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Posts Tagged ‘traditional church’

by Jordan Hathcock

Ritual is simply a set of practices in a period of chaos so we can experience the chaos safely.  –Jason Coker

In a time of unrest and chaos, the tool that seems to work most effectively is the practice of rites and rituals. Now, this can be (and most likely is) triggering for most of us who have experienced unhealthy spiritual practices. Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS) is something more and more people are dealing with and I know its something that is not to be taken lightly. When it comes to the Christian tradition, the “church” has not always been a place that produces healthy rites and rituals to assist us in getting through the ambiguous times in our lives. Instead, church practices often get the process ass backwards: We develop rites and rituals to control and manipulate people to believe and act a certain way instead of creating spaces available for us to grow in these times of pandemonium. Cognitive dissonance is viewed as an issue of faith instead of a step needed to be taken within the spiritual journey.

Deconstruction has been the “new” practice within the religious sphere in the last twenty years or so due to many factors. With the new internet age and the huge amount of access to resources, its been more and more difficult for the “powers that be” to keep a more discrete way of posturing when it comes to past, present and future church practices. Postmodernism has brought a lot of problems to be answered when it comes to religious institutions. When people have these crises of faith, the church is not equipped with the space (rites and rituals) to help heal and liberate those who need it. Deconstruction is a step that should be perceived as a healthy process that helps us mature in our faith. It shouldn’t be perceived as a problem to be solved but as a ritual to be practiced. We must learn to let go of corrosive practices of rules due to fear and embrace a more playful experimental practice of understanding.

How does that look like? Well, there are many ways we can experience spiritual practices that help us through the journey of life. It doesn’t have to be practices in a “brick and mortar” church setting. It can be a nature walk, surfing (my favorite), exercising, playing music, painting a picture, or crafting some good beer (my other favorite). There are various of ways to experience divine guidance. The Christian traditions rites and rituals that have been with us for 2,000 plus years can be practiced in a new light as well. We can always find new ways to interpret and repurpose a practice within a church setting to help us better connect and move to more liberating heights. Traditions are good if used in a healthy and freeing way. We can let go of the damaging aspects of a rite and ritual and still actually practice the act itself. I understand some are unable to ever practice certain rites and rituals within Christianity due to RTS and that is OK! Along as you find some time of ritual to practice to better center you as a human being, I think the world can benefit from it. With that being said, there are still some beautiful practices with this Christian religion that I still find beneficial. An example that I have come to experience when it comes to repurposing a certain spiritual practice is Communion/Eucharist/Lords Table (whatever name floats your boat).

The tradition that I grew up in (L.D.S.) named this practice The Sacrament. It has elements of truth (like all spiritual practices do in a sense) but also some pretty damaging aspects as well. In my opinion and experience (along with many others) the concept of purity codes comes to mind. In order to partake of the sacrament, you had to be “worthy” and “believe” in the church’s teachings. The point of this ritual is to renew the covenant you made at baptism. Unfortunately, this interpretation of the purpose of the Lords Table misses some really important factors to help oneself to become part of the gospel message. Instead of bringing us together with Christ and participating in the way of love, it becomes a rule one must follow in order to remain a “member of a church”. We are not part of some corporation that keeps track of its members “loyalty”. This also brings out zealot faith and judgment on others who do not partake of Communion. This should not be the point of why we partake of the bread and wine of Christ.

Fortunately, I found a Church (Oceanside Sanctuary ) that has taken the practice of Communion to a level of healing and liberation one needs when it comes to healthy rites and rituals (yes, a bold claim I know). We think it is important to take Communion weekly, so we can come to the table of love and mercy despite our differences. Let’s face it, we all have our own views on anything from sex, politics, sports, education and of course on our theological views regarding the Christian tradition itself. But, guess what? Unity is possible within diversity. That is what Jesus came to bring. The commonwealth of God is the reality where love can guide us to true freedom even through our messy differences. If we cannot practice healthy rite & rituals in a church setting, how the hell will we ever expect to see needed results outside the sanctuary walls?…

For Christians, to share in the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, means to live as people who know that they are always *guests*—that they have been welcomed and that they are wanted. It is perhaps the most simple thing that we can say about Holy Communion, yet it is still supremely worth saying. In Holy Communion, Jesus Christ tells us that he wants our company. -Rowan Williams

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To me Church is a group of people. When we get together, or ‘assemble ourselves together’, it is for a time of fellowship, fun, eating and getting to know one another.

As far as I’m concerned, the traditional view of church, which is a building we go to on a particular day at a set time and sit and listen, is not what Jesus meant when he talked about building his Church.

My wife and I were part of the organized church for years and years, and although there were a lot of good experiences and friendships made, it is not what I would consider the true Church.

When we get together with other believers, maybe only two or three, the Church has assembled. This can be at someone’s home, at a restaurant, in a park, or anywhere we are able to spend some time together.

Outside the Walls

Since the Spirit of God lives within us, He is always with us, no matter where we may be, no matter what day or time it is, and no matter if there is a set agenda, singing or sermon to be preached.

Church is you and me. It happens anywhere, anytime. My wife and I have had more meaningful fellowship in the past couple years of being out of the organized church, and just meeting with others as God leads. We may have dinner and talk about what God is doing, we may pray for one another, we may sing a song or two, or we may just talk about things in general, laughing, and getting to know one another better.

I know there are a lot of people who attend a regular ‘church’ service each week, and there is nothing wrong with it. Although for my wife and me, we came to be very dissatisfied with the normal gathering each week, listening to one person talk and going home without hardly a handshake from others.

The Spirit of God is our teacher and each of us are equal participants in the Kingdom of God. We each have something to say that the Spirit can use to encourage others. It has been so much more meaningful for us to be in a group where everyone gets to talk, pray, encourage and build up one another.

I know many who are in the traditional church who do not agree with this, but for my wife and me, we would not want to go back into the organized church setting. Things outside the walls have been so much better, and we have enjoyed much closer fellowship with those God brings into our lives.

So, I guess the best thing is for all of us, inside or outside the walls of religion, is to accept each other the way we are and let God do any teaching or changing that needs to be done. Rather than look down on one group or the other, accept the fact that what we do, we do for God. We want to learn from Him and enjoy the gift of Grace He provided. Let’s love and accept one another no matter what we do or do not do on Sundays.

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