Relig-ish: The Gathering

After spending tens of thousands of dollars getting a master’s degree in Theology. After fighting to get ordained even though I am a woman. After 30+ years in the church, and 15 years serving at one particular, belov-ed church. After all of this, I said goodbye to ordained ministry.

I’ve been talking about that experience in dribs and drabs over the years. I’ve been encouraging you to leap, and giving you places to land. But I’ve never really come out and said, “Here. This is what we need to do.” I was quiet because I was afraid.

Afraid of my disappointed parents.
Afraid of the distant friends telling me they are ‘worried’ about me.
Afraid of the debate in the comments.

I’m not afraid anymore.

It’s time to ReConstruct.

We can curate our faith. We can create a theology that can look people in the eye. We can have practices and beliefs that we don’t have to feel apologetic for when people ask us if we are “religious.” We can build a spirituality that fits…maybe something relig-ish?

Anne Lamott tells a story in which she laments that she cannot be Jew-ish. She has secular friends who are Jew-ish. They get all the cultural goodies – the traditions, the meals, the lighting of candles – with none of the squishing themselves into to beliefs that don’t really fit. But, she says, she can’t be. She’s 100% Christian. There is no “ish.”

Me, I am relig-ish. I’m a spiritual person. I follow the teachings of Jesus about inclusion and justice and care for the poor. I adore ritual. I worship to music. I need a tribe. I am all of these religious things, but until I established my own tribe, I had no place to go. I do not fit anywhere that is currently established.

I am a misfit. A heretic. A rabble-rouser. And I am person of faith. Relig-ish

There are a lot of us out there who are Relig-ish:

  • There are folks, like me, who are the fallout of the Emergent Church movement. We are the post-Christians who deconstructed well and carefully, but who never got instructions for reconstructing.
  • There are people who live on the fringes of church or temple who stay for the tribe, but struggle with the creed.
  • There are those who didn’t grow up religious, but who want something more than yoga at the studio twice a week.
  • There are those who fall somewhere betwix and between.

These are my people. I want to gather them. I want to hear their voices. I want us to be together. So we don’t feel afraid. So we know we are not alone. So we can change the world.

Are you ready to move past disappointment and into reconstruction? Will you be brave with me?  Will you  join us as we create a new kind of practice together?

I think you are. I know you can. I hope you will.

(Amen? Amen.)

Spiritual but not religious? Recovering Evangelical? Jill of all faiths? You might be relig-ish. Browse the posts to learn more, or click here to watch a video about our relig-ish community.

Tess Giles Marshall April 28, 2011 at 4:01 am

The ‘ish’ is a great way to put it, Rachelle. I once read somewhere that doubt and questioning and reinvention are hallmarks of an adult faith, in which we put behind us the cosiness of unequivocal belief that some of us had as children. In other words different phases on the journey. Question: do I have to join this mailing list or as a Flock person will I auto get this stuff?

Renae C April 28, 2011 at 6:39 am

There are people who live on the fringes of church or temple who stay for the tribe, but struggle with the creed.

This is me. I cried when I read that sentence. And I don’t have any definition right now because I am so deep in the struggle.

mary anne radmacher April 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m spiritual and I’m not relig-ish I’m “relinquish.”
In the spiritual practice of relinquishing my tightly held beliefs
my heart has been poured full of so much more than any written
creed could have proclaimed.

Teresa April 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I don’t think I’ve read anything that has resonated so deeply with me in a long time. I am one of the fallouts of deconstruction, living on the fringes of church, and questioning a lot that’s in the creeds. I love the message of Jesus and music and meaningful community around a shared purpose, but being involved in organized church sucks the life out of my soul. The established “theology” simply cannot be questioned, and if it is, it feels like there is a stake out back with my name on it. Still working my way through finding spiritual practices of my own, instead of worrying about whether I believe the right thing or not. I miss having a nearby tribe to engage in this with though.

An analogy my husband has come up with – there are more people than we think walking around spiritually in the desert, trying to find a new way that works. If we all set off flares, then we might be able to find each other more easily. So, how do we set off those flares in our own local communities to create new tribes?

Heidi April 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

I went through a similar metamorphosis a few years ago. A book found me during that time called “Widening Circles”, by Joanna Macy. One of my favorite quotes from it is, ” If a hole appears, just walk through it, see what’s on the other side. You’ll never be lost because this emptiness is central to life, figured into the nature of things.” During this time in my life I dug deep and discovered I could find God in the simplest of things. In ordinary moments, in the chaos of my deteriorating 14 year marriage, the beauty of my 3 children. I have been divorced for 3 years now, I don’t attend a church, and I have never felt more connected, free, loved and on the right path. Thanks for gathering us!

Pamela April 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

Like Teresa, I also resonated with this post. I don’t think we can ever separate ourselves from being “spiritual” – since we are so much a part of ‘that’. I like your word “relig-ish” – my own “system” is a conglomeration of many traditions and beliefs.

This poem of Rumi’s came up for me:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make any sense.

