One of the rich traditions of the Christian church, from its inception, is that the community of faith is called together to live out spiritual life. What are we doing at Circle of Grace that is so different? Absolutely nothing. What's so important about making spiritual community? Absolutely everything.
People are often surprised to discover that the word 'gathered' is equally important as the word 'faithful' when we speak of the church as the 'gathered faithful'. We get the 'faithful' part when we talk about spiritual journeying. We get the faithful part when we explore spiritual practices, when we engage sacred text, when we encounter Godde in mountain, ocean, rock, stream, or the oil rings on asphalt ....But we often just don't get the importance of the 'gathered' piece. Even when we gather we sometimes come come as a solitary soul seeking nurture from the sermon or the liturgy or music. We come looking for that spiritual hit that keeps us going through the week. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying that's not all there is.
Here's my take: we share meals together, we sometimes hang out, we know what's going on in each other's lives but we're not a social club. We pray for one another and we pray together for our deepest concerns and greatest joys but we are not a therapy group. We are so different from one another in history, race, sexuality, politics that there is no other place we would all end up at the same time. What we are, and I believe this to the bottom of my gut, is a ragged band of disparate people called to embody the kin-dom.
Building community that reflects astounding diversity is part and parcel of the Christian call. We Christians have been struggling to do (and not do) this since the first squabbles between Peter and Paul. This past week the Rev. Janie Spahr was disciplined in the PCUSA because she performed a legal, same gendered wedding. Peter won that argument. (for those of you who are not familiar with early church politics- Peter and Paul went at it about who was included at the table. Paul said everyone. He ultimately won the argument in the early church. Question: why are we still having this fight?).
We, at Circle of Grace, take on the struggle of making room for one another and learning to love one another against the common notion of what comprises a viable community because we believe we are called to be Godde's dream. We are working to be a microcosm of peace, cooperation and interdependence in a world that needs that vision on a global scale.
That is why, in our shared life, two spiritual practices are particularly important: the practice of showing up and the practice of working it out. Not glamorous as spiritual practices go. But it's our practice and as we continue these practices (with greater and lesser degrees of success) an amazing thing happens: our spiritual lives deepen and our relationships with the Sacred deepen.