Wednesday, June 17, 2009

a place for my soul to rest

In the past three years, I have moved as many times, crossing state or national borders each time. This last move was especially hard because I did not have a supportive faith community. My denomination does exist here, but it is not the same denomination I came from in the States. And most often I do not feel as if there is a place for me (a liberal, heretical, WOMAN pastor) here within my church.

This has caused much grief and sorrow as my denomination was one I CHOSE as an adult, one that allowed and encouraged me to bring my questions and my doubts, one that didn't require me to check my brain at the door, one that nurtured me and sustained me through my education and first decade of ministry. And now, I fear I may have to leave.

In many ways, the Unitarian Universalist Church would be an obvious fit for me. 1) On days when I profess a belief in god, I am more unitarian than trinitarian, and 2) If I consider the possibility of heaven, I would have to put myself into the universalist understanding of salvation. Unitarian? Check. Universalist? Check. And the UUs are so lefty and liberal. I love their commitment to social justice and to peace and the environment. And my Beloved is UU. So it should be a perfect fit. Except...

I am christian. At least, I am culturally christian. I may not take the stories in the christian scriptures to be literal truth, but they are my stories, the ones I grew up with, and the ones that resonate with metaphorical truth within my soul. Some of the christian stories I adore. And many I abhor. But they are the stories I know. I appreciate the sacred stories of other traditions, and I can find truth and meaning within them. But they are not my stories. They are not the ones which quiet the storms in my life or sing to my soul.

And I love christian liturgy, the hymns, the candles, the smells and bells, the familiar words, the stand-up-here-sit-down-there. There is a rhythm to it, and it matches the rhythm of my life. It's what I know.

When I visit the UU churches with Craig, I love the engaging conversations. I love the passionate commitment to serving on behalf of the others and the world. I love the diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives (though not too diverse, not many conservative attend UU churches). But I miss the liturgy. And while the conversations are challenging and engaging, they are not engaging my stories.

What I really want is the intellectually rigorous sermons I heard preached in the churches of my denomination back in the States. What I want is to hear somebody wrestle with my stories, really wrestle with them: to explore the historical and cultural context in which the texts were written, to examine the original languages and see what might have been lost in translation, to ask whether there is meaning in these ancient texts for contemporary followers, and to empower listeners (i.e. me) to respond.

From my apartment, I can see the steeples of two churches just blocks from where I love (when asked about my religious views, I should give this answer sometime). One of these churches is Robertson-Wesley United Church. Earlier this spring, I knew I wanted liturgy for the first Sunday of Lent, so walked down the block, through the park, and through an alleyway, and slipped into the pews for a wonderful reflection (by both ministers!) on the idea of "journey". In the bulletin, I saw an announcement for a bible study which I attended several times in cognito. I have worshipped there on several other occasions since.

I was initially disappointed on Pentecost (my favorite liturgical holiday) when instead of the Pentecost story, the minister began a series on, of all things, the doctrine of the trinity! But the sermon was fascinating - giving the history of the doctrine, acknowledging the lack of biblical support for the concept of a three-for-one, I mean three-in-one god. It was challenging, inspiring, uncomfortable, and I LOVED it. I may not be a trinitarian christian, but I can certainly appreciate how many people find meaning in understanding divine revelation in three different ways. I personally think the number three is limiting, but I get that others appreciate it. And this is pretty much what was said from the pulpit at Robertson-Wesley!!! "We don't need to chuck the whole thing out, but let's understand why people, why our tradition, thinks this is important, and you can decide for yourself if this is meaningful for you."

Yes, this is a place where my soul can rest. After these many years and many moves, this is what my soul is needing. And I think I may have found some companions for the journey.

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