Friday, 19 June 2015

NEVER CONFUSE CHURCH WITH GOD

So there I was, hurtling along my somewhat unusual spiritual journey. As I wrestled with concepts like unconditional grace and a Hollywood heaven (I’m still pondering that one) I was also learning not to romanticise the Church.




                                                     I'm still not certain what heaven is


Time was an issue. I was juggling a busy PR practice, participating in a nine-week Open Door Retreat, seeing my Spiritual Director, attending political meetings and keeping half an eye out for a decent man in my life. (It didn’t help that the sexiest guy in the choir was gay.)

Meanwhile, it was beginning to dawn on my caring friends that my ‘passing phase’ wasn’t as fleeting as they’d expected it to be. Their warnings not to give the church all my money were becoming more forceful. A reasonable concern since their only information about religion tended to be news items about TV evangelists with feet of clay. 

They were just being protective because my business was doing pretty well – 20 employees and clients that included the Lesotho Government. I was driving my fourth Merc and holidaying overseas every year. Those were what I now refer to as the ‘RODs’ (rich old days). 

Looking back, one of the biggest God-incidences was that retreat.

Probably because it was the first to be conducted at my parish the other six participants were all part of its leadership – lay ministers and council members.

A key element of any Open Door retreat is that each week you share your thoughts, angsts and experiences in absolute trust – a bit like a spiritual alcoholics anonymous. 

The level of honesty and self-appraisal was impressive. Surprise, surprise, those church heavies also had crises of faith. They were, by their own admission, imperfect at best. 

It was a wake-up call. Church wasn’t an exclusive club for saints, mostly just people trying their best.

At another level, Carl Jung’s theory of a human collective unconscious was working for me. It made belief in God a lot easier and helped me understand the importance of traditions and how symbols can trigger worship.

I was beginning to appreciate that seeking God is a never ending journey, that religion is not the destination. It’s a vehicle. And, just as some people are into Mercs and others give their Toyota’s names, so there are different religious strokes for different folks. 

Anglicanism was beginning to work for me. A nice mix of the high and hazy and less formal worship. Instead of being asked to shelve my brain I was encouraged to approach the bible with a healthy dose of suspicion.

Of course by then reality was kicking in. I was learning how people are hurt by the Church and how very human priests are. There was more. During the retreat coffee break I listened to in-house concerns about issues that ranged from rampant male chauvinism, particularly among priests, to whether tithing should come before or after tax. 

It was the beginnings of my understanding that one should never confuse the people-driven Church with God. 


1 comment:

Peter Nickles said...

Another good dose of common sense, inspiration and anecdote.
Keep them coming.