Before I continue with this train of thought I must answer a critique I received on my last post. It was said that I conveyed a disdain for the rituals of the church. In my last post of this title I attempted to convey, not my own personal discomfort with the rituals of the church, I quite understand them and while I may not be well educated in the history and meanings behind all the rituals we see in church I do have a profound respect for there importance and I seek to understand them, but it is those who are unmoved by church tradition whom I am seeking to give voice to and to simultaneously address. I seek to find an answer to the question I see written on the faces of some of those attending services at Marsh Chapel and the question I hear from my peers whenever I invite them to Marsh, Why go to church?
A couple of months ago I found myself engaged in a process of writing a sermon for Ash Wednesday. Luckily, having not preached before, I was not engaged in this process alone. I had excellent guidance and a team of two other students I delivered the sermon alongside. The uniqueness of our endeavor did not occur to me until I saw a Facebook post from one of my co-horts, “What do you get when you put a Unitarian Universalist, a Southern Baptist, and a quasi-Quaker Anglican together? The Ash Wednesday Interdenominational Service at 6 pm this Wednesday.” We were three very different individuals from different places around the world with different theological backgrounds that at times clashed during the creation process and ultimately created a better product. And after we were done with this process we shared it with our BU community, this service by the way had the most number of student’s I’d seen in the chapel to this date.
Some time after this experience I found myself sitting down in my living room ruminating on a paper (attempting to read Howard Thurman into Plato’s Allegory of the Cave) and an idea suddenly came so clear to me that for a moment it was as if it was the only thing that ever existed. The idea was for a different kind of church. A church not based on hierarchy or strict ritual, a church that emphasizes each person’s connection to the divine spirit and the multitude of ways that spirit can manifest itself. It has been months since I was graced with that idea; its parameters and distinctions its moving parts and its beauty which at the time seemed so clear to me have now faded into the recess of my memories. However I can recall some of the ideas and I hope that they may spark a conversation that can bring God’s people back to his church.
The basic idea is that a group of people with different theological backgrounds and talents would convene on a periodic basis and wrestle with a moral question for a predetermined period of time. At the end of that time the group is expected to formulate some statement of consensus regarding that moral question. After reaching that consensus that group would through their various talents construct a program to present that consensus to their larger community. So one member of the group may write a song, another poetry, another compose a sermon, another create a movie, another paint, another cook a meal, another build a structure. I think this exercise would be valuable for a number of reasons 1) This would allow people to more directly engage with moral questions. 2) it would habituate people into the practice of forging a consensus 3) It would force individuals to think about how morality plays itself out in their own personal passions. Anyway I realize in attempting to convey this message I am failing on all accounts, though I shall keep trying.
Perhaps I am not equipped to speak of the process at this current stage of my development, maybe I can at least draw the broad outlines of the product I seek. I seek a space where the individual can come into contact with his or her authentic self and authentic others. I seek a space where a process of collective introspection is initiated towards the ends of Truth. I seek a space where authentic expression is the expectation not merely pageantry. And I seek a way to replicate such a program en mass within diverse cultural contexts. This is a space where the God of my belief would reside. For me it makes sense that that which is most authentic, God, would be revealed in a place of authentic expression. Of course the question now is what is authenticity? (To be continued)