Rachelle, I am so glad to find you in “this field”. Blessings.

Angie C May 1, 2011 at 8:08 am

Definitely a desert dweller here, living in a small town sea of born-again believers in the midst of the Bible belt. It can be rather stifling at times. I am fascinated by the basic messages of Jesus, yet I am finding that I have released most of my belief in the “Savior” aspect of Jesus.

I love Teresa’s statement above: “The established “theology” simply cannot be questioned, and if it is, it feels like there is a stake out back with my name on it.” That’s exactly how I feel….except I have questioned it quite publicly. Thus far, I have not been staked, even in these conservative parts. It seems as though many of my neighbors are questioning, too, and find comfort in my publicly posed observations.

Being a rather outgoing introvert, I have found connecting one on one with people preferable to the group gatherings with their rules, codes of conduct, and expectations. My gratitude for the Internet is abundant, for it is through this medium that my flares went up and others gathered me in. Not sure I would have flourished otherwise on this tiny desert island alone.

One of my flares was unintentional, but effective. The sign outside my business has a lotus blossom on it. One like-minded traveler found it odd to see such a thing in our conservative Christian town and took a chance because of what that symbol suggested to him. It proved to be one of the few places of safety he has found for his evolving beliefs. I like the idea of being a safe haven for fellow travelers on this journey. Many of you have been my safe haven this past year.

Lucille May 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm

This post resonated with me so much. I have always considered myself fairly religious. I, too, as Rachelle has written, love the singing, the tribe, the ritual. I love all that. This last year, for the first time in 40+ years, however, I find myself conflicted in a way I never have before. Oh, I’ve questioned some of the tradition/creed now and again, but for the first time, I find myself questioning how I can feel at home in a creed that marginalizes me as a woman. So… I’ve started reading/exploring/thinking/pondering. Started wondering if I shouldn’t jump ship for another tradition that is more open, more inclusive. I’ve found myself struggling with this—and then 3 weeks ago, a health crisis of sorts hit my family, and I’ve been in ‘nurse’ mode—I’ve had no time to really think on those things, and I missed all the Holy Week festivities that I love as a result. Yesterday, alone in the house for the first time in weeks, I sat outside in the fresh air and began to pray. And I remembered my worries about where I ‘fit in’ and I recall I said out loud something along the lines of ‘but what difference does it make?’ Does it matter? I like the idea of curating my own faith, my own theology. I’m intrigued by these posts/ideas and look forward to exploring these ideas with all of you.

keishua May 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

I can really relate to this post. I even toyed around with going to seminary but in the end I didn’t. I feel like now I am at a weird place in my spiritual journey. Before this I was very much into finding the right path but I joined and did what I thought I should do and it left me dead. Now, I am -ish. I like the idea of creating an authentic personal theology but it also scares me. I am looking forward to this series!

Lisa May 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Wow. I haven’t clicked over here in quite some time (sorry!) but am happy that I did just now.
I applaud your authenticity and courage. Your light shines bright in this bold step of change.
Congratulations!
Wishing you many wonderful blessings on the next chapter of your Journey. :)

Namaste’

Grace May 3, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Apparently, you’ve called me in *smiling*

Who knew there was a word for my journey? Since the fall of 2001, I’ve called it everything from “losing my religion”, to a crises of faith, to reinventing myself as a spiritual being…a questioner of the “validity” of much in the Bible (which I once taught), the “hypocrisy” of the Church (of which I’ve been both paid staff as well as a lay minister), and the true meaning of what a submitted life looks like. One who loves Jesus. A human life.

A love life.

And it’s been a lonely journey, for the most part. A smattering of “real life” folks, and – at times – a huge online “community” that I lost touch with in the last year or so, as my own blogging took a back seat to life.

Somehow, I stumbled in here and feel the warm acceptance and ‘gathering’ that I’ve been searching for.

Thank you for that.

GailNHB May 3, 2011 at 6:47 pm

I love, love, love this post and all the comments that have been made. I am sooooo in this relig-ish, post-church, who am I and what do I believe now that I don’t go to church? place. I have millions of questions and thoughts and dreams and hopes related to this faith journey. I look forward to seeing and hearing new questions and thoughts here in your community, Rachelle. Thanks once again for being a withmate for me as I’ve navigated this latest phase of my journey.

Peace to you in your travels as well.

Prime Sarmiento May 4, 2011 at 1:56 am

“We can curate our faith. We can create a theology that can look people in the eye.” _ i love this. it reminds me of our recent e-mail discussion on “post modern spirituality” (which by the way I’m discussing in my blog .. http://solofemaletravel.net/manila-4/intramuros-travel/

allysa May 4, 2011 at 3:36 pm

I was immersed in the typical, good girl Christian life for most of my life. Two years ago I lost someone and it shook me right to the core. I had to ask a lot of hard questions . I was left knowing that whatever divine-ness was out there I couldn’t worship the one shown to me in church. Now I’m journeying looking for a place with light and safety but really happy to be journeying as well.

