There is a encyclopaedia full of legitimate reasons why Christian churches are finding their heart, mind, soul and buildings gasping in Cheyne stokes breathing, just before their final breath.
As ‘prosletyzing’ agents for evangelizing the gospel, at least from reading some of the writing of “Paul” the convert from the Damascus Road, these ‘churches’ gathered small groups of people to meet and to pray, to reflect and to give voice to, in some cases, opposition to the current governor, government or a ruling that was unjust. Different from synagogues, yet borrowing from the “prophets” of the Old Testament in their teachings, these places of worship often gave refuge from various forms of oppression, and trained disciples to “spread the word” of the promise, the hope and the caritas and forgiveness of new life, as followers of the Risen and Resurrected Christ, following the Crucifixion.
Sin and the chains of its imprisonment, for the person and the community’s relationship to God, were historically highly defined, strictly monitored and, if and when discovered, severely punished by the church. In fact, restraining laws like the “eye for an eye,” were needed to limit the vengeance and the punishment inflicted upon offenders. Apocryphal stories of virgin birth, and healings even miracles were embedded in the litany of magnets to attract and to sustain faith in neophytes whose credence was another of the many tests of loyalty and obedience.
As the years and the centuries passed, people like Roman emperors, decided to convert, and require their subjects to follow their example; creeds and the seeds of a theology of a new faith were birthed from human, yet inspired by God, minds and pens, and enforced often by laws and arms. Church fathers, like Ignatius, and Augustine bared their thoughts and their souls’ failures, as the parameters of evil grew and were more clearly defined. Power, both the power of originating dogma and of enforcing that dogma, became concentrated in a single person, the theological basis of which decision was mined in the gospel words, “Peter, upon this rock I will build my church”….and the Pope and the supporting infrastructure were generated.
Rules, then, about things the church fathers considered significant, borrowed from the original Decalogue about acts deemed offensive to God like murder, envy, blaspheme and attitudes like honouring one’s parents were expanded into specific liturgy including the sanctity of marriage. Human sexuality, as the church fathers conceived of it, was at the centre of the church’s fixation.
Augustine’s fixation with his own sexual “sins” remain a cornerstone of this fixation, and a signature of both the early “power” and also the failure of the early church. Far from following “natural order and law” as was the premise of church teaching in other areas, the church’s ambition and need for control of the parishioners gobbled up an attempt to impose strict “moral” laws on human sexuality. Purity, chastity, and even celibacy, (at least from Paul) were the preferred and honoured states of human sexuality. In order to put fences around the “good” behaviour and segregate it from the “bad” behaviour, marriage as performed by the church leadership, was defined, and monitored as a sacred sacrament, like a threshold through which all must pass to enable procreation.
As these early teachings were all promulgated by men, and given Augustine’s personal angst about his own moral failures, and Paul’s earlier celibacy attested, male dominance (clearly and inextricably joined to female submission) prevailed. Illegitimate children and the women who delivered them were banished. Sex outside of the marriage was considered a deep and profound sin, and the church’s willingness and even is capacity to forgive was restricted to the secrecy afforded top officialdom, primarily to protect the male “establishment” that had been barnacled onto the structure, the laws, the creeds and the notion of discipleship that had grown inside and been promulgated outside the sanctuary.
If history were able to recover and reclaim all those whom the church hierarchy banished, killed, deported, and otherwise officially excommunicated, and gather them together, there would not be enough cathedrals to hold such armies. These “undesireables” would vastly outnumber the current population that continues to attend.
Although the specific rules and expectations may have been modified slightly, (now marrying divorced and gay individuals, for example) the tradition of top-down, hierarchical absolute authority remains one of, if not the most important, hallmarks of the church establishment. Petitioning for marriage annulments, for example, continues to this day. Divorce, one of the many consequences of failed marriages, continues to be looked down upon by the official church, including banning from the opportunity to receive the sacrament of Holy Eucharist. Divorcees, regardless of the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, continue to be considered “sinful” for having broken their “sacred” marriage vows.
Ironically, however, the church itself has demonstrably failed to keep the vows of charity and compassion and forgiveness that remain the cornerstones of any valid faith worthy of the name. Pleading for the poor, giving voice to the condemned in prison, while clearly worthy of an expression of the Christian faith, are not risking the kind of pushback that would come from a faith protest against the fullness of the injustice of the criminal system, where the power of the state is deployed in vengeance, anger, racism and narcissism with few, if any, repercussions.
