Thursday, January 09, 2014

ongoing spiritual journey…

I was confirmed in the Anglican Church over 40 years ago. I’ve been a Christian ever since but throughout this time, like so many people, my own spiritual journey has been a long and winding road - often fruitful and compelling, but frequently bumpy or feeling as if I’m in a cul-de-sac.
At present, I feel as if I’ve come to yet another crossroad on the journey.
At various times over the last few years, I’ve blogged about my meanderings.
I think the time that I felt most “connected” spiritually was during our time as part of the mayBe community of friends when we lived in Oxfordshire - not only did it provide a weekly get-together around a midweek meal (and wine!), but it also gave us with a particular kind of food for our spiritual lives. We very much missed mayBe when we moved to Bristol but, initially at least, the friendly, local parish church provided a suitable, albeit relatively brief, alternative. I’m afraid I gradually found that this church a) failed to provide me with sufficient spiritual “food” or intellectual challenge and b) had changed the style of its services – so much so that I regularly used to come away from a service feeling angry and frustrated. Oh dear!
For a couple of years (whilst still attending our local parish church), I also went along to the Sunday evening meetings of an emerging church/alternative worshipgroup. These were useful (and they were a great set of people) but didn’t really satisfy my needs – or was it just that I was lazy and couldn’t be bothered to get myself out on Sunday evenings!?
Since then, I attended another parish church for a couple of years – beautiful church building, high-quality music and (generally) good sermons – but there was something about its rather cliquey nature and its high church culture that I found disquieting.  
However, when the Church of England voted against allowing women bishops in November 2012, I decided that this essentially marked the end of my time worshipping in the Anglican Church and that I was embarking on a “separate, personal, lonely journey”.
For a time after that, my “religious life” comprised pouring over various books. However, for the past year, I did find a temporary spiritual home (or “harbour” as I came to see it) with the local Quakers meeting. It proved to be a fascinating experience – I certainly enjoyed adapting to the prolonged silences of its “meetings for worship” and also found its attitude towards peace and the environment, in particular, hugely refreshing. However, there were a number of other aspects that I found difficult to accept. One particular issue that I struggled to come to terms with was the following: the “Quaker Way” has roots in Christianity and the teachings of Jesus, but also finds meaning and value in other faiths (eg. Buddhists, Muslims and Jews). Essentially, I’m a Christian but I was fully prepared to accept this in principle… until I learnt that the community now also included “...Non-theist Quakers, Pagan Quakers and Humanist Quakers”. Somehow, my own personal faith couldn’t reconcile itself with a faith that seemed to accept any faith’s (or non-faith’s) colours nailed to its mast (note: re-reading that, I’ve perhaps given a very unfair impression of Quakerism by highlighting this one matter – it has MUCH to commend it in very many ways).
So, I’ve decided to move on once more…
The Iona Community, with its simplicity of worship and its connectedness with the earth, peace, sexuality and the environment is perhaps where I’ve felt most at home spiritually (in addition to my time with the mayBe community in Oxford).
I’m not sure where my journey will take me.
Initially, it will involve further private study and simply waiting/listening/discerning what might be right for my next move.
I’m grateful to very many friends and colleagues who have helped at various stages in my somewhat haphazard journey to date… I suspect I’m going to be relying on their support for many years to come!

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