As a priest, one of my goals is to create spaces that facilitate the human encounter with the numinous.
The religious quest fascinates me. Most fascinating, in our time, are its non-traditional manifestations. As institutional religion continues to lose its grip on the western polis, the spiritual energy at the core of the human psyche is bubbling up in all sorts of ways….both outside and inside traditional religious structures.
There is the ubiquity of religious disaffiliation, evident in those who, rejecting the dehumanizing aspects of traditional religion, identify themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” And there is a decades-long draw to eastern and indigenous spiritual practices, from yoga to shamanism.
Within western religion itself, the past 50-plus years have brought a renewed emphasis on the roots of religious practices, and significant interest in “spiritual renewal” that has included serious interreligious dialogue.
Religion in its traditional forms is breaking down. But our human sense of mystery remains largely intact and many, from agnostics to those who still find meaning in organized religion, are seeking new spiritual forms that emphasize community and meaningful personal relation with what traditionally has been called God.
As an Episcopal priest who has spent much of my adult life concerned with religion and spirituality, I now find myself living in two worlds. Like many, I’ve been hurt by the church, am quite skeptical of the easy answers of institutional religion, and completely put off by the sound bites and antics of many religious leaders. Nor am I particularly pious in the conventional sense.
Moreover, my analytic training and personal spiritual journey have altered my relation to the western religious tradition and opened me to many non-traditional – though often ancient -- practices. When psyche presents one with images and paths that diverge from the path one has embraced consciously, it would be foolish not to attend to the possibilities those images open, and I’ve sought to do exactly that.
Even so, my psyche also remains alive and responsive to the symbol system of Christianity – and other spiritual systems -- and my life has certainly been shaped by the spiritual and liturgical practices of the Church. Knowing mainstream western religion from the inside, I recognize its flaws readily, but I also see much that continues to inspire me. This is especially true of my little corner of Christendom – Anglicanism and the Episcopal Church – which has been socially progressive in recent decades, seeks to hold the tension of opposites, and has an ancient yet living spiritual tradition. These experiences leave me living in two worlds and, with Jung, believing that the Christian era, although it is probably in the process of passing away, still has a lot of psychic energy. As one deeply drawn to the immediacy of religious experience, I feel called to be engaged especially with whatever post-Christian images and forms may be emerging, but also with the places of health – there are some! – in institutional religion.
Because I know the Christian tradition well – before becoming an Episcopalian, I spent five years, in a Roman Catholic religious order – I feel able to draw on the healthiest parts of the tradition. Yet, because I am at heart an analyst, and by training and disposition, radically open to the psyche and its experience, I’m also able, and eager, to honor and discern those new things “God” is doing in our midst.
Concretely, I’ve been exploring with friends and colleagues some form of new community that may begin to gather in the coming months or years. What form it may take remains to be seen, but its pillars likely would include:
- the development and/ or deepening of personal spiritual practices
- some form of regular community gathering, perhaps with options for differing levels of participation
- a commitment to serve others.
If this is something that interests you in some way, please be in touch.