The penitential, (the act of confessing one’s sins to a clergy and the granting of absolution) remains an integral liturgical component of the church’s faith expression. However, whether it is a mere band aid for misdeeds or a symbolic act of forgiveness, it is clearly not considered by most who administer or those who enter, to be a viable expression of either forgiveness or repentance. Symbols, upon which the church depends for much of its “language” to the parishioners, has either lost much of its meaning or truly never had a deep and profound significance for most except the most deeply engaged spiritually.
Genuflecting, wearing crosses, with or without a crucified Jesus, celebrating Eucharist the bread and wine either of transubstantiation (being the Body and Blood of Jesus) or mere symbol, baptism, the “initiation” rite, and of course both Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and Good Friday and Easter, the crucifixion and resurrection respectively….plus many of the days that commemorate the lives of saints, and other holy days such as the Day of the Transfiguration, are all an integral part of the “tradition” the church has worked hard to preserve. It has also worked hard to renew each with new life, on each successive commemoration.
And in addition to the “authority” issue, yet certainly linked to it, is the issue of tradition itself and the theological notion of revelation. Whether there has been a single revelation from God, through his Son Jesus Christ, or whether revelation of the truth of God continues past the literal words of the New Testament, has occupied the prayers, readings reflections and writings of many theologians over the centuries. And, naturally, contemporary opinion is divided. It is also divided over ceremonial processes like the Latin Mass (versus the native language of the people in the specific church) and over books outlining liturgical practice (original from Cromwell, for example, or contemporary. And this latter is not merely a matter of words; it is also a matter of theology, stressing the sinfulness of the worshipper or not.
So, with ever traditional practice and liturgical guideline, as well as with organizational structure (exclusively male clergy, for example) even with or without any clergy, churches have winnowed their numbers into denominations, some through merging into a new unity, others through a dividing into separate theologies, liturgies, and role and importance of Scripture.
The mystery of God, too, is explored with very different emphases, some churches stressing the “king” (metaphor), others the healer, still others the shepherd, and still others the teacher. Whether or not a clergy is “needed” as a ‘medium’ between the humans and their God is another of many hotly debated topics, and reasons for some ecclesial identities.
The power and authority of God, as originally conceived by the Jews, documented in the many historic and prophetic stories of the Old Testament, along with the Decalogue, is another of the many nuggets of systematic theology that attempts to wrestle with the question of the relation of humans to God. Are we, for example, servants, evangelists, students, mendicants or monks, sisters or nuns, prophets or poets, choir members or clergy…Monasteries and Convents have tutored and raised millions of and women in a usually celibate life of poverty, chastity, charity and prayer and worship. They also have provided spiritual role models like Francis of Assisi, and Mother Theresa who spent much of her life working with lepers in Calcutta and has recently been declared a Saint by Pope Francis.
Another question that divides people in Christian churches is the age old question of salvation: “by faith” as Luther taught, by works as James writes, by simplicity and humility and sharing a common community dedicated to the “light” of God. Some churches emphasize the Pauline edict, “We have all sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” Others start with the concept that within every person “there is that of God”….
Of course, like every other organization, churches need money to provide heat, light, space and any other facilities like books for education and for worship, clergy salaries and pensions etc. and for building maintenance. And, as in most human organizations, those who write the biggest cheques wield the greatest power in the decision-making among members. Add to this nefarious aspect, another: that in every human group, there are those who assume (demand, expect, demonstrate, or inherit) power over questions that might otherwise require the participation of all members. These people serve as gate-keepers over whether newcomers are welcomed, tolerated, alienated or asked to leave. They also often dominate discussions of potential church decisions, of which there are many more than one might expect: wall colours, carpet colour, new hymnbooks, new musical instruments, stained glass design and location, new furnaces, new altars and crosses, whether to hold shared meals, times of special services like Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. And while the work would ideally be shared among many, as in most human organizations, the small “few” (usually less than 10% of the total number of people attending) carry the burden of what some call stewardship of the church itself.
Sexuality, money and the deployment of power and authority are three “petards” on which the institution founders. And they are all of the church’s own making. There is an argument that posits all three are really only one issue, the issue of power and authority. And here is a place where Christians could take a serious look at the concept adopted by the Jewish community, that they are unable to determine, discern, analyse, or in any other way “know” the mind and desires of God. There is a realism, a fundamental truth, that really cannot be dismissed by any argument, in this position.
