This is Holy Week.
Honestly, I really didn’t know a thing about Holy Week before I started seminary. I knew, vaguely, that there was a thing called Palm Sunday, which came before Easter. And I knew, vaguely, that it was directly connected to the Easter story. But I did not know the details; I did not realize how intense it was for those in the ministry. And this isn’t really a post about Holy Week – but the fact of it being Holy Week has heightened my sense that I need to dedicated some serious time to reflection on religion, faith, belief, and theology.
I haven’t talked about religion here much – because it can be such a challenging and divisive topic. Yes, I spent three years devoting much of my time and energy to an education at a seminary, including taking strong leadership roles in worship services, and I have worked at churches and with religious organizations in leadership roles for many years… but I still feel like I have to give a bunch of disclaimers before I talk about religion.
I feel like I have to step back and say: Yes, I consider myself to be a religious individual… but not like that. Yes, I have faith and beliefs… but not like that. Yes, I believe in god… but not like that. Always having to categorize, always having to quantify, always trying to explain away the assumptions that I assume others are bringing with them.
I got spoiled by being a part of a seminary community, with people who came to learn about my beliefs, to the point where I could talk about my faith and my theology, without having to explain it all. They were used to the kinds of translation that I undertook, and able to translate my words as well. I had a place that was safe to talk about theology and belief, to explore my thoughts without fear of being judged for it.
And then I stepped back into the “normal” world. Where certain buzz words can raise assumptions. And where I carry with me my own assumptions about how others will view me if I say certain things. It can be stifling, and means that I am not giving the time to this important piece of me. I have reflected in this blog about how important writing is to me, how it is a part of me that I need to devote time and attention to.
And religion/theology/spirituality is just as much a piece of me. It is something I can’t ignore, and can’t neglect. During Holy Week many of my friends are enmeshed in their faith communities – and though it is not a High-Holy celebration for me, I feel the increase in activity, I hear and see it. And I find myself longing for the kind of community that I could engage in my own faith-exploration with. I have learned the important lesson of paying attention to the communities I’m a part of – of being willing to step back and evaluate. And I have learned that if I am going to be a part of a faith-community it needs to be one that I can give to, but also that gives to me. I cannot afford to put my energies into something that is not going to give back to me in some way.
I am in search for the faith-community that will do this for me – and thinking that if I search a time and cannot find what it is that I need, the answer may be to create it myself. To discover those people that could help to form a community in which I could exchange ideas, experience and participate in worship, in the ways that I want, that feed me and hold meaning to me. Because the reality I discovered in seminary is that I cannot seem to get that kind of connection when everyone believes the same things. It was the very points of friction in belief, those places where I didn’t agree with my classmates, or where we had to struggle to understand the underlying reasons behind beliefs. It was the opportunity to participate in worship that held meaning to others, and then being able to talk about it after, to ask questions, and to share my own meaningful worship experiences.
And it is easy to speculate on what would be meaningful. To let myself just sit back and think about the kind of faith-community that I need, the community that would help to feed the spiritual side of me. To sit back and dream.
But sitting back and dreaming will never make things happen. Action is required.
So, this Holy Week I am spending time reflecting, dreaming, but also planning. Trying to figure out what steps come next to create what I want and need – but also something that I feel drawn to create beyond my own needs. Because this dream and vision is a place for interfaith worship – or for gathering with those who do not identify with a particular religious identity but have an interest in exploring spirituality and theology; a place where “worship” can mean many things, not just sitting through prayers and sermons and songs (though certainly, that would be one form), but also discussions, the creation of art, and dance; a place for education, exploration, and not indoctrination. And I feel as though this vision of mine is deeply intertwined with my ministry. What I am called to do.
And yes, I want a place like this for selfish reasons – to feed myself, and fuel my spiritual life. But, I also want a place like this because I see a need for such a thing. When I get through the fear of what others might think of me, I find myself in many conversations that just fuel my understanding that there is such a need.
And so, I must figure out how to make such a thing happen. And just as writing is sometimes easy and intuitive and sometimes something I have to struggle and work hard at – the same is true for this. I have to be intentional in my work, and be willing to put in the work to make such things happen. And I cannot do so in a vacuum. What I desire to create is community, and it takes community to create community.