Becky May 8, 2011 at 8:52 pm

This is exactly what I need at this point in my life. A few years ago I completely walked away from church, and was surprised how little I missed it. I didn’t miss the formality, the structure, the pre-packaged worship and sermons. What I did miss, though, was the community and the sense of connectedness.

Last year we began hosting a “home church” (for lack of a better term). It’s been great to develop relationships and to be a part of a progressive gathering in a pretty conservative area. But when it comes to creed, I pretty much threw the baby out with the bath water. And I don’t know how to “reconstruct” whatever it is I believe now.

Rachelle May 15, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Teresa said…

“there are more people than we think walking around spiritually in the desert, trying to find a new way that works. If we all set off flares, then we might be able to find each other more easily. So, how do we set off those flares in our own local communities to create new tribes?”

Exactly Teresa! That’s what we’ll be working on here in the weeks and months to come!

Rachelle May 15, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Angie C,

“One of my flares was unintentional, but effective. The sign outside my business has a lotus blossom on it. One like-minded traveler found it odd to see such a thing in our conservative Christian town and took a chance because of what that symbol suggested to him. It proved to be one of the few places of safety he has found for his evolving beliefs. I like the idea of being a safe haven for fellow travelers on this journey. ”

I love this story! I often advise people to gather their tribe by reading bumper stickers in the drop-off line outside of their children’s school. We cry out for connections in all kinds of ways, if only we can notice one another’s signposts.

-R

Rachelle May 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Ya’ll are making me so excited for the gathering that is beginning…and that is to come!

Dee May 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm

I grew up Catholic, became disillusioned, and have walked a very eclectic Pagan path for 20 years now. But I’ve never really found a community I belonged in. I think you’re filling a deep need here, Rachelle.

Angela May 25, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I feel awkward leaving a comment here… as I am not sure how it will be received. I feel sorrowful and frustrated that many Christians are feeling the need to turn away from embracing wholeheartedly the following of Christ, due to the modern Western form of it that is so prevalent today. It is a form which, in my opinion, has lost almost every resemblance and meaning of the original Christian Church that was known for the first millennium after Christ’s death and resurrection. The fact that it is so far removed and altered and … well, mangled… causes many people to feel that something is just not “right” with Christianity as a whole – and leave it behind.

I would encourage you all who are seeking higher Truth, deeper and more profound ancient wisdom, and yet still long for Jesus Christ in your hearts, to not turn away from Him, but to turn away instead from Western and modern forms of Christianity – which truly have no resemblance to Christ’s original teachings and Church.

I know this may sound strange and confusing of a thing to say, but if you begin to study and delve into what has happened to Christianity, I think you may find that the original Christian teachings are extremely fulfilling, meaningful, non-hypocritical, and challenging to say the very least. Ancient Christianity allows you to truly know yourself, and to know God in the deepest way imaginable.

Please take the time to look into Orthodox Christianity – the original, ancient Christianity that Christ gave to His Apostles. Please, give true Christianity a chance, and I think you may be surprised at how little it resembles the modern, Western replica of it you may have been familiar with.

Thank you for reading, and may our Lord and Savior Christ bless and lead you always into His unfailing Love,
Angela

Please feel free to make my email address public if anyone would like to speak with me about what I have written here, or any help with questions they may have. It is: wannadoitallnow@gmail.com

resources:
http://www.conciliarpress.com/books/intro-to-orthodoxy/thirsting-for-god-in-a-land-of-shallow-wells.html
http://www.ourlifeinchrist.com
http://www.deathtotheworld.com
http://www.ancientfaith.com
http://www.orthodoxinfo.com
http://orthodoxwiki.org/Main_Page
http://www.conciliarpress.com/orthodoxy-and-heterodoxy.html

Rachelle May 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Hi Angela,

Thank you for your obviously heart felt message!

I can only speak for myself, but I am indeed interested in following what I think of as the “deep teachings” of Jesus. The practices around these teachings, have grown and altered as the church has grown over the ages. For many, the church-based ways of practicing the teachings of Jesus work well and have great meaning and function. For others, the practices that have evolved around his teachings carry disfunction, pain, and disillusionment. It’s varies a great deal.

I’m interested in gathering those who need new or re-newed practices around the deep teachings of Jesus — and even more broadly — around any Wise Teaching that centers around the Gospel (good news) of Love. I really enjoy dancing together in the places where all our Wisdom Tradition overlap.

I’m so glad you have found a home in the Orthodox Church. Several of my friend have converted to Orthodox Christianity and find deep succor and sustenance there. I myself am drawn to the mysticism and ritual of that branch of Christianity. But the lack of women in the priesthood stymies me from diving in. The iconagraphy has meant a lot to me over the years though, and I am grateful for that offering.

Many blessings on your journey. May you always find a place, a practice, and a tribe that connects you to the Divine.

Much Warmth,
Rachelle

Sandy Zeiset December 13, 2012 at 10:23 pm

lovely lovely post!!!

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