And this truth underlies everything the Jewish community undertakes from endless discernment, discussion, debate and reflection over Torah, to the celebration of the many occasions that have dotted the Jewish calendar for centuries including the foods, the lights/candles, the hymns, the prayers and the readings. Jewish high holidays fill each year, offering many opportunities for their children to experience their history and tradition, as if initiation to their “tribe” cannot be contained in a single or a couple of rites of passage. Of course, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah continues as a prescribed and readily followed passage from childhood to adolescence and another level/degree of maturity, including all of the expectations of that stage of one’s life.
Not “knowing” the mind of God is both liberating and provocative of interpretation, similar to another of the Jewish concepts of tsim tsum, the ‘withdrawal of God’ in order for the universe to be ‘created’….God’s Omnipotence, from this perspective, does not include dominance, but the confidence and the humility to withdraw when appropriate. Herein lies a significant diversion from much of the theory and praxis of Christianity.
Rather than posit as a starting place the fundamental notion of human innate and indisputable evil, as if it came from the womb, and then engineering all ensuing theory and praxis to “redeem” the lost sinner, this initial concept accepts the far more tenable, sustainable, honourable and hopeful view that evil is not a trait of birth and that evil is learned from experience. The church, then, in a single mis-step, essentially links its belief system to the geopolitical bases of danger, threats and the need for both reformation and redemption. There seems to have been no real reconciliation with the maxim, “God don’t make no Junk” and that God’s love of humans is unconditional, unrestrained and indiscriminate. The institutional rebuttal is that is it through the Cross and the Resurrection that God forgives all sin, and demonstrates that unconditional love for all. And yet, why would such a proposition not also hold if the theological starting point were based on the notion of “that of God within each person”….not holiness, not superiority, not perfection, not ultimate authority, just a spark of divine light.
There is a serious degree of infantilism in the “original sin” and depravity concept, even neurosis or institutional psychosis, that puts humans on a foreshadowed road of unworthiness, sinfulness, low expectations and very high dependence and need. Of course, it follows that the hierarchical institution, (father knows best) can then play penitential agent, exact a pound of regret, remorse and correction, as the agent of God.
Think of the inverse potential. If man is a creature/child of God, in whom God has placed his highest and best hopes and aspirations, and in whom God trusts to emulate the pathway of instilling justice, compassion, truth and reconciliation in each situation, regardless of the geography, the economics, the politics, the sociology or the institutional religion. Matthew Fox argues for the co-creator of a human life by the individual human with God, long before this piece is being digitized. Others, too, have faced the wrath of conventional Christian cultures by positing this “radical” starting point.
And yet, it is the “radical” (that is extremely and demonstrably different from the conventional secular ‘wisdom’ and practice in the “world”) that can, indeed, ought to, signify the theory and praxis of a faith worthy of the name, (and the discipline to follow). The world is filled with individuals and organizations that perceive the world and their place in it from a perspective of fear, powerlessness, weakness and sin. In comparison with a “perfect” deity, of course, we are all of those things, and yet what kind of God needs that kind of obsequiousness and self-effacement. Fear, secrecy, chicanery and bullying are all dependent on a neurosis that has been seeded and nurtured (perhaps unconsciously and innocently) by a structural deficit of the source of light, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness. Separating humans from full access to these reservoirs of “goodness” by the inherent “hardwiring of evil” and then elevating some to the position of “special access” is hardly a notion worthy of an omniscient deity. No matter whether that access is through a penitential experience, of which there might be many, in different forms for various individuals in specific circumstances, or through a life of monastic discipline, or through epic acts of charity and healing, or through the reconciliation of conflicting parties ( for example in the corporate, the geopolitical, the racial, the economic divides that proliferate), it is within each of us to be able to access such light in our own lives in as agents if and when requested, in the lives of others.
The notion of salvation, clearly, merits a critical examination. Some argue that through “conversion” and the submission to the notion that Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, one’s evil is washed away. So the process is fundamentally an individual one, depending on the relationship of the individual’s soul/spirit with God, through the mediation of Jesus Christ’s life, death Resurrection and teaching. A changed relationship, through the voluntary submission of the will of the individual, as a sign that God is now in charge, signifies a new convert to the Christian church. And yet, if that relationship were rather a birthright, into which one is born, through the miracle of human love (obviously the ideal) and then taught the presence of “that of God within” by those who espouse such a theological view, how would that life, and the lives of those near and dear, be different.
