'i (the religion that I grew up in) community here. And a child on the street the other day invited me to go to a church that meets in somebody's house each Sunday. I am certain other interesting spiritual-oriented places exist here as well.
I have a definite desire for more of an, I don't know, spiritual feeling in my life. I have been noticing this lack for years now. This yearning has only strengthened over time.
I also notice that I have been wanting more of a sense of "community of faith" with others. In other words, I have a strong desire to live with others who tell each-other the same stories of what is the meaning within life. I want to collaboratively create meaning together, with others. To creatively draw patterns and weave texture onto the contours laid out by our actions. To fill in the void, with something beautiful (or ugly).
Having a sense of meaning does something for me. It gives me a sense of confidence that ultimately the world that we live in and the things that we do with our lives is fundamentally both safe and good. I don't know what it does for others, but I would like to know. I have all my life, in some way or another, sought solace through living with others who in some way share a sense of faith together in something. This has never changed for me.
The last few days, I have had a spontaneous prayer flash through my mind at random moments. It is a prayer that I memorized and used to recite as a child. It goes like:
"O God, guide me, protect me, illumine the lamp in my heart, and make of me a brilliant star. Thou art the mighty and the powerful." - Abdu'l-Bahá
Thinking about this prayer has given me a sense of comfort and solace.
I believe that together, based on the meaning that we share with each-other correspondent with our actions, we can actively support each-other in either improving ourselves or destroying ourselves. It all depends on what kind of qualities we want to support into coming out. What kind of world do you want to live in?
Personally I want to support the qualities of compassion & care among people. I want a sense of freedom & being true to one's self. And I want us all to be clear on the reasons for doing things & understanding each-other on that. This is a personal value-statement on what is important to me.
The thing is, I think that everybody deep down wants these things. I am by no means unique on this. With that in mind, I then re-frame what I want, and also take it a step further by putting it in the form of a question:
"What specific agreements can we make regarding the actions that we do, in hopes of encouraging the qualities that we want to come into play?"
First off, we need a space to make these agreements. I can't even imagine having the conversation to begin with, where such a question is openly posed and seriously considered. We are so mired in superficiality and lack of focus. The first order of business then is to create the spaces where the conversations can be had.
Places for collective meaning-creation. Both the strengthening and negotiation of it. Particularly I am looking for a kind of life-inspiring meaning, something that stirs up a sort of constructive collective activity. For me, what this is referring to is a church.
Seeing this line of reasoning, I am again stunned. "Church". Perhaps it is that word. What is the meaning that I give it that makes it so?
Respect. I am so used to viewing churches in such a way that I associate them with a lack of respect. I don't think that everyone has this kind of association with the term/concept. Otherwise, how else can one explain this kind of profound motivating-energy that people affiliated with churches tend to have?
I don't know what I am going into, actually. Part of me wants to go off and join some kind of seminary or spiritual movement somehow. I just know that I want to live in a kind of shared faith together with others. And I want us to all consciously choose the stories that have of our world & that which we do to be the most wonderful as can be - all the while keeping an eye on what we are actually doing and how we are affected by that.
Ideally, everything would all be seen in the same light: the beautiful thing that we are going for, where we are, and our experience of the whole situation.
To quote the Nonviolent Communication trainer Miki Kashtan:
"Practice supports vision, community supports practice."
In short, I want it all. And I know that this involves walking forward into the dark. But I want some people there with me, to hold my hand as I stumble in the dark. The comfort of shared faith. To know that you are not alone dreaming the dream - that other people can see it too. You can see in the dark, this particular kind of vision.
I wonder what next Sunday will bring.