When I was 15, I ran from my Episcopal church as fast as my legs would carry me. I think its something of a source of amusement to my family that I’m now the only one that goes to church.
As I got older I pondered more and more the human invention of religion. I imagined God shaking Its head and laughing, as perplexed by many of the rituals and dogmas that humans create as I was. Other times I imagine It weeping over our fragility and hope and need and suffering. I imagined these things in my head but in my heart, I didn’t believe there was anything there watching the chaos.
For more than two decades I didn’t go to church except in foreign countries. I love the architecture. I always felt at home in cathedrals. The immensity of the silence. The feeling of all those people building something together (I tried not to dwell too much how many of those people lost life and limb in the endeavor, or were simply worn down by a lifetime of work building a cathedral). Since the services were in a foreign language, it meant I could ignore the dogma and the pissed off feeling it always evoked in me as a child. Even though I couldn’t understand the words, I knew when to stand and when to sit. I knew when they were saying the Our Father. I’ve been to church in Paris’ Notre Dame, at cathedrals in Madrid, Cologne, and Santa Fe, NM, in the Duomo and in Santa Croce in Florence, at the cathedral in Siena (my favorite), the mission in Santa Barbara, CA.
Most of my life, I continued to find the idea of religion beautiful while the reality proved sometimes mind-numbingly boring, sometimes offensive and destructive. Almost any one who’s studied history can go off on a long, long rant about the horrific-ness of the Crusades. Almost anyone who saw those planes fly into those Towers, who watched people jump from them rather than go down with them, must wonder how anyone claim to do something like that in the name of “God.”
One day in my 30s, I found myself in a deep and unrelenting depression―in therapy and on meds―and I knew that something in me was crying. I’d been pursuing a Masters in Medieval Studies and noticed that all my classes were in religion. I thought about how often I visited churches and it occurred to me that the something in me that was crying was my soul. I walked by a church everyday on my way to work, wondering what the heck Unitarian Universalism. One day, instead of walking by, I walked in.
Are you part of a spiritual community? If so, what kind? If a church, mosque, or synagogue, include a link. Maybe a coven or humanist discussion group? Or maybe you’re part of a hiking group. What does being part of a spiritual community, however you define that, mean to you? How does it challenge you? Support you?