Suspicion, fear, anxiety, and their surrogates hard power, fighting skill, revenge, pay-back, armaments and political and economic and hegemonic aggression dominate, and there is a religious and paradoxically flawed distorted premise that infects how the world operates. And the Christian church has a significant degree of responsibility for this inversion of both what is possible and how our best selves would serve both God and humanity. Another notion of salvation, for example, as considered by some, requires that humanity be free from injustice, starvation, disease, and terror prior to our claiming the ministry of the Christian church.
We all know the predictable “Oh My God!” expression that leaps out of every mouth whenever a tragedy occurs. Whether it is a fire, a drought, a missile, an extortion, a murder, a serious betrayal, a brutal assault….these are all accompanied with the invocation of God’s name, in disbelief. Such horror was not expected, and the prospect of living through it seems beyond our human capacity. And a kind of “leaning” need not be seen as dependence, merely a sign of vulnerability, and the need to invoke God’s compassionate strength to help us through.
What if we were to hear, “Oh My God!” upon the first glimpse of our new son or daughter, upon the new sunrise, upon the first sighting of a snowy white owl, or the birth of a new puppy or foal? What if our comfort level with the magnificence of both nature’s and human’s capacity for creating were seen to be a gift from “that of God within”….and were the reassurance that our goodness is more than equal to our capacity for evil, if not stronger, more life-giving and more supportive of not only the mere physical survival of all humans on the planet but of those traits and their gifts that demonstrate our shared capacity for goodness.
Grovelling for our next pay-cheque, without a minute-by-minute consciousness of our gift of supportive partners, friends, honest and honourable supporting humans whose service is motivated and undergirded by a similar theology of “light” (and not darkness of greed, fear, suspicion, deception dissembling and the prominence/dominance of a need for power OVER.
Is it not clearly evident that, given our past several centuries, in which our lives have been twisted into a moral and ethical pretzel, for which the only accounting has been to drive us back to the perception/belief/self-fulfilling prophecy of “original sin” since it has been so impregnated into both our consciousness and our unconsciousness, that it might be time to take a new look at how our religion serves as a clear agent of sabotage.
We are not more likely to “go to heaven” (based on the potential existence of that part of our theology) after we die depending on how strictly we have “painted our lives by the numbers assigned by the Christian church”. The institution has so morphed (if indeed it began on a different footing, which I doubt) into just another secular and highly political institution…Some argue that with the “tithe” came the church’s transactional character and universe, something proferred for something in return. The problem is, was and always will be: God is not for sale. Forgiveness is not for sale, just as relics were not to be sold, as expiation for one’s sins.
And while there may have been church apologists who posited that universal, ubiquitous sin as the original state of every human would not merely ensure a degree of humility and the need for forgiveness, another of the many transactional equations for which the Christian church is infamous, but also provide a certain measureable degree of control by the clergy, whose job it would be to collect funds, while attending to the sick and dying, marry those who “qualified” depending on the peculiar standards invoked at any given time (all of them sliding as cultural mores dictated), burying and commiserating with those struggling with grief, loss, brokenness and broken relationships.
There likely were also other theologians who, rather than becoming embroiled in such controversies as the Virgin Birth, or the factual veracity of the Resurrection, or the literal import of the Garden of Eden banishment as a consequence of disobedience to the word of God, were focused instead on the primary characteristics of a healthy relationship between an individual human and his/her God. Looking for those things that “qualify” as sins is hardly a pre-occupation of any God whose primary gift is love, compassion, tenderness and forgiveness. And neither is deputizing (mostly) men, to do that work, as the primary focus of the institution seems to these eyes, ears, imagination and faith to be such a reduction of the super-ordinate scope of any deity.
“Unless you become like little children” does not and need not translate into the kind of uncritical appreciation and apprehension of the spirit of God’s word that would generate “life and that more abundantly”. Little children have a sense of awe and wonder that, given both the premise of evil and the practice of the “obsessive critical parent” an archetype the Christian church eminently fills, apparently on each continent in which it operates.
Critical parents are needy, for protection of their offspring, for the appearance that they are a “good parent” in all of the many “responsible” ways that such a definition holds. And, while some protection from harm, physical and emotional, is appropriate in early years, that protection ideally gives way, like a skin shedded, to a much more mature and self-directed pattern of making decisions of all proportions. The more “authority” abrogated by the critical parent (in human lives) the greater the dependence of the child on that authority, if for no other reason that “to avoid” the wrath that follows. Similarly, if God is depicted and worshipped as the ultimate critical parent, then the potential development of autonomy is severely restricted, if not fully impaired.
