By: Joan Wright-Howie
More and more, I encounter people unconnected with the church who describe themselves as having an active spiritual life but not religious. Some have backgrounds in religious traditions, others parents or grandparents chose to leave the church. These people might be curious about Christianity but are not formed in the language of a faith tradition and therefore search around for other language to speak about and explore a spiritual life and encounter with God.
I also meet active church members seeking to grow in their relationship with God, but finding little nourishment in their current worshiping community. Sadly, the church is also infected with the loss of meaning reflected in popular culture. Members of the church often appear to be suspicious themselves. The culture of spiritual seeking promotes uncertainty. There is a loss of confidence in the divine presence beneath the language, stories and liturgical expressions of our faith. People wonder, is there a source of life we call God? Can anyone be certain that God is not simply a projection of human consciousness or a creation of our own culture?
This sense of suspicion of religion can take hold in the church just as it has in the wider community. The result in a kind of practical atheism. Religious practices continue and institutions maintained, yet people are uncertain about their purpose. Christians wonder about the affect of prayer, the benefit of faith and no longer feel confident that the presence of God can be experienced or God’s grace encountered in human living.
A fundamental challenge for our time is to nurture a growing spiritual hunger in our community. Organizations must provide more than good ideas, structures and techniques. There is a longing to rediscover the ancient practices of attending to the presence of God. The starting point is dialogue between human experience and the faith traditions.
The experience of encountering God and discovering a primary identity as loved children of God shapes how we participate in the world. Practicing the presence of God in daily living paves the way for people to participate in the in-breaking of God’s promised vision for the world. If the purpose of religion is found is to reconnect people with the source of living, then let’s rediscover the spiritual in religion. If the spiritual quest is to take us deeper, let’s dialogue with the religious traditions in support of our spirituality.