A week ago, or so – actually November 4th – I was at the dealer buying new winter tires for my new car – earlier than I usually get my winter ties on – but I am getting more cautious (or sensible) in my old age. While I was waiting for the work to be done, I went for a walk along Oxford Street, a major street in London Ontario – actually to see if I could get a Globe and Mail paper. On my stroll, I passed three church buildings. These three buildings were older and had probably been built at least 70 years ago and were likely main-line churches in a former existence – perhaps Anglican and United Church buildings by design. One building had been turned into a wedding chapel and hall. One is now a Seventh Day Adventist Church. The third is a Heaven’s Lighthouse Ministries Church – which I am not familiar with. Checking on-line, I found that this denomination is what I would classify as Pentecostal.
As a result, this focussed the question that I have had frequently in recent years, ‘what is the future of organized religion in Canada and the Western World?’ There has been a general movement of society becoming secular and in people not being connected to organized religion. A significant part of my question – perhaps I shouldn’t be looking for answers, based on my musings last week - centers around tending to identify a spiritual rather than religious.
I also recalled a discussion of this some years ago on the CBC program Tapestry with Diana Butler Bass who is a professor of religious studies and a prolific author. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/tapestry/finding-the-sacred-in-unexpected-places-1.3765363/finding-god-in-hgtv-a-spiritual-revolution-1.3765366
I also received this quote in my inbox this morning which is relevant to the question, “I really don’t think we can ever renew the church until we stop thinking of it as an institution and start thinking of it as a movement.” —Clarence Jordan, letter, 1967
Here are some questions that are relevant to the movement to spirituality from organized religion – no answers as questions should lead to more and better questions.
Is Religion keeping up with the longings and questions of and for 21st Century e.g. What are people longing for – compassion and companionship/neighbourliness. How do we embody compassion?
Is Spirituality opening the door for individualism? A charge by those who primarily care about religious institutions that the spiritual movement is a base about self-indulgence. How does religion connect with what people are longing for? Does spirituality allow you to side step those things that challenge you? But organized religion is no guarantee that doesn’t happen in a church community.
What is the spirituality that 21st Century people have? What is the shape of faith for the future?
A God of 100 years ago – hierarchical and remote vs a God who is imminent, creative, with us, compassionate. Do our hymns and architecture need to reflect that – and do our theology and sermons and teaching? Are we experiencing a tension between the memory (idealized view of a golden age of Religion) and the reality today?
What is religion missing in the 21st Century? Does religion explore those areas? Is post modern science i.e., Cosmology and Quantum physics - not to mention evolution – provide answers that negate theology or lead to more questions as good questions should.
What can we understand from the popularity of HGTV? People are longing for home. What does that mean in terms of our seeking a relationship with what can be identified as the divine? Bass notes that when she refers to her little home in her back yard where she does her writing and puts a picture of it on social media. She is inundated with requests about where they could get the plans for it. It is a sign of the desire for a ‘Room of one’s own’ to use the phrase by Virginia Woolf who wrote about it almost a hundred years ago. Ah yes, my bunkie calls.
May you be blessed with many questions on your journey.