Surely, with a full band of sound and image waves flooding the airwaves of our radios, televisions, laptops and newspapers, we have come to the edge of a cliff, in that our capacity to absorb such a mountain of moral, ethical and spiritual garbage has long since been reached. So while we continue to feed the “voyeur” in each of us with evidence of human depravity and evil, through billions of advertising dollars that are spent in the statistical assurance there will be an audience, we all know that this uroborus snake generates no positive change in the culture in which we attempt to raise our children. Furthermore, we also know that we are quickly approaching another cliff, the human limit to our capacity to endure the kind of political “leadership” that has been foisted (through the instrument of the democratic ballot box) on a public riven with angst, anger, anxiety, powerlessness and hopelessness. The marriage of these ballots to the leaders they have produced is a step too far, and even if the names and the faces of the leaders were changed, we would still face a moral, ethical, and especially a spiritual vacuum.
We are not only enabling greed, hypocrisy, manipulation, the sacrifice of the careers and the literal lives of millions who are being volunteered to go into the dark hole of military engagement, or corporate profiteering, so that those in charge can look “wonderful” as winning leaders offering unique pay-back either in shared financial greed, or shared status. This is a totally vacuous rainbow of a promise to young innocent and easily seduced men and women. And those proferring its “promise” know full well the emptiness of their part of the transaction.
We need the kind of modelling of truth-telling that is currently excised from a religious institution bereft of spiritual direction and spiritual purpose. We need the kind of power-sharing that is based on authentic equality of every single person who happens to be in the circle of the specific local, regional provincial or even national community.
And that goes too for the international organizations whose survival once again depends not on their unique contribution to the enhancement of the human condition, in all of its many potholes, but on their capacity to raise funds to keep them afloat.
Clearly, the human capacity to evolve has been demonstrated in many ways over the decades and the centuries. And it is time for the moribund Christian church to embrace a theology of acceptance, tolerance, respect and equality in each of its places of encounter. Recall it was Christians who supported slavery in the South of the United States, a permanent black mark on its conscience and on its reputation. It was also Christians like Martin Luther, the Germany theologian, whose writings exhibit an attitude of anti-semitism that would be intolerable today, but not until the holocaust spilled the blood and ashes of six million on our shared Christian consciences, memories and institutional reputation. Apartheid, too, has its Christian justification, as does the “inherent savagery” of indigenous people in Canada, whose savagery was attacked frontally by Christian missionaries and zealots.
Two versions of Christian theology sparked, and then fueled the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, where hundreds of people were killed, maimed, or broken in body and in spirit, in order to better fulfill their commitment to their chosen church. Neither protestants nor Catholics have any room to champion their attitudes, their beliefs, nor their viscious acts of terror, all in the name of God.
Humans share an intellectual capacity, (emboldened by formal education in the West) to identify by family name and phylum plants and animals, and thereby to focus almost exclusively on their differences and the human perception of dominance. The medical, legal, psychological, political and sociological model of research looks for what is not working, and seeks the remedies to repair that damage. However, there is another model of approach, the pastoral model. Through this lens, the practitioner looks for “what is working” to the health of the individual and/or the group and then works to enhance that strength to a more full expression and additional healing.
This seemingly insignificant shift in initial perception as to the identity of the person/organization demands a different colour of lens through which to observe, a different attitude in the professional and empathic approach, as well as a much less researched and much more diverse range of approaches. James Hillman, a psychologist academic, scorned his profession for veering too far into diagnostics and pharmacological interventions, and advocated a biographic approach to human healing. Only the biography, he argued, included all of the contributing factors, experiences and traumas that collectively comprise the character of each human. And only though a detailed, almost anthropological “dig” of the evidence in the memory vaults, and the associates including the full exploration of the context, Hillman argues, can a process for healing be begun and carried out.
Similarly, as far as one’s spiritual growth and development, there is, and there can be, no escape from the full exploration of the biographical details of one’s life.
Unfortunately, churches, like most schools, hospitals and doctors, lawyers and social workers are so inundated with caseloads that would sink the most buoyant ships, tend to look at the presenting symptoms of any situation, declare a moral, ethical, medical or legal “diagnosis” and consequent and pre-packaged therapy. It is far too time-consuming, and thereby too costly, for ordinary mortals to take the time to hear a full biographical account of how an individual got to this moment, especially if this moment involves the person’s having committed some misdeed, or become critically ill.
