Monday, December 15, 2008

Can you talk about God in your church?

Such good stuff on iminister right now. Here's one thing that jumped out at me on Some Recommendations that Caught My Eye:

Enrich our ministries by having conversations about holy experience/transcendence with colleagues. Allow ourselves to be more vulnerable.

Talk about our holy experiences/sense of God in our congregations and with our congregations. Model this so they can do it too.

This is matching up with something that's been tickling around the edges of my brain: are we really more comfortable being open about our beliefs in our UU churches? Or only "some" of those beliefs?

The BFF-DRE and I recently took our children over to a local Methodist church for one of their holiday happenings, a "Walk through Bethlehem." Lovely thing, lots of church volunteers, good spirit, all free for everyone. Wonderful energy at that church but you know, not a theology that reflects my beliefs.

There are probably at least a couple of people who go there whose beliefs don't match up with the theology, but they go anyway for other reasons and keep their thoughts to themselves. At our UU churches, we often say, Here, you don't have to deny part of yourself. You don't have to keep your doubts, your thoughts, to yourself.

But is that really true?

Just a thought, not fully formed ... but I think some of us may feel very comfortable sharing our doubts, but our positive feelings about God -- do we feel comfortable sharing those? Do we feel comfortable saying, "I was really worried about X, but last night, I prayed on it, and I feel better able to face it today." -- ?

I'm not talking about testifying to others, or asking them to take our personal revelation as a message meant for anyone outside ourselves.

But do we feel comfortable being vulnerable? Do we make a place where people can speak aloud those feelings in their hearts about God? Or are they afraid that someone will see them as developmentally lower, quaint, not "evolved"?

Because if not ... then aren't we just like those two people in the Methodist church who keep their doubts to themselves?


Chalicechick said...

I've always been comfortable doing that and have honestly not gotten why other people don't.

But then even if someone were to argue with me about my statement, I'd just argue back. To my thinking, that's part of the process, and indeed, the criticism of weaknesses in my spiritual thinking helps me grow.

YMMV, of course.


Kari said...

I grew up in a Fellowship that clearly did not encourage any spiritual experience nor did it respect those who might have such an experience. But somehow reading the writings of Emerson and Thoreau, I knew that our faith held more.

I'm a DRE, and in that role, I do talk about God with the children. I leave room for their experience and their explorations, but I say it. And I say "prayer" and "spirit" and "holy".

Not everyone likes it. But, I do it anyway.

The other day I was teaching a class and we were sharing dinner together at the home of the family hosting the class. The soup we were eating had a strange name, the host told me. "What?" "Ummm, praise the Lord Soup" because you have everything on hand to make it, praise the lord, right? Well, we re-named it. "Praise the Spirit of Life, Spirit of Love known by many names who some call God."

Oh, we laughed at ourselves.

But, at least we can say it.

ms. kitty said...

I think it's really important for those of us who do pray, who do have a spiritual practice, to model that publicly. Prayer has been a basic feature in my spiritual life for decades now and has enriched my spiritual AND physical life immensely. And I don't mind talking about it. It's being "out of the closet" in a different way.

Anonymous said...

You don't do it because of people like me - sorry. I just can't stand the infiltration. I know that sounds like a rough word, but I was raised Humanist and it feels so unauthentic to talk about god - it makes me feel like my experience isn't valued and that my church has been taken over by latent Catholics and Baptists. It is a really tough thing - sorry for my inability to get along with others.

Lizard Eater said...

Goodwolve -- THANK YOU for your honesty. That's what enables us to have real conversations. I'd love for you to elaborate. Does someone else talking about God make you feel like you are expected to also talk about God? If you have time, I wish you'd talk more about your feelings of being infiltrated (I'm a cradle UU, too.)

Ms. Theologian said...

In the congregation in which I grew up, I don't think people talked about God. Not that I heard. When my parents and I (as a kid) visited a Unitarian church in New Zealand, we were shocked by how Christian it was. *laughing* The churches on the East Coast seemed more comfortable doing the God thing.