There are a number of reasons for which the growing trend for people to self identify as "spiritual but not religious". It is something for which I have never really understood. I do not know how one can be 'spiritual' but not integrated into a religious community. It is something that I just have not understood. This post is not about that. Rather this is a post about a quote for which I was recently given by my colleague in ministry Rev. Nancy Allen.
In true community we will not choose our companions, for our choices are so often limited by self-serving motives. Instead our companions will be given to us by grace. Often they will be persons who will upset our settled view of self and world. In fact, we might define true community as that place where the person you least want to live with lives!…
Community reminds us that we are called to love, for community can break our egos open to the experience of a God who cannot be contained by our conceptions. Community will teach us that our grip on truth is fragile and incomplete, that we need many ears to hear the fullness of God’s word for our lives. And the disappointments of community life can be transformed by our discovery that the only dependable power for life lies beyond all human structures and relationships.
Parker J. Palmer, 1977
Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity by Catherine Whitmire
After reading this quote it dawned on me that perhaps some of the reason that some identify as "spiritual but not religious". If community is what the Church is attempting to foster, and a community is that place which you did not 'self select' to participate in then I can see why there is a strong rejection of religious community. We live in a world where we self select more and more groups we are associated with, yet Church is a place which is trying to build a community which harvests the value of a community for which we did choose our companions.
For instance, in the UMC there are things for which members cannot choose. They cannot choose the ministers of their congregations. They cannot choose where all the money goes to support (we have these things called 'apportionments' for which the UMC supports ministry around the world). When you join a UMC congregation, you are choosing to join the church but you are not totally choosing all things in the church.
Congregational churches, typically known as "Bible Churches" (which by the way I dislike that name in that it makes it seem like other Churches do not use the Bible or that we use the Koran or the Vetas), these church members choose much more than the members of UMC.
Perhaps this is why the UMC is having, in part, difficulty in gaining members. We value the values of not choosing everything. We value the value of non-choosing.
Are you connected to a community for which you did not and cannot have a voice in all that the community does?