However, there is a critical and ghostly illness wrapping its tentacles around the necks, the minds and the hearts and spirits of millions of human beings….and it could be termed “existential death” through moral, ethical, spiritual and an empathic deficit so deep and profound that, if it acquired physical and financial dimensions (the primary way of understanding any current reality), it would eclipse the budgetary deficits and debts of all developed and developing nations.
Maybe, just maybe, the church has tried too hard to “do” and to design and to impose both a structure for worship and even more insidiously, a design and structure for the Christian life. And that impulse, just possibly, has led to the “manufacture of rules, and even the manufacture (in the intellectual, legal, moral and critical parenting sense) of evil. Trying to “get it right” is a snail-step from the vain attempt at institutional perfection, a disease that has, does and will continue to cripple all those who attempt to reach its thankfully still mysterious heights.
And becoming swallowed up in a centuries-long armada of individuals and institutions plying the holy waters of perfection, to their individual and collective demise, and self-sabotage. Whether it is the manual task of folding the white linen altar cloths, or holy-hand-waving in sanctification of the elements of the Eucharist, or holding to personal sexual chastity, as an act of obedience to God is a path fraught with innumerable ethical, moral and spiritual dangers. First, it is not the business of a church institution or its human leaders to invade my, or anyone else’s private life, whether I am a parishioner or a clergy. On the other hand, should I seek out the church’s guidance, discernment, counsel or even penitential, the onus having then shifted to my personal responsibility, the church then has a legitimate place to ask questions, and I have a legitimate option to answer or not. The sacred within the individual, as a legitimate starting place, for both the seeker and the institution, has many healing, healthy and spiritually growth-enhancing.
Sharing the inner light between the seeker and the community, eliminates a power imbalance that can and does produce only infantile dependence. Stunted spiritual growth, as opposed to the fertility that accompanies the full acknowledgement of the injustices inflicted upon each person, as well as those inflicted by each person (and we are all bearing those same permanent colours) is neither the long-term vision of salvation nor is it the remedy to empty coffers and pews and Christian education classes.
And then there is the question of cash flow, for operating expenses and investment accounts, and the methods deployed to fund-raise are little more than imitations of the same techniques deployed by not-for-profit charities. And that hierarchical implementation of power and authority is, like the world in Alice in Wonderland, upside down. People who know they are part of a community in which their “that of God within” is acknowledged, honoured, respected and nurtured will be more than willing to contribute in the spirit of gratitude, joy and celebration for the honour of being part of something sacred, personal and spiritually stimulating. And if the community does not either aspire to, or live into the shared, expressed and community validated spiritual needs of the people in its circle, and the money is not coming in, then the community has to ask the really tough questions about how to find its shared path to seek God.
And, of course, as with any group of people, all of them facing their own emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual hurdles, the community needs sacred places where such pain can be confidentially shared, and even processed by others whose life experiences have grown both understanding and empathy, (not necessarily of a clinical or even a specifically pastoral way). One example worth considering is a “true friend” within the community (a partner) or even a group of three among whom a level of trust is fostered, nurtured and grown through sharing time and self.
There is that part of each of us, not only that of God, but a darkness of unconscious memory or trauma that has impacted our lives at the initial encounter, and more times when such pain erupted and spread its toxicity often without our expectation and certainly without our control. In other words, we are each wounded in different ways, and from this wounded part we might seek healing, in whatever form that makes sense.
A community that trusts the process of mining the truths and the “gold” of new insights and the new life that such mining offers is in a place of open receptivity that can help to lift and burden and open the “eyes” as wll as the heart and mind of the seeker.
The individual truths, secrets, pain, trauma and alienation of each person in th circle can be the grist and the starting point and stimulation for further reflection. And this process will need different kinds of support depending on the pain and the person seeking healing.
No single person, not a clergy, a bishop or even a primate is either needed nor recommended for a process in which all are willing to participate, to support and to incarnate the mission of agape in the full sense of that Greek word.
Safety, confidentiality, sensibility and empathic compassion, while they may not be enough by themselves can provide the greenhouse where other “lights” can appear and shed their own range of wattage.
And isn’t the finding and sharing of the “light” of God ultimately the experience all Christians would like to share before departing this orb?