Saturday, October 6, 2012

mine is a farflung congregation

a friend of mine, someone I've been close to for about a dozen years, has had a hard month.  her mother died in the past few weeks and she has to put down two of her dogs, so I drove into the hub to spend a few hours listening to her.

the past few weeks I've been considering the word community and what it means in a religious or spiritual context, mostly because of classes I'm currently taking, but also because I'm thinking about what the future holds for religion in the near future.  it seems likely that, as more churches go under and decommission, what slack will need to be taken up will be by small homechurches similar to the kind the newer testament writes about.  tiny congregations of fewer than 50 people meeting for worship, discussion and eating together.

this strikes me as having great potential--I can't be the first person to think one of the greatest failures of codified religion has been its success (in terms of growth)--as the idea of tiny, neighborhood-based, interconnected groups of people who see one another on an almost daily basis appeals to the communitarian spirit in me.  but what struck me in my reflection this afternoon on the drive was the large and spreadout character of the tribe I've come to consider mine.

that I identify with the homeless and people on the fringe is nothing new, but it was the realization of the tremendous distances between people who I check in with regularly that set me aback.  aside from the congregation I'm currently serving near the hub, there are a number of individuals I stay in close contact with, and who tell me they still think of me as their minister, here on the rim, as well as people in the hub who are unaffiliated with any congregation and others spread across the country, from the east coast to the west and who, when they post or admit to something that makes them catch their breath as if drawing another may make them choke, I would jump in the car and visit if it was feasible.  (I contact them any way I can, which has to be the way it's done now.)

during my time with my friend today we spoke for a while about my decision to move from teaching to ministry and my use of the talent I have in caring about people.  she had developed a dog tarot--it was gorgeous--and we took turns reading the cards.  I hadn't read cards in years and was rusty but fell right in with her interpretation.  what I was reminded of, more than anything else, was the fragility of our psyches, how easily the thin skin of our calm can be pierced, and the necessity for having someone there to witness it and tell us it's all right.

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