Community and the Individual

I recently picked up the DVD, Facilitator's Guide and Journal for the newish resource   "Animate: faith". Watching the video clips with Suzanne, my wife, we found ourselves struck by the second piece on religion by Lillian Daniel. The animate clip is a slightly toned down version of an online reflection by Lillian, "Spiritual but not religious? Please stop boring me." Lillian's 'take' is that the kind of 'shopping list' spirituality ("I'll have a bit of this, and one of those, and a bottle of that...") of the 'Spiritual but not religious' set, is shallow, self-centred and lacks the vitality to give abiding life to the exercise of faith.

It was interesting that both Suzanne and I had the same reaction to this clip and its message. On the one hand, as people who have chosen to move from one tradition to another, and in particular to move to a tradition with a more historic, liturgical way of being church than our original denomination, we clearly have great sympathy to the idea that the historic traditions, with their roots deep in the soil of history and the practise of generations, have much to offer. 

But as people who, like many of our generation, have also struggled mightily with approaches to worship and discipleship which seem to be mired in the past and lack relevance to us, or certainly to our non-churched friends, there was also a slight wince at the idea that one must needs wholly embrace some human institution with all its flaws and foibles. We've often chosen to make our home with groups on the margins, and like many who have been influenced by the characteristics of the emerging church, we gain great pleasure from a freedom to ransack the wisdom and practices of multiple traditions, both contemporary and historic.

I guess for me, the issue is not so much whether I choose one tradition and 'stick with it'. Rather, it seems to me that the primary issue is whether we are willing to commit to a particular community  — a group of people who will keep us honest. Who will not let us pick and choose the bits of religion which are easy, unchallenging and comfortable. But who will use all the riches available in the deep, broad, rich river of Christianity, and indeed of other faiths, to continue challenging us to seek the Kingdom, to love mercy and do justice, to truly follow God in the